Long Valley Bar

10 Winthrop St Cork

From the moment I entered the Long Valley I loved it. To the right of the wood panelled entrance hallway is a built-in display case with bevelled glass windows exhibiting bottles of wine, vodka, whiskey, scotch and various liqueurs as well as small, cut crystal glasses. To the left is a snug with etched glass windows and chased silver door knobs - real quality workmanship in a pub that's been entertaining Cork folk since 1842. All this before you have even walked into the bar itself.

The Long Valley could just as well be called the Long Room. It's one of those pubs that's narrow and deep with an endless bar and wooden tables, chairs and benches that run along the opposite wall. Behind the bar is a huge old stove steaming with good things to eat. Staff dressed in white butcher coats supply the lively, pre dominantly thirty-something crowd with a continuous stream of hunky, deli-type sandwiches of all sorts, made to order on delicious slabs of home-baked brown bread. There's a great feeling of cheerful bustle here, as though you've wandered into a convivial party in someone's home.

The historic photos on the wall are fun too - I particularly liked the one of a ship in full sail that hangs right above the stove.

The upstairs lounge called The Hayloft is quieter, a place where you can retreat from the merrymaking to sit at pine tables.

The spirit of the Long Valley is embodied in its proprietors, the delightfully eccentric Rita and Humphrey Moynihan, a couple now in their mid seventies, who are almost as famous in Cork as their pub.

Humphrey, a spry and slender fella with observant eyes, took me into the little upstairs kitchen so we could chat quietly. We wedged our chairs in between the sink and fridge and there, with a pint in one hand and shelves of kitchen staples above our heads, I was royally entertained.

Humphrey told me a great many things over the next hour. All of the information was embroidered with copious asides and delivered in a kind of mesmerising tone that reminded me of a shanachie.

Among a variety of other things, I learned that he had been an economics teacher in a school in Rathmines until 1927, when he inherited the pub from his father, a Cork draper who had once done a turn in London as a Saville Row tailor.

"When the pub first opened in 1842," he told me, "Cork had 400 pubs of which only 70 were independently owned by the occupants. The rest were tithe houses owned by the local breweries who, in those days, made very inferior stout compared to Guinness. Today those same breweries are massive. One of them is owned by Heinekens and the other by Fosters and they make extraordinarily good black porter. "Now, the origin of porter or stout comes from the dockers and porters in London who were mostly of Irish Catholic stock. They were very poorly paid and could afford only the cheapest of beer, so they put roasted barley in it to cover up the bad taste. And that drink became known as 'porter.'

"Now then, Guinness in Dublin began to make a strong version of that drink, and the common word for strong in the last century and the century before that was stout, so that's how come Guinness's drink became known as 'stout' porter.

"I knew all about the old way of making black beer or stout, but the modern way is you just sit down at the computer and it's all a mixture of chemicals. The old-fashioned way you'd be washing out the vats and there'd be rats and everything, but that's all gone now."

At one point I asked Humphrey why his bar staff wore white coats.

"Oh yes, well," he nodded and grinned, "I saw a New York bar on the television, where they all wore the white coats with black aprons. I thought it looked good. It's a Victorian custom - goes with an old-fashioned bar. People like it." I liked it too - in fact I loved the entire pub and long may Humphrey and Rita thrive. When you go to the Long Valley say hello to Humphrey and ask to see the wonderful guest book which he started in 1947. It's full of cartoons, drawings, photos and comments like "The moving finger writes and having written moves on. I hope it doesn't write or move on too fast."

The Long Valley Bar/ The Hayloft Lounge Bar can be found at 10 Winthrop Street, Cork, Co. Cork.

From the Appletree Press title: The Irish Pub Guide.
Also from Appletree: Irish Pub Songs.