Our History

Keane's bar in 1942

This is where the Keane's Bar & Grocery started, Thomas Cahill passed it down to the Keane Family in 1928. He being an uncle to the family, John Keane ran the pub and years later did it up and Married Kathleen Chambers and went on to have 8 children. Today Keane's Bar & Grocery shop is ran by John's son Patrick, his wife Margaret and their two sons - Shane & Emmett.

John Keane with his motorbike

Few pictures of John Keane and his wife Kathleen.

John Keane with his wife Kathleen
John Keane behind the 'Keane's' bar

Back in time

Stories from the past, written by Helen Keane - Patrick's sister.

"... We also learned a lot from helping out in the shop. We weren’t always that keen to help out, but it had to be done. I remember filling bags of tea and sugar on a Saturday in readiness for the crowd coming in after mass on Sunday morning. The tea was filled with a cup from a big tea chest. The inside of the chest was covered in silver foil, presumably to keep the tea fresh. I still remember the strong smell of loose tea leaves in that chest, {which might explain my lifelong love of a cup of tea!}. We were quite small when we started filling tea, and as the chest emptied, we had to lean in further to scoop up the tea, and I remember almost falling in a few times. The tea bags were then weighed and some tea taken out, or added, to make an exact half pound. The top was then sellotaped and the job was done.

Then it was time to fill 2lb. and 4lb. bags of sugar from a big , brown, upright bag of sugar. This was a messier job as the sugar was sticky. This also had to be weighed to the exact amount, closed and sellotaped. Bending down into the tea chest and sugar bag was backbreaking work, but luckily our backs were young and there was great satisfaction in seeing the bags on the shelf, ready for the Sunday morning rush. We all heaved a sigh of relief and disappeared out to play as fast as we could, before we were caught for another job!

In the weeks before Christmas, raisins, currants and sultanas arrived in big cardboard boxes and had to be filled, weighed and sellotaped securely. This was my least favourite job as the dried fruit was so sticky and difficult to loosen. I still remember that sweet fruity smell which reminds me of those hectic weeks before Christmas. It’s all so different now with everything prepacked ..."

"Christmas Past"

"... The week before Christmas was hectic. As no supermarkets existed in West Clare in the early 60’s, the local shop was in it’s heyday. Christmas shopping was a special occasion. Women arrived with long shopping lists which included such items as tins of fruit, jelly, custard and orange squash. A pack of tall white Christmas candles was one of the essentials, as all households observed the custom of lighting a candle in the window on Christmas Eve. My mother told us this was to welcome Mary and Joseph should they pass that way.

Good customers were rewarded for their loyalty by a box of chocolates or a tin of U.S.A. biscuits, or maybe both. The best customers usually received a bottle of wine with the biscuits or chocolates. The men would sit at the fire in the shop relishing the annual Christmas drink stood by my father. Sometimes, shopping done, the women might join them and enjoy a glass of sherry, a rare treat, as women drinking in pubs was unheard of then. As the evening drew in and the fire blazing there was a real festive air around the place.

I remember one elderly man, Mikey, muttering to himself as he made his way unsteadily across the road to untie his donkey and cart. The donkey, having waited patiently all day, gladly headed off over the bridge towards home with Mikey and his bulging bags of Christmas shopping. This was Mikey’s ritual every Friday, so the donkey could have found his way home blindfolded. Just as well, as he wasn’t likely to get any great guidance from Mikey who would usually have a little snooze on the way home.

My mother was busy in the kitchen tidying up and getting everything shining for Christmas day. She usually made a big bowl of trifle to feed her brood and we all loved helping with this, stirring the jelly , opening tins of fruit and cutting up the sponge. A row would usually erupt over who got to scrape the custard pot. The trifle would be placed on the dining room table to set overnight, with many warnings not to touch it. Beside it were five or six Christmas cakes all made in the past two weeks and covered carefully in tinfoil.

