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In America, a country club is where people play golf or tennis and sip cocktails, but in Mayo, "The Country Club" is where Garramore GAA and their followers play football and socialise.
Situated on a crossroads between Claremorris, Carramore, Holymount and Ballindyne, this pub was originally known as "Andrew Forde's" after its founder, who purchased the main pub building and 100 acres of surrounding farmland sometime in the mid-19th century.
A year after his purchase, Andrew opened a hardware shop that was licensed to sell alcohol six days a week. Apparently, Andrew was of the view that "six days is enough for anyone to work". Once the business was established and Andrew in a position to enjoy his Sabbath, he took a wife, Sarah Stevens of Mayo Abbey, with whom he had six children.
As Andrew's family grew, so did his business. As well as hardware, the business became a general merchants and family grocery. Forde's started trading in eggs, wool and farm produce. A 19th century handbill advertising the store describes Andrew Forde as a "Family Grocer; Tea, Wine, Spirit and Provision Merchant" and draws the reader's attention to the fact that he was also an "Agent for Gouldings and Richardsons manures". On fair days and during the run up to Christmas, over 100 horse-drawn coaches, carts and carriages would surround the store. As well as making purchases, people travelled from as far as Kilmaine, Shrule and Ballindine to sell their wool, eggs and other farm produce at Forde's.
Andrew's prosperity allowed him to buy another 30 acres adjoining his farmland, so that when he died in 1920, he handed on to his son Malachy a thriving business and a farm that is still bordered on three sides by the River Robe.
Malachy proved to be every bit as enterprising as his father. Shortly after taking over the business, he expanded into ice cream, founding the Hollybrook ice cream factory in Claremorris which for decades manufactured the only ice cream available in Connacht. During the Second World War, which the Irish government officially described as "The National Emergency", Forde's was given a special exemption from sugar rationing so that ice cream production could continue.
Rationing, and the scarcity of meat in England during and after the war, led Malachy to expand even further into the rabbit export trade. Malachy's vans collected caught rabbits from collection points he set up all over Galway and Mayo, with the rabbit carcasses being processed at premises adjacent to the Church Street ice-cream factory.
In the 1937 general election, Malachy decided to stand as an Independent Farmers Candidate. His travels across the province had helped him develop a large personal organisation, which threatened to take a seat from Fianna Fáil in particular. He also had a grasp of advertising techniques: as well as putting up posters, his supporters also used tarred road surfaces for electioneering. On the main roads leading into Ballyhaunis, Knock, Ballinrobe and, of course, Hollymount, the roads were decorated with the three-line slogan: FARMERS, VOTE NO. 1, FORDE. Unfortunately for Malachy, his name proved an easy one to sabotage to the benefit of Fianna Fáil and a week before the election the 1937 graffiti was amended to read: FARMERS, VOTE NO. 1, FOR DEV".
In the event, although he polled more than 1,900 votes, Malachy was not elected a TD and he never stood as a political candidate again. Instead he concentrated on his business and family. He married May Higgins from Carramarla, Claremorris, and had eight children, the eldest being Malachy, who inherited the business and farm in 1964.
The ice cream factory stopped trading in 1959 and young Malachy also wound up the hardware business, concentrating on improving the pub and developing the farm.
In 1966, he extended the pub and added dressing rooms, so that in 1967 it could become the home of Carramore GAA club. For some years previously it had been an unofficial home of Carramore, who played in a field to the back of the pub on Forde family lands. It was at this time that the pub's name changed to "The Country Club".
It's very much a multi-purpose pitch today. For the last 18 years, The Country Club has hosted an annual gymkhana on the last Sunday in May and it is also host to a Vintage Tractor and Engine Show, which is usually held on the first Sunday of July. One of the annual exhibits is a 1948 Ferguson 20 Diesel, which is still the main source of transport when travelling around the farm.
In 1981, Malachy married Helen Connolly, from Cloonfad in County Roscommon, and the couple have two children, Andrew and Karen.
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.