Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Travel Tails

Durty Nelly’s

A moniker like Durty Nelly’s, may be a bit offputting to some, but not us. Not only did the name of the ancient pub, tucked between Bunratty castle and the river Shannon, catch our attention, it piqued our curiosity as well. What in the world, could possibly make anyone think that such a name was a good idea for an establishment of eating and drinking? We had to know more. But wait, here I go, getting ahead of myself once again. I’ll get to Durty Nelly’s, after I tell how the girlchild and I, went for a walk and happened upon something interesting, the morning after the banquet in the castle.
When we travel, we love to take in history and all the sights, yet we also like to get off the beaten path. It’s the best way to take in the ‘real’ flavours of a place. We take trains, buses, Gypsy cabs, accept the occasional offers of rides, and we walk. We do a whole lot of walking. Our second and last day in Bunratty, we decided to go for a walk, just because. Choosing a quiet road that ran alongside the castle and folk park, we were pleasantly surprised to come across something that was not only iconic to the area, but to Ireland itself. We happened to chance upon, the winery where honey mead was created from a hundreds of years old recipe. The very honey mead we’d enjoyed before the banquet, had been brewed there. I would dare assume that honey mead from that very winery, had been consumed and enjoyed at castle banquets, for many centuries. Hidden away behind the castle grounds as it was, we were lucky to happen upon it at all. We did a bit of a tour, and learned some history as well. A bit of historical trivia that’s attached to a wedding tradition that’s still a part of modern day, the honeymoon. I thought it so interesting, it made its way into my second novel. This is the story of where the term ‘honeymoon’ derived from. Hundreds of years ago, couples enjoyed the gift of mead at their wedding celebration, and continued to have a goblet of it every evening before bed, for the period of one month. It was believed to have aphrodisiac properties, and this imbibing of honey wine, continued for a period of one month, after which time, it was hoped the new wife would be with child. A month is a moon’s length of time, hence the honeymoon term was created.
Retuning to the tiny village of Bunratty, we decided to go to Durty Nelly’s. Not only was it pretty great to get to sit on a bench of rough hewn timber that matched the age of the table, it was cool to imagine all the travellers, who had been there before us. Crowded into the small space, with its low ceiling and flagstone floor and sawdust strewn about to sop up spills. The heavy beams, darkened by many centuries of travellers looking for a meal and place to rest. As romanticized as the vision may be, I can well imagine, it wasn’t at all pleasant. People would’ve been rather odious back then, what with the lack of grooming and hygiene that most of us (hopefully) adhere to in this modern era we live in. I’m thinking, the place would’ve smelled a good deal, especially when the damp of winter was upon the countryside, or during those many rainy days Ireland is famous for. It’s not it’s usual lush green, for no reason. The pub would’ve smelled of leather and wool, grease and body odour. Cooking and fires may have created aromas, yet I doubt the smells, would’ve been masked very much. Besides the humanity frequenting the place, there were also stables attached. If the stables were kept in as unsanitary a state as the pub and lodgings were, the odour would’ve been nauseating.
The proprietor of this ‘fine’ establishment went by the name of Nelly, and the niceties of living escaped her attention. Picture it, travellers weary of their daily labours and miles, stop in for a bite to eat, a brew to drink, and possibly somewhere to lay their head at night. I imagine, the hot meal that was looked forward to with hungry anticipation was somewhat less so, at the realization of what happened upon ordering. No fresh, clean plank or plate to eat off. No goblet or tankard to drink from. From what we were told, Nelly simply refilled food and drink, and that was that. If she didn’t bother to wash the items people drank and ate from, it’s doubtful that food was prepared with any care or concern on her part. I shudder to think of it.
Need lodging for yourself and your steed? Well, you were housed the same, on straw that had been there, for goodness knows how long. If you didn’t have lice going in, I’ll wager you did, by the time you left. Yup, Durty Nelly’s earned its name back then. Thankfully, all that ‘durty’ nonsense is far in the past. Nowadays, Durty Nelly’s is an excellent pub and restaurant that’s quintessential Ireland.
No matter what happened in the past, being able to soak in the ambience of a four hundred year old pub, was pretty great. On top of that, we still had folk night in the folk park, to look forward to.

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB