Back when I was young: Montreal’s Anglo/Irish Pubs


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They say that one of the signs you’re getting old is that you find yourself, more and more often, using phrases such as: When I was a boy/girl, Back when I was young, In my day, When I was a kid. Well, you get the idea. Rather than fight this tendency I’ve decided to embrace it by posting, on occasion, blog entries the title of which will begin with “Back when I was Young”.


John Bull Pub ad from The Gazette October 1972
John Bull Pub ad from The Gazette October 1972

Back when I was young, during the mid-seventies,  it seemed Montreal was awash with Anglo/Irish Pubs. There’s still a good number of them today including Hurley’s, McKibbin’s , The Irish Embassy and the Old Dublin to name but a few, but when I was cutting my drinking teeth there was a circuit of pubs in the western downtown area. They all had similar décor; after all, there’s only so much variation you can have on the theme. There was lots of brass and not much plastic,  easily cleaned concrete or tiled floors (no carpets, thanks), wood paneling and large tables for large groups (remember, this was a time when people bought drinks in “rounds” and managed to do so without having to mortgage their homes). The requisite dart boards, and very small stages, often just a raised area in the corner because floor space was at a premium.

Maidenhead Inn ad from The Gazette in March 1971
Maidenhead Inn ad from The Gazette in March 1971

Not only was the appearance similar but the entertainment was pretty much the same, at least in style. Usually a duo playing what North Americans considered traditional Celtic pub songs including Farewell to Nova Scotia, Whiskey in the Jar and The Black Velvet Band (and I hope they got those seven old ladies out of the lavatory). The main house act played Thursday through Saturday nights but other acts filled in the rest of the week so there was never a night without live music.

Starting this trip down memory lane, moving east from Atwater Avenue, the first pub you came to was the Maidenhead Inn in Alexis Nihon Plaza featuring the piano magic of Goa, India’s own Ferdie Fertado who would leave Montreal after several years and move to Laguna Beach, California where he passed away about three years ago. The Maidenhead waitresses wore low-cut “wenches” outfits while serving bottled beer and mixed drinks.

Site of former Clover Leaf and Molly Maguires
Site of former Clover Leaf and Molly Maguires

That was another shared feature not only of the Anglo/Irish places, but all Montreal bars at that time; beer came in bottles. Draft beer on tap was served only in taverns (and later brasseries) and was a cheap lower quality beer produced by the breweries for the express purpose of taverns.

Moving along, on the south-east corner of Ste. Catherine and Lambert-Clossé streets (then referred to simply as Closse) adjacent to the Shell Station, was the Clover Leaf that would close and, for a very short time, become Molly Maguires. I’d let you know what the décor was like, but I don’t think I was ever inside.

Next up is the Grandfather of Montreal Anglo-style pubs, the Cock ‘N’ Bull. It is still a going concern today although its red-roof entrance is gone and the inside is slightly different as well. In its original state the bar, complete with embedded British coins, was located halfway along the  east wall, about 15 feet toward the back from its current position, placing it smack in front of the “stage”, which is now the darts corner.

Cock 'N' Bull Pub today
Cock ‘N’ Bull Pub today

The stage was an area about 5 square feet that would give any claustrophobic performer a fit as it was enclosed on three sides by patrons hooting, hollering and singing. (A strict “no dancing” rule was enforced to cut down on accidents.) I also assume they have gotten rid of the sign that read: “Free drinks for anyone over the age of 70 and accompanied by a parent”. In these days of increased longevity that could become expensive!

Late Sunday morning was brunch time at the Cock ‘n’ Bull and Sunday nights were Dixieland Jazz nights. But one of the most popular events was Monday’s Amateur Night. The late Ted Blackman wrote a great column on the amateur spectacular in The Gazette in May of 1974

On de Maisonneuve right across from Sir George Williams University’s (now Concordia) Henry F. Hall Building was the Fyfe and Drum (neither Anglo nor Irish but clearly Scottish). The building was torn down to make way for the Concordia Library, but in its day the Fyfe was, not surprisingly, a hang-out for students.

The old entrance to Finnegan's Irish Pub
The old entrance to Finnegan’s Irish Pub

Just a bit further east on de Maisonneuve in what has most recently been an entrance to Wanda’s Strip Club was Finnigan’s Irish Pub. It had been located on the top floor of the building, but by the time of the 1976 Olympics was a rowdy packed basement pub.

That summer of 1976 saw many bars filled to capacity and beyond as the world once again came to Montreal for the Olympics as it had in 1967 for EXPO 67. When I think back to evenings in Finnigan’s what comes to mind are the words fire trap.

