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The reputation of Larkin's of Coolcullen extends far beyond County Kilkenny's borders: this is a pub where the older crowd step it out on the dance floor.
The pub has been in the Larkin family since at least 1895, when the building was bought by James Larkin, great-grandfather-in-law of the current licensee Kathleen Larkin. It is believed James had occupied the building and had run a pub there before he purchased the premises.
The pub then passed to James's son Michael. It passed from Michael to his wife Margaret Larkin, then to the couple's son James and from him to his son John Larkin, who died in 2001.
Shortly after John and Kathleen married in 1963, Smithwick's became the ‘local brew', mainly because John worked at Smithwick's brewery while Kathleen ran the pub. ‘We pushed Smithwick's quite a bit,' says Kathleen, ‘as you have to look after your own.'
Today, you still won't find ‘designer beers' behind the bar. ‘The big sellers are still Smithwick's and Guinness,' says Kathleen. ‘Other beers would just sit there and go off.'
Another part of John's legacy is the large extension that was added to the pub in 1979 and which has been hosting showband and country and western dance nights ever since. The lounge's dance floor can accommodate more than 200 people and the dancers are usually members of ‘the older generation'. In a reversal of the normal situation, you find the younger crowd in the bar while their seniors are in the lounge.
‘This is not just a pub,' says Kathleen, who has been licensee since John's death. ‘It's a meeting place where people from all over and all ages meet. They come to the dances from Carlow, Kilkenny and Kildare. I couldn't count the number of marriages that have been made in here and I'd hope to see at least one more - my own son who is now 31 and works behind the bar!'
Extracts from 'The Story of the Irish Pub' by Cian Molloy, supplied with permission of the Liffey Press. For more information on the book check the Liffey Press website.