Finding Flannerys - The Saga in Ireland Begins

I'd quietly decided to myself that while in Ireland I would make a point of visiting every bar in the country that bared my last name, Flannery. This little mission of mine sparked into something a lot bigger once I got to Kilkenny.

I hitchhiked to the little town after a stint in Dublin where I landed and a hike through the Wicklow mountains. From the end of the trail I hitched three separate rides to get to Kilkenny, the last of which was from a guy who took me to the city center while pointing out potential hidden campsites along the way, as I told him I hadn't worked out a place to stay yet and was always ready to camp.

He dropped me off next to a big castle in the walkable downtown, I wasted no time finding a pub to get myself a pint of Kilkenny. From this pub I went to another that had a larger selection of local craft beers, the perfect spot for me.

Besides myself and the bartender there were only a couple other guys in there drinking, we talked beer and whatnot until one of them inquired about where I was sleeping, to which I responded I wasn't sure, but likely looking for a place to camp.

He decided that his friends may let me camp in their garden (backyard), and if not that then he knew another spot. I followed him to his friend's place nearby, a couple of Robbie and Helena who warmly invited us in for tea. Within minutes of being there they not only invited me to stay, but said instead of the backyard I could stay on the couch.

I spent the night chatting with them by the fire as tea turned to beer. The following day Robbie sort of toured me around, first walking around town by churches and to the castle and the waterway, then by car we headed out to the countryside where he showed me castle ruins, a hike with his dog and exposed me to the general beauty of the area.

That night is when the spark happened, we were once again sitting in his living room after having had dinner and now on to some beers. They asked more about my travels and plans, I then mentioned my mission of visiting all the Flannery pubs I could find as I looped around the country.

It was then that Helena insisted that I email some radio stations, "They love these kind of stories!", she kept saying, she looked up the email addresses and all but forced me to write to the two top Irish radio stations.

By the next morning I took off into own with my backpack, my next destination was the southern city of Cork. Outside a pub I caught some WiFi and then saw that I'd gotten responses back from both radio stations, both wanting to get me on the air as soon as possible... now the craziness would begin.

I found a hostel that let me use their phone to call and what was what. As it turned out I had to choose one radio station or the other, as they were in competition, so I chose the Ray D'Arcy Show, as they'd been the first to get in touch. Now there was talk of them getting me a train ticket back to Dublin to come in the studio, but they worked out that they could do it over the phone.

I popped into the pub I'd been in the other day and told them my situation, they said I was more than welcome to use their phone for the 3pm live interview.

After a couple pints the time rolled around and indeed there I was, live on the radio talking about how I'd been on the road for years, hitchhiking around and otherwise seeing the world, and now I was finally in Ireland and "chasing my roots" looking for Flannery pubs. I told them about the first and only one I'd been to so far in Dublin and the uninterested bartender who cared not of my last name matching the name of their establishment.

After the initial interview they told me to stick around and that they'd talk to me again towards the end of the show. By that time several people had called in to tell me about the Flannery pub in their town, also they'd reached out to famous rugby player Jerry Flannery who was on the air with me to personally invite me to his Flannery pub in Limerick.

All of this was surreal. Limerick, as it were, was some kind of Flannery epicenter. Besides Jerry's pub there were five others in and around the city, all owned by various members of the same Flannery family. There seemed to be about a dozen Flannery pubs in the whole of the country. The mission was on.

After the interview I hastily made my way to the outskirts of town, I wanted to hitchhike down to Cork before dark. It took seven different rides and bits of walking in between each lift, but my final ride came from a pretty girl who dropped me off right where my Couchsurfing host lived.

John was his name, a long grey haired guy from Los Angeles who used to do a fair bit of hitchhiking in his day, he cooked us up some fish as we got to know each other, it turned out that he knew the girl I'd couchsurfed with in Amsterdam with who owned the boat there as well.

The next day happened to my birthday, I went off into the city on my own eager to check it out and also eager to visit the Flannery pub I knew was there as well, this would only be my second Flannery pub visit since the underwhelming experience in Dublin.

I spent the day popping into some local breweries and munching on food here and there, then finally made my way to Flannery's, just outside the center.

I ordered a Guinness, after pouring it the bartender plopped it down in front of me at which point I told him that my last name was Flannery and I was indeed visiting all the pubs I could.

"You're the one from the radio!", he exclaimed excitedly, "That pint is free!", he smiled. He quickly got on the phone with the owner who relayed to me that he was on his way and had already ordered a custom bottle of Jameson with my name on it as a gift.

I talked with everyone in the pub as the free pints of Guinness kept rolling in, a glass of Jameson here and there as well. The owner got caught up and wasn't going to make it, but the bartender toured me around the back of the bar where a massive expansion construction project was going on, the place was going to be huge.

Happily drunk and feeling the love I finally pulled myself off the bar stool and back on to the streets of Cork, I had to go meet John in town after his dance lesson. We went to a bar for a few drinks with some of the people from his dance class, then the two of us stumbled on to the streets looking for the next pints.

"You're too drunk", a bouncer told me calmly... on to the next place, it was getting late and places were closing down, but John said he knew about a backdoor to a hostel bar we could try. The door indeed was open and we slipped in to a bar where the action was still happening.

"You're not gonna fall on your ass again, are you?", a bartender spotted John right away. I don't think John remembered the precise incident the bartender was speaking of, but he wasn't surprised either. We laughed it off with a sort of assurance, the skeptical bartender poured us some drinks and we kept to ourselves around the pool table for several rounds as my memory faded to black...

When I snapped back into consciousness I was walking through a neighborhood in early daylight, my phone battery was low, I tried to decipher where I was and less importantly, how I'd gotten there, but more importantly, how to get to John's house again.

Somehow I indeed managed to get back to his place, but if he was there he was asleep and not responsive. I sat for a second, but then decided to just walk into the city again, looping around like a zombie, finding some food which helped the situation, and after a while I looped back to his place to find he was now awake.

He too had no memory between the one of the rounds of pool and waking up in his bed. I suppose we were living in Ireland the exact way we should.

I spent just the next full day in Cork, I made another visit to Flannery's to meet the owner this time, he tossed me a couple more free pints of Guinness as we chatted for a while before I got moving again. I stopped at the beer store heading back to John's, he coincidentally popped in the same store with the same idea at that moment.

We walked back to his place for one more night, by this time there was a German girl staying with him as well, she went to sleep early while John and I kicked back some beers and shared some travel stories.

The next morning it was go time again, on towards the southwest and soon Limerick, Flannery central it seemed. There were all kinds of kicks in store, my thumb was now pointed to the next unknown adventure.

May 18, 2015 to May 26, 2015