September 27, 2021

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Iconic pub in Shannonbridge changes hands

3 min read

J.J. Killeen’s pub in Shannonbridge pictured several years ago.

Iconic local hostelry JJ. Killeen’s in Shannonbridge recently changed hands.

Known far and wide across the Midlands and beyond, the traditional bar and grocery had been a favourite with boaters, locals and visitors alike for decades prior to its closure in 2019.

It was recently purchased by Shannonbridge native Liam Fallon, who it’s understood, will retain the traditional bar as it is with some minor changes.

First opened in 1933 by James Killeen, who originally hailed from Taughmaconnell, and his wife Elizabeth, it has been run by the Killeen family ever since and had always been a popular stop-off for boating enthusiasts and traditional music fans who enjoyed its frequent sessions.

Fondly remembered as a place where you could buy a bag of nails, fishing tackle, and foodstuffs or even ladies and gents habits (that were used to lay out a body for a wake many years ago) while sipping your pint of Guinness, its old-time shop/bar setting was a huge draw with locals and visitors alike and is something that has become a rarer sight in bars nowadays.

The pub also had a number of distinctive features in the interior that proved a hit with customers over the decades – the T puzzle for one – many came through the doors to try their hand at the puzzle with little success. The unique nails game was another popular pursuit for patrons which it’s hoped will be revived.

Then there was the Vietnamese whiskey with a snake in a bottle, or the famous George Brent picture gifted to the pub by the Hollywood actor in 1947 which hung over the bar. Born George Brendan Nolan in Shannonbridge in 1904 according to the Imdb website, he acted with many of the leading actors of the 1930s and 1940s including Bette Davis, Joan Fontaine and James Cagney.

The pub itself featured in a well-known Irish film, the adaptation of Walter Macken novel ‘The Flight of the Doves’, which is regularly replayed on TV on St Patrick’s Day. It featured some big Irish names of the time like Tom Hickey Niall Toibin, Emmet Bergin, Dana and Brendan O’Reilly. Nearby Clonmacnoise was also featured in the movie.


Oscar the dog pictured sitting up at the shop counter in Killeen’s pub in Shannonbridge with customer Oliver Darcy back in 2012.

Another talking point in the pub in the village was the 2,000 plus business cards on the walls from all over the world which started when phone cards went out of use and a few were hung up by a few locals.

By the end of one summer, there were hundreds of business cards put up too by the throngs of visitors who came through the doors.

Long declared as the best pub on the Shannon by boaters, Killeen’s Bar was also famed for its funny signs, black pudding sandwiches from the 1980s on, and for their hot chocolate and rum drinks or long-established card game with lots of characters in the wintertime.

It played host to many famous visitors to the pub over the years and TV appearances, with everyone from the BBC’s ‘Three Men and a Boat’ show with comedians Dara Ó Briain, Rory McGrath and Griff Rhys Jones and RTE presenter John Creedon, among the many dropping by.

Other big names to come through the doors including the actors Mick Lally and Mary McEvoy aka Biddy and Miley from Glenroe, and from the world of sport Shane Lowry and Willie Mullins among many others.

Plenty of well-known musicians played a tune or sang a song over the years too while holidaying on the Shannon or passing through the village. Some of the more notable included Paddy Cole, Phil Coulter, Frankie Gavin and closer to home, the country star Brendan Shine, and traditional singer Sean Keane.

Back in 2012, the pub went viral when a photo of Oscar the dog sitting up on a stool at the shop counter beside customer Oliver Darcy with a pint of Guinness in front of both, caught the imagination of a new generation generating huge online and newspaper coverage worldwide.

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