Liam Ryan was an old style shopkeeper/publican.
Unhurried, always courteous, he believed in giving service to customers.
He greeted all with a smile and a friendly word, irregardless of whether the order was for a slice of ham or a bottle of brandy.
That was the thing about his premises (trading as Ramsbottoms) at Lower Main Street, Portlaoise--one could get practically all the necessities there.
It had a bar and a grocery and an off-licence and a side room and a snug. (Alas, the last two are no more).
And, seemingly, always on duty was Liam. He must have travelled literally hundreds of miles behind the counter, or counters, during his half-century or more in the trade.
Sadly, his journey ended on March 30. In his eighties, he died on that date, and, God knows, he earned his rest. He had been unwell for some time.
A native of Rathdowney, he started to work in Har Ramsbottom’s pub in the late 1940s.
Following Har’s death in 1957, Liam eventually acquired ownership of the landmark property that had an interesting history dating back many years.
A wife, too, he won--Frances, a member of a very respected Portlaoise family, the Downeys of Mountmellick Road. She, in no small way, contributed to the success of the business.
Liam, invariably in a brown shopcoat, was a somewhat incongruous figure behind the counter.
In his heyday, he stood six feet, two and an half inches in his socks and weighed 13 stone, four pounds.
Not, to say the least, the specifications of a typical publican. Then, again, he didn’t sample his own beverages.
Though he loved to talk about athletics, he was modest about his own considerable achievements with the shot, javelin and discus.
He also competed in the hop, step and jump, as it was called then, and the long jump.
He was a founder member and officer of Portlaoise Athletic Club, and as such encouraged youngsters to take up sport.
Liam and Frances dedicated themselves to their family and business.
As for entertainment--it came into them through the shop doors in the persons of numerous characters.
Within reason, everybody was welcomed, including residents of St Fintan’s Hospital.
And if an obstreperous customer had to be ejected--well, the always cool Liam could do that too, and do it without any hard feelings, often telling the culprit to return tomorrow.
The bar wasn’t plush, but it was comfortable with the heat of an old-fashioned pot-bellied stove, and it was the scene of numerous sing-songs, with pints standing sentinel on the high-counter under the smoke-cured ceiling.
Separated from the bar by a low-partition, and just inside the entrance door, was the grocery shop, complete with weighing scales and hand-operated meat slicing machine from which many a pound of ham and corned beef slid on to greaseproof paper.
Indeed, peckish drinkers in other pubs would sometimes send one of their number across to Liam’s for corned beef.
It was an “Open All Hours” shop, a blessing to those who suddenly ran out of tea, or bread, or butter, or sugar, or cigarettes...anything. As for the off-licence, service was discreet.
To sum up, Ramsbottoms, under Liam’s proprietorship, was a world in itself--a world that, to the regret of his loyal customers, came to an end when he and Frances retired and sold the premises.
They moved to a pleasant house at Stradbally Road, conveniently opposite SS Peter and Paul’s Church.
Following Requiem Mass in that Church, Liam was interred in SS Peter and Paul’s Cemetery.
Sincere sympathy is extended Frances, his daughters Cathy, Mary, Pauline and Olive, brothers, sister, sons-in-law, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, relatives and friends.
Rest in Peace.