Until a few years ago the Downtown YMCA building extended out over half of de Maisonneuve from Drummond to Stanley Streets. On the north side of de Maisonneuve not actually under the Y overhang, but in its shadow was the John Bull Pub. It was more of a Rock ‘n’ Roll place than traditional pub music. Except as the ad above shows they ran an amateur night on Monday’s as well, hosted by the ubiquitous Ferdie Fertado who clearly made the rounds.

Irish Lancer Pub ad from The Gazette September 1975
Irish Lancer Pub ad from The Gazette September 1975

On Drummond Street below Ste. Catherine Street in the basement of the Lasalle Hotel was the Irish Lancer. The Lancer’s bathrooms were outside the pub itself in a sort of lobby and were shared with guests of the hotel who were often confronted by drunk pub patrons.

On Peel Street just above Cyprus Street and the Windsor Hotel was the Hunter’s Horn. Given its location in the heart of downtown Montreal it attracted a more businessperson clientele – more suits than the other pubs. The upstairs lounge, or Parlor as it was called, was a bit up-market being carpeted and nicely appointed. It hosted the Montreal Press Club for several years.

Ah … youth!

HuntersHorn

UPDATE: During the recent renovation of Alexis Nihon shopping centre, I snapped a couple of shots of what was once the Maidenhead Inn but is now a delicatessen.

Left: Front door Right: Interior
Front door                                                                   Interior
Recently Elaine, who has commented on this post and let me know she worked at the Maidenhead Inn, sent me some pictures from her time there. With her permission I post them here. She also has an interesting online petition regarding Robin Hood’s Well in Nottingham; have a read and consider signing it.

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Jackie was kind enough to send along these two photos of Frances and Bernard Whalen at the Irish Lancer during the early 1970’s. Jackie was once married to a Lancer bouncer.

 

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DCMontreal – Deegan Charles Stubbs – is a Montreal writer born and raised who likes to establish balance and juxtapositions; a bit of this and a bit of that, a dash of Yin and a soupçon of Yang, some Peaks and an occasional Frean and maybe a bit of a sting in the tail! Please follow DCMontreal on Twitter and on Facebook, and add him on Google+
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53 thoughts on “Back when I was young: Montreal’s Anglo/Irish Pubs

  1. I stumbled upon this. “Back when I was young” I was a waitress at the Maidenhead Inn, I also sang with Ferdie Furtado. It was hard work carrying all those glasses of beer, un p’te Labatt, un cinquante etc. etc. All this was around the time of Expo 67 and Montreal was buzzing. Then behind the bar there was a bloke named Johnny who mixed a showy cocktail, I have photos of some of this, they are a bit ropey now. Anyone else out there who knew me?

    Elaine

  2. I played with JW Fish at the John Bull Pub… they hired us for 6 months at a time, 5 nights a week. Great crowds. Lots of fun, quite a few fights. We jammed with the Hungarian trio (Gypsies, I believe) from the restaurant across the back hall, as well as disco queen Patsy Gallant.

  3. Hi again

    I don’t have the uniform from the Maidenhead, they were handed in when you left. I do have the bad feet from wearing the black patent plastic shoes and carrying all those glasses of beer. Looking forward to seeing the photos I mailed you on your blog.

    Elaine

  4. Hi – Interesting article and great trip down long ago lanes. Throughout my Sir George Williams uni years & after, I worked at the Fyfe & Drum (best job ever), Finnigans, the Irish Lancer and Station 10 (awful!) Great fun, music & memories. I’ve kept in touch with a few of musicians & co-workers but would to know where others are.
    Thanks, Julie

  5. Hi,
    I works at the Maidenhead. 1974 -1980. I have the greatest love and affection for the Hill family and Ferdie Furtato. spent a lot of time at station 10 with Duke.
    And at the Mustache with many friends

  6. Very collection of the group of Anglo-Irish pubs in Montreal at the time. I think you got them all. If I am not mistaken, The Queen Elizabeth Hotel had a British-styled pub as well, not that I ever went there, but it had the look, anyway. Also, there was Alexander’s on Peel Street which is still there. I was in Montreal a couple of years ago and happened to see the owner, looking much as he did 35 years ago! Alexander’s probably started later than the places you mentioned, but was operating by 1978 at least I believe. It pioneered the importing of draft English beer and Guinness. What did the Fyfe & Drum and John Bull, say, have in the way of English beer I wonder? Maybe bottled Newcastle Brown and Bass Ale? Anyway, great memories and I was amazed to see Cock ‘n Bull is still in situ.

