Dammit, I did not recognize him at all after he put his hand on my shoulder and warmly spoke my name.
It was the best part of 10 minutes later that I put two and two together and made the connection. And it was heartwarmingly historic and life-affirming for sure.
And it got even better at the end of the evening under a hunter's moon over Doolin as the Atlantic swished and swushed away in the background. But we will get to that in a while.
You see, what happened was that the summer flew past me at extraordinary speed altogether and I was busy and being pulled every which way by work and play but, at the back of my mind, there was the thought that it would be a genuine mortal sin, especially now living in Clare, if I did not get to spend one night in magical Doolin before the clocks changed and ushered in the fall.
So I made the effort to get over to Doolin a few nights ago and the old magic returned powerfully the second I stepped inside the door of O'Connor's pub. Powerful!
Alongside John B. Keane's, where I relished an evening lately too in Listowel, the lively Doolin establishment just has to be one of the most famed Irish pubs of all.
Music hopping off the rafters as always, craic and laughter and that holiday excitement and electricity everywhere, a pint in my fist, sure I was in heaven. And if I did not instantly recognize anyone I knew, sure that suited me down to the ground as well.
I am garrulous to a fault but sometimes I like to sit up silently by myself and observe the session and let it all seep deeply within. Maybe a lot of us are like that.
And then, two-thirds of the journey down the pint, the hand comes down on my shoulder from behind and the big shadow speaks my name. He had a Galway accent but that was no help to me when I turned around, having resided so long in Connemara.
I did not know him from Adam, but I warmly responded and bluffed my way through the early stages of our chat. Many of us are like that too I feel.
"Cormac a chara (friend)," says he. “You're looking mighty altogether. Not one day older. Whatever tablets you're on since you left us are surely working. Don't give them up.”
And more and more like that he spoke, and the first clue I got about our previous relationship came when he remarked with a laugh that I was always in my Barna bed when he called down the years in the small hours of the morning with my Christmas present. And then the glorious truth dawned on me at last.
You see, when I was reporting on Connemara's lifestyle and ways more than 30 years ago, I once did a series for the Irish Press, tongue in cheek but factual too, about the hardy moonshiners of the west and the risks they ran annually to keep an old tradition alive.
They were under fire at the time from the government and the powers-that-be but, not alone did I praise them for their patriotism, I also carried out the world's first poitin-tasting exercise. I ruled in the end that the spirit I christened as Lettermore Purple Nun was the winner and gave it nine out of 10.
A week before Christmas when I went to my front door there was an innocent-looking lemonade bottle sitting there with a clear liquid sparkling within. No message attached.
Just a gesture of thanks from the grateful moonshiners who, I learned later, profited greatly from the publicity. And that bottle appeared on my doorstep each Christmas season thereafter.
And the man before me in O'Connor's pub, though we had never physically met before, was the man who delivered the moonshine by moonlight. Is that not a lovely throwback?
It gets even better. We had a grand chat for a half-hour before he had to go back to his company. But he invited me outside for a smoke first.
When we were there he went to the boot (trunk) of a nearby jeep and came back to me with -- I swear -- a lemonade bottle containing a certain clear liquid which sparkled in the moonshine.
Was it any wonder that I hugged him warmly with tears in my eyes? Nobody in the pub would have been aware of what transpired between two old friends outside.
When I came back inside alone, as he rejoined his family, for some reason the music sounded even livelier, the laughter louder in between the tunes, the craic mighty, all elements of a night I will treasure forever.
Which any of ye would too.