The 'Cat' at the Centre of the Village

Mention to anyone that you are from the little village of Tubber, and chances are that people will remark on a few things - the lovely and well kept school and GAA grounds - and the pub called the 'Cat and Bagpipes'. Most people around Tubber just call it 'the Cat', so that is what I will call it for the rest of this piece.

A public house has stood in Tubber for literally hundreds of years. Old records refer to a tavern in the 1700's, and many stories have emerged about how 'The Cat' actually got its name.The one I was always told was that a travelling musician was staying the night and left his bagpipes down beside him. Sometime during the night a fire broke out and the occupants were saved by the cat in the pub jumping up and down on the bagpipes. I was told this story by two people - one from Moate who told me that the travelling musician was from Clara, and one from Clara who told me that the same musician was from Moate. Either way,Tubber could well lay claim to having accidently invented the smoke alarm.

In recent times, when pubs were owned by companies, P&H Egan Group (who had pubs all over the midlands) were the principal tenants in the last century and indeed many locals were employed in 'the Cat'. In 1966, my late uncle, Paddy McLoughlin and my father Donal took over the pub. Uncle Paddy had previously been manager for some time beforehand.

My abiding memories of 'the Cat' are of course sporting. I remember when Offaly won an All-Ireland in 1982 that by magic the Sam Maguire and its proud holders appeared in Tubber some time later. It was packed out and the buzz around it was amazing. I remember seeing children being carried around in it and feeling a bit jealous that I was too big to get in, though I suspect not as jealous as the fellow still trying to flog 'five-in-a-row' tee-shirts in Tralee. Later, when I was a little bit older, I witnessed Tubber win their Junior 'A' championship in 1986 and the week of unalloyed delight that it brought to the village. Except when I was working in the bar, I hardly saw my father or uncle that week. Licencing laws were suspended on the basis that if one or two members of the Gardaí were 'on duty' on or near the bar that week, sure wasn't that licence enough?

The pub took on the appearance of a cinema that week when a video of the match was made and played non-stop. Don't forget that in 1986, video recorders were scarce and one had to be found. Quite apart from the match which was won with a late penalty (after super sub Eamon Kavanagh was hauled to the ground and Paddy Sheridan dispatched the perfect penalty-John Terry take note), the interviews afterwards were entertaining. People who had never been on camera before spoke honestly about how proud they were of their team and their parish. As the tape went on you could see that a few people were already 'celebrating' for some time when they were interviewed, and the comments, on and off air were hilarious.If you saw it, you know what I mean. If you have not seen it, rent it out quickly from Joe Grennan.We nearly wore that tape out those next few days.

A few years ago, I had an opportunity to watch that tape again and this time it was sad to see so many interviewees had passed on, but still amazing to see how much it still meant to people to recall their first big win.And it was a roll then for a few years after that with Tubber winning big again, and each time the celebrations were intense. I have been to all sorts of sporting events, and rarely have I seen a group of people so happy as I did in 1986 when Tubber won that final.

As Sunday night rolled into Monday morning, a Clara TD by the name of Brian Cowen wandered in to congratulate the team and its supporters. He was greeted with delight by everyone and I think that he sang with the team that night. Later on, when Tubber mounted a serious fundraising campaign to build a new pitch and dressing rooms, a famous photograph adorned the walls of 'The Cat', and still does I believe. It was of Bertie Ahern, then Lord Mayor of Dublin putting money into a collection box to support Tubber. I have never seen a photograph since then of Bertie giving anyone his own money.

For a pub as small as 'The Cat', music was important.There were generations of fine musicians and dancers in the parish, many of whom brought glory and prizes to the village. Many years ago, about 1993, Charlie Landsborough played in the pub and as word spread throughout the area people crammed in to hear him. People still talk about it to this day. One year later when I was in college in Limerick, he sold out the concert hall there. Clearly we should have encouraged more acts to do an unplugged set in Tubber first!

Times change and in 1998 Donal and Paddy McLoughlin got out of the Public House business and in a night that was unforgettable we were honoured as a family by the fine people of Tubber. I remember the kind words that were said to us and it was a sad time for us, but we were delighted when the Tone family reopened Tubber some time later and that the people of Tubber could again wander into 'The Cat'. In 2007 Midlands 103 did a special show from the Cat under the stewardship of Sean andYvonne Tone and the place was packed out again.

Sean andYvonne reopened the Cat on December 9th 1999. Sean's mother,Anne Tone (nee Stone) was reared in the house, though the Stones' never ran the premises themselves. Refurbishment was an interesting journey, with old photographs, newspaper cuttings about historical events and some artefacts of a bygone era were prepared and displayed as a reminder of the 'Good Old Days'.

The excitement and appreciation of the people of Tubber on the reopening of the Cat was amazing. The pub is about its people, and it is the people of Tubber and its adjoining parishes who have supported Sean andYvonne for over a decade now, that makes the Cat what it is.

It is a place where great characters with a quick wit and a great outlook on life keep it going. Memorable days of Tubber football celebrations, post-dramatic production get togethers, Tubber Golf Society outings, a game of pool or a quiet pint in front of a turf fire are the order of the day. Local people catch up on local news and the wonderful children of Tubber pop into the shop for a treat on their way from school or mass on Sundays. Diddly who looks after the shop and Cathal who keeps the cat purring along are never short of a chat. As 'Pubspy' in the Sunday World put it - "The Cat has got the cream".


The Cat & Bagpipes was renovated by Frank Hanevy & Sons in 1999