BONA FIDE TRAVELLER’S LAW
Here, John Cunningham recalls the stories told to him by his father Michael Cunningham about dealing with issues associated with drinking while working as a member of An Garda Síochána. He refers to the Bona Fide Laws which were a hangover from the days of coach travel. Bona fide houses utilised a legal loophole that allowed a genuine traveler three miles from his place of residence to partake of alcohol outside normal hours. You can read more about Michael Cunningham HERE
JOHN CUNNINGHAM: Anyway, so that was the big flood. The other good story, the other good story was the Muskerry Arms Hotel in Blarney and Forest Hotel. They were the two main watering holes in the village. At the time there was a thing called the “Bona Fide Traveller law”. I don’t know if you ever heard of it, Marie?
MS. LANDY: I did indeed, I did indeed, yeah.
MR. CUNNINGHAM: Basically what it said is that anybody who travels for over four miles or something or five miles on a Sunday, if they were travelling on business they were entitled to nourishment, which meant of course, given the good old Irish ability to misinterpret laws whenever it suits, this meant that everybody could come out from Cork on jaunting cars and bicycles and whatever and drink all day outside in Blarney and then go back at night time when the closing time was extended. Under these bona fide laws, the closing time was extended until eight o’clock or something at night time or seven o’clock or whatever it was on a Sunday. So it meant that Blarney became a kind of a hot spot for all these drinkers on Sundays. Anyway, on the day of Blarney sports, things were even much worse because everybody would be in the village from all around the area of Blarney as well as coming out from Blackpool and Bohernabreena and Spangle Hill and all these places in Cork City. So there was a mob above in the Muskerry Arms. It was Tom Bradley the owner of the Muskerry Arms at the time, he told me this story. My father didn’t admit to it but Tom Bradley swears or he swore it was true. They had terrible trouble getting this crowd out of the bar so they sent for the guards and the guards had one look at the crowd and decided, well, they’d better get a few more reinforcements. So my father was sent for and he came down in his civvies and got a baton. They went in the back of the Muskerry Arms and in the back of the bar and they climbed up on the bar counter. So you have my father, the superintendent, Sergeant Kelly and Garda Gaffey and Garda Burns and the whole lot of them all lined up on the counter, and my father called time and announced to the crowd ‘Time gentlemen please’. And of course, there was loud guffawing all round, not to mention a good few “F words” and whatever else.
So can you picture this, just picture this happening now, Marie, in this day and age, what the outcry would be. My father marched up and down the bar and kicked all the pints back into the crowd. He kicked the pints in on top of the drinkers. And then he ordered his men to jump off the bar down into the crowd and beat the whole lot of them out the door with the batons.
MS. LANDY: [Laughs]
MR. CUNNINGHAM: And they forced them onto the jaunting cars and whatever else they had, they’d give the horse a flake in the arse up to Chapel Hill and Blarney and point the horse back towards Cork and get rid of them!
[Laughs] So I just would love to see how this would be reported now in the media in Ireland today if it happened today. The poor man would be hauled over the coals. But apparently, at that time, that was the way things were done. You had Lugs Branigan in Dublin of a similar nature, of a similar mentality. I’m sure you remember Lugs Branigan.
MS. LANDY: [Laughs] I do indeed, I do indeed.
MR. CUNNINGHAM: [Laughs] Yeah, anyway, so that was the way things were done and to the best of my knowledge there was never any reprimand of my father’s actions for the day, but he cleared the bar and got the crowd out of the village and his main objective was to keep the peace in the village.