By : Sean Collins 28/6/2020
How long have they served ales and beers at your local ? decorative exteriors can often hide an ancient history. The masterful stonework carried out on the Market Bar by Liam Holt at the behest of Noel Nugent Snr, highlights the antiquity of this imbibing emporium. First listed in McCabes Directory of Drogheda 1830 as the property of James Wisdom, a brother of Obidiah, an ancient Drogheda family whose business interests in the town go back to the 1600s.
Licensing Acts were first put on the statute books in Ireland in 1872-74, with John Downey listed as the licensee. His brother Peter owned the nearby Branagans at that time. The Downeys were Dairy owners on the North Rd. In 1897 one John McCullen of Beamore, surely an ancestor of our [outstanding in his field] local historian with Ald John Downey soon to be Mayor , were brought before the Judge for breaking the Bonified Laws, drinking after hours following a family funeral.
[ bonified ;a much abused statute whereby a person who lived more than four miles from a licensed premises would be entitled to a late drink put simply for sustenance purposes ]
The R.I.C. had gone to the trouble of measuring the distance from the Market Bar to McCullen’s home at Beamore. Can you see them going up the Pitcher Hill with a measuring tape !!!! But to no avail, McCullen and John Downey were deemed innocent.
Mayor John Downey was an outspoken Nationalist a supporter of Parnell and later John Redmond. His daughter Mary married Thomas Reid from Ballymakenny, and his granddaughter Nano Reid went on to be an Irish Artist of international fame.
The premises was bought by Jack Johnson of Hardman’s Garden from the Downey family in the 1940s. There have been a number of owners since then, including Jim Levins, Brendan Byrne and Kevin Thornton.
Noel Nugent and his lovely wife Evelyn , acquired the premises in the late eighties, and the family continue to run the Market Bar as a traditional local style premises. Long before we had the Fleadh, Drogheda musicians of many styles had a Fleadh there every night. Eamonn Campbell and Roy McCormack on guitar playing to the dulcet tones of Derek McCormack and Kenny Doyle having a laugh with Joey Maher, while Dermot Finglas was spinning the discs, and Rock Salmon doing the comedy slot, Smiley keeping the history, and an odd appearance of that young ‘oul fella Harry Martin, now 88yrs young, but promises to live for another 25yrs at least, god help us.
So the next time you drop in for a pint watch for the ghosts of Obadiah Wisdom, John Downey and Nano Reid, be careful though, the lady in charge, Colette or Colgate or whatever you call her is now the President of the Licensed Vitners of Co.Louth, her recent appearance in the local media shows she does not suffer fools……..