I went to a wake last night. it wasn’t my intention, nor was it a typical wake. A traditional Irish wake takes place before a funeral – in the wake of the death – and is an opportunity for mourners to reflect on the life of the departed. Once they were held in the home of the deceased with the body present. But with modern funeral homes, the ‘wake’ is more often called a reception and is held at the parlour after the ceremony. Take a room full of tired, emotional people, throw in some music and a significant amount of alcohol and frankly anything is possible.
Needless to say, the deceased cannot attend the wake. Like funerals, wakes are for the living. What made last night’s wake unique was that while the departed rested across the road, its heart was present at the wake. You see the commiserating, the wake, was not for a person, but for a pub. The true soul of the pub, the staff, had gathered to share thoughts and comfort one another in the wake of a terrible occurrence.
With the five-alarm fire early on Saturday morning at the Irish Embassy Pub, Montréal’s rich history of Irish and English pubs is currently down one member. The building now a shambles of charred lumber and flooded rooms. The acrid odor of century-old burnt wood permeates the downtown air for blocks.
Yet another reason this was not your typical wake is that there was hope of a return. The fire was contained to the upper floor. The actual pub only suffered smoke and water damage, albeit severe, giving one the thought that maybe, just maybe, like Phoenix the Embassy will soon rise from the ashes.
The building that was ravaged by flames was merely the bricks and mortar housing of the pub. The heart and soul of it are the staff members, many of whom gathered, along with several regular patrons, at another popular Irish pub. (I would be remiss if I did not mention that in a demonstration of class and I believe genuine empathy, Hurley’s Irish Pub made the displaced Embassy staff more than welcome for the evening.)
Emotions ran high among the bartenders, wait staff, bussers and managers who gravitated to Hurley’s. The fire a bitter pill to swallow. Tears were shed and hugs abounded, but all were quick to heave a sigh of relief that thankfully no one had been injured or worