A CENTURY-AND-A-HALF IN THE LICENSED TRADE
Mother McHughs is one of the longest-established licensed premises in County Waterford, having commenced trading over 150 years ago.
In 1866 Patrick Flynn was granted a drinks licence for a new house at Islandikane, Fennor* North, which he bought for £300 with the intention of opening a provisions store and general shop. There had been a pub of sorts in the area, Kiely’s at Ballyvillan, but the licence wasn’t renewed.
The “public house” in Fenor was referred to in a newspaper report late the following year and court records from 1883 state that Patrick Flynn was still the proprietor of ‘The Bog Hotel’ at that time — christened as such because of the extensive marshland behind it.
Fenor farmer Robert Nolan successfully applied for a transfer of the liquor licence in March 1885, though he was still renting from Paddy Flynn.
This coincided with the formation of Fenor GAA Club, whose pitch occupies another reclaimed section of the bog immediately behind the pub. The Gaelic Athletic Association was only founded in 1884, making Fenor one of the oldest clubs in Waterford.
Also comprising a small grocery and offering overnight accommodation, Nolan’s was the only pub on the winding and hilly coast road between the seaside resort town of Tramore and the mining settlement at Bonmahon. This made it an ideal stopping point in the days long before motorised transport.
Sadly, Robert’s first wife (née Higgins, Waterford) died at a young age in August 1896. He married again the following April, to Bridget Cheasty, whose father Maurice farmed at nearby Ballymorris, Dunhill.
She and Robert had a son and two daughters. When her husband died in 1906, with their children still young, Bridie took over as licensee. Bridie ran the pub for the next 40 years.
UNDER NEW OWNERSHIP
The business was bought by local man Johnny Molloy and his wife Mary in the summer of 1946. The property’s extensive list of attributes (complete with farm and buildings encompassing 32 acres) were outlined in this auction advert in the provincial press. The new owners expanded the business to sell hardware, coal, meal, and increased grocery goods. A grinding mill was also installed.
After 15 years of the Molloys’ tenure, in the summer of 1961 the pub was bought by the late John O’Mahony, a native of Cork, and his wife Mary’s family, the McHughs, who hailed from the Midlands.
With John becoming a leading figure in the local GAA Club, serving as chairman for several seasons, the couple, in combination with the McHugh family, did a very successful trade for more than three decades.
During most of that time the premises, which in the seventies doubled as “Fenor Stores”: comprising a hardware shop, mini-grocery, and fuel filling station. The licensed part was known as O’Mahonys — the John O’Mahony & Sons nameplate is still above the entrance — or simply Fenor Pub.
With the McHugh side of the family helping to manage the business, John also worked as a foreman with P.J. Walsh, Public Works Contractors for many years and was chairman of Waterford Mart for five years. He was a mainstay of the GAA Club and community initiatives such as the Sale of Work committee and the Fenor FÁS scheme.
His mother-in-law Mrs McHugh continued to live and work with the family, literally becoming a household name behind the bar.
In the mid-nineties, Sean O’Mahony, having spent several years in Australia, returned to take over the business. His parents having sadly passed away (Mary in 1987 and John in ’95), Sean completely renovated and extended the pub.
He also changed the name to Mother McHughs after his grandmother, who had become so synonymous with the place during her time in Fenor. She passed away in 2001.