    • Thanks for dropping by Gary. I wasn’t aware of the place in the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. I agree Alexander’s was the first place to have imported draft beer. I recall having a Guinness there in the late seventies. I was there during the recent hockey playoffs but places that charge $12 a pint are not my style!! I think most of the pubs relied on decor and music to create an English feel. By coincidence I was in the Cock ‘n’ Bull last evening. I had not been there for a few years and was surprised to see it has been completely redone to resemble the new owner’s sports bar across the street. The former owners, certainly not the original, have relocated down the street to a place called The Bull Pub. I wonder if the bar with the embedded coins went with them, as it isn’t in the old C&B!

      • That’s very interesting, thanks for those additional notes. Maybe I am wrong about the Queen E, I think the bar was called Voyageur and maybe I am confusing it with something else. As a student in the early 70’s, the English pubs didn’t attract as much because as you noted, they carried no draft, and draft was cheaper than bottled beer then. Tavern food was cheaper too. But I used to go of occasion to the English-type places mostly for the music and a gin and tonic. Interesting about the Bull Pub, it sounds by the name that it will continue the former atmosphere of the Cock ‘n Bull. Alexander’s always had an upscale image and over the years became more associated with the French restaurant downstairs, the owner was from France. Today of course, the beer scene is really at the craft beer bars, of which many excellent ones are in Montreal. Some have pale ale and stout on handpumps. So ironically, today you can get beer very close to what the British and Irish pubs originally specialized in and their outposts circa-1970 couldn’t offer since unpasteurized draft beer was never exported out of Britain.

    • Alain Creton ran Alexanders along with his brother who was the chef. They also owned the restaurant downstairs. They were the first in Montreal, maybe Canada, to have British Beer on tap. My friends & I closed that place up more times than I can remember. I met gal – server – there that I spend a few years with… good memories.

  7. Fantastic trip back in time to some classic pubs and places that are gone but not forgotten – If I had a dollar (inflation you know) for every friend that tumbled out of one of them in the 70s… Thanks so much for a great entry!

  8. […] They Exist? Passion through PoetryTwenty (and loving it) Ramblings of a Confused TeenagerSalad Days DCMontreal: Blowing the Whistle on SocietyBack when I was young: Montreal’s Anglo/Irish Pubsj hLöwlandSalad Days Thoughts of a crooked mind.Looking back. A Teenage (Poet’s) LifeCoffee […]

  9. In the summer of 1974, as a 30 year old Torontonian working for a couple of days in crazy (to a Toronto conservative) Montreal, one night I ended up in The Hunter’s Horn and got totally smashed! It was crowded and “rockin” and I was having a great time (as one tends to thing when drunk). Besides the beer, I think I also must have had some Mary Jane too because I found the following thing extremely funny: a guy next to me at the bar said “I feel more like I do now than when I first got here.” To this day, I still find this funny (strangely, no one else does!) and I wish I knew who said it (and I wish I was 30 and in Montreal again too).

    • Thanks for the memory. It is odd what sticks with us. I’m afraid I can’t help you with being thirty again, but you can always come back to Montreal!! Cheers.

  10. Our band the Campsie Folk used to play at the Hunters horn in the late 60s We actually recorded three songs on an album there. Still have the damn thing, believe it or not. In your list of pubs you missed the Villa Marie Pub on St Catherines. Not very Celtic sounding but lots of Scots and Irish music going on there. We played there 68 and 69 with bands such as Ryans Fancy and others. I sure miss these days and the people I met. There was also a pub we played in called the Bonnie Scot, don’t remember how long that lasted. When I read this article I dug out the old band contracts to look at them again. My God we played seven nights a week from 9pm to 3am. If anyone remembers any of these places or remembers us, would love to hear from you

  11. Hello John, thanks for the great comment. With a little research I found the Ville Marie Pub at 970 St. Catherine. On the second floor across from what was then Simpson’s department store. I think it may have been a few years before my time. Glad you enjoyed the article and I hope you hear from others who enjoyed those pubs. Cheers, Deegan

  12. I need your expertise. I’ve been told that there was a pub/ tavern called “Grand Charles” (maybe “Le Grand Charles) in the 60’s -70’s. Once I saw something saying it was owned by a Rene Trudeau but this may be the wrong place. It was located “in the cathedral quarter of Montreal with cobblestone streets”. This is a request for a friend who was an officer on an Irish ship who used to go there. Would you have any info on it, especially a photo? He has terminal cancer so time is of the essance. Anything at all. Thank you – Suzanne

  13. Anyone remember the Annex on Stanley? How about PJ’s -gay bar – on Peel; or the Kon-Tiki at the Sheraton Mount Royal? I used ti work at the Sheraton. Imagine my surprise one fine day in the late 70’s when one of the performers at the Kon-Tiki of a female impersonation act turned out to be an old high school buddy!

    • I may have been there a few times, although I hung at the Stanley Tavern more since it was a door down from the back of the Concordia Drummond building. I wonder if it’s a later version of the Club Tavern 1425 Mansfield?

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