I was intrigued to read that Co Kerry native Colm Dalton has set himself the ambitious challenge of visiting every Irish bar in the world, an estimated total of 6,500 bars. Up until now, he has visited over 100 bars in more than 35 countries, so just 6,400 more to go!
But what is it that makes Irish bars around the world so intriguing?
Well, apart from the familiar décor, the Taytos, and hopefully the warm welcome and decent pint, for the past couple of years, economist David McWilliams has been speaking about the idea of an “Irish pub index of globalisation” which he believes is "a pretty accurate indicator of openness."
In his article “How Irish pubs measure the global economic mood," McWilliams explained: “In terms of symbols of globalisation, the Irish pub is to the early 21st century what McDonald’s was to the late 20th. As it was in the 1990s with McDonald’s, today the opening of an Irish pub means a city has arrived. Once you see the Shamrock and Sky Sports combo over the latest Wild Rover or Kitty O’Shea’s, you know that the city is a fully paid up member of the global trading system, on the tourist trail or with a thriving ex-pat scene, or both."
He expanded on how “the Irish pub is a brilliant and easy to understand indicator of globalization, openness to trade and the internationalization of culture. While many at home are sniffy about the authenticity of these flat-pack, marketing-men versions of Ireland, for many remote cities, the arrival of the Irish pub is a sign of progress."
Living in Paris, I am lucky that apart from scintillating Parisian nightlife, the city has a good number of Irish pubs.
In 2017, Sean Ryan, a Co Mayo native and communications expert living in Paris, wrote there were 48 Irish pubs in the Paris region. Since then, some have closed, but more have opened, so there are currently approximately 50+ Irish pubs in and around the City of Light. Not only the Irish gather in these Irish Parisian oases, they are also a haven for local French people and ex-pats of all nationalities, and many, like Corcoran's Sacré-Cœur, serve great food.
Apart from the music, the matches on giant screens, etc., a night out in the pub with Irish friends often involves inevitable questions as we share what we’ve gleaned in our ex-pat years:
Would you know someone who could tile a kitchen, cater a party, mind the kids, rent me a summer cottage in Donegal or on the French Riviera? Etc.
The variety of questions can be challenging. Answers are often proceeded by head scratching, prodding someone further down the bar in the ribs, and popping the follow-up questions:
Do you remember so-and-so, ‘WHAT'S-HIS-NAME?' Remember yer man/yer wan who did the stairs, the roof, catered Flanagan’s shin-dig, gave the nephew a job? Etc.
If the communal brain’s rolodex isn’t up to the job, mobile phones are drawn and speedy scrolling through Paris-based Irish associations sites proceeds, before triumphantly producing just the right contact. Irish in France and Mná na hÉireann, France are two of the many thriving Paris based Irish associations.
I agree with McWilliams, that the Irish pub abroad is “a brilliant and easy to understand indicator of globalization,” but I would add that it’s even more than that. It’s also where the good old Irish tradition of “WHAT'S-HIS-NAME" and the diasporic international soft power of the non-criminal Irish mafia both operates and flourishes!
It’s an efficient network. Sure, who would be careless enough to proffer a contact, whose efficiency you couldn’t fully vouch for, and risk someone mithering you in your local Irish pub abroad, about the job badly done by WHAT'S-HIS-NAME?
Therefore, make sure the “WHAT'S-HIS-NAME” you suggest, is more reliable than the “WHAT'S-HIS-NAME?” that Irish-born songwriter and musician John Buckley McQuaid sings of in his composition, somewhat reminiscent of the old Dublin comic variety hall musical scene. As the story goes, post-tragedy, it all ended up back in an Irish pub, on foreign soil!
To conclude, as well as solving the nitty-gritties of everyday ex-pat life, and being “a pretty accurate indicator of globalization,” Irish pubs at home and abroad are always the place for “bold” lyrics, great music, and mighty craic:
"WHAT'S-HIS-NAME?" by John Buckley McQuaid
Isn't that what's-his-name, what's-his-name, what's-his-name,
Isn't that what's-his-name, what's-his-name?
I'm sure it must be Flanagan, Flanagan, Flanagan
And if it isn't Flanagan, he looks the same
Wasn't he a friend of yours, friend of yours, friend of yours
Wasn't he a friend of yours, friend for life
Till the day he disappeared, disappeared, disappeared
Till the day he disappeared with my wife
I've always meant to thank the swine, thank the swine, thank the swine
I've always meant to thank the swine, thank the swine
Now he wears a party face, pretty brave, party face
Now he wears a party face just like mine
Sad to hear about his wife, about his wife, about his wife
Sad to hear about his wife, such a fuss
Didn't she go off a cliff, off a cliff, off a cliff
Didn't she go off a cliff in a bus
Luckily she was insured, was insured, was insured
Luckily she was insured and now he's rich
Some of us have all the luck, by hook or crook, all the luck
Some of us have all the luck and life's a bitch
The accident was on T.V., B.B.C. and I.T.V.
The accident was on T.V. and we could watch
Now the bastard's buying drinks, buying drinks, buying drinks
Now the bastard's buying drinks and mine's a scotch.
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