When one of the cakes was opened on Christmas Eve it really felt like Christmas had come. Santa was on the radio reading out letters from children and we eagerly listened for our names to be read out. Our letters had been carefully placed in the chimney weeks before and they surely had arrived by Christmas Eve.. When Santa announced his imminent departure from the North Pole at 5pm. we begged our Mother to let us go to bed. Every other night getting us into bed was next to impossible, but this night was different. We dreaded the thought of Santa arriving and finding us awake. We’d get nothing! Children had to be sound asleep when he came down the chimney. Filled with excitement and some fear, it was very difficult to fall asleep, but eventually we did..

One of my father’s jobs was to create candle holders for the tall white Christmas candles. His solution was to carve out a round shape in the centre top part of a turnip, just deep enough to fit in a candle base. A slice was also cut off the base of the turnip to steady it and then it was covered with tinfoil. He was very pleased with himself, a perfect candle holder! The candles were inserted into each one and placed on the window sills where they shone brightly, sending a warm glow out into the darkness.

The turkey, supplied by a local farmer, had been killed a few days before and hung upside down on the door of the ‘store’ across the road. Sometimes I had to go across to the store to get a can of oil for a customer. I dreaded this, as when I opened the door the turkey, complete with feathers and with it’s lifeless head hanging down, would swing out towards me. I had to pluck up all my courage to creep past it and fill the oil. As the turkey was dead I’m not sure what I was afraid of…the dark store didn’t help. I even felt a bit squeamish when I saw it on my plate for Christmas dinner.

One year we had two turkeys, one with black feathers, one with white. I was terrified of the black turkey for weeks before as he glared menacingly at me and refused to eat any turkey until my mother had reassured me that it was the white one. Of course the meat from both was exactly the same colour…

Christmas Day was one of just two days in the year when our shop and bar was closed.[ The other day was Good Friday.] Being closed meant that for once we could sit down for dinner together without having to ‘mind the shop’. I must say it felt a little strange without the usual noise and distraction from customers, but it also felt nice and cosy to have the place to ourselves for the day with a big fire on upstairs in the sitting room, plenty to eat and our heart’s desire of toys from Santy.

The bar was closed on Christmas Day.It was a different story the next day - St. Stephen’s Day. I remember the place being packed all day as locals continued to enjoy the festive cheer. One of the most welcome attractions were the ‘Wrens’ [which we pronounced as ‘Ran’] who entertained with music, song and occasionally set dancing. The bigger Wrens were made up of members of groups such as the local football clubs who depended on this annual event for much needed funds. They’d arrive amidst a flurry of excitement in all kinds of disguisesm with an array of musical instruments to entertain and delight. The bucket was passed around and they usually got generous donations from the appreciative onlookers in the bar. Part of the fun was trying to figure out who was who and there was plenty of joking and banter enjoyed by all.

Smaller Wrens called too, usually consisting of two or three children who valiantly attempted tunes on a tin whistle or mouth organ as the third murdered a few lines of a well known ballad. All were applauded loudly, especially if they were recognised as neighbour’s children and left happily with pocketfuls of coins for their efforts. As the evening wore on, emboldened by pints someone at the bar would break into song and a singsong got underway which often lasted well into the night. I can still recall the words of most of these songs and remember the singer of each, as everyone who sang had their own special favourite.

Some singers liked to be coaxed, but others were only too happy to oblige and sometimes couldn’t be silenced! The songs included many classic Irish ballads such as The Old Bog Road, Shanagolden, The Green Glens of Antrim, Skibbereen, Kevin Barry, The Mountains of Mourne, The Little Old Mud Cabin on the Hill, Noreen Bawn and many more gems. These were sung so often that most people knew the words and would raise the roof by joining in the chorus. I loved to listen to these songs and I feel lucky now to have had the opportunity to memorise them. I look on it now as a unique musical education in the Irish Ballad Tradition, even though we never realised it at the time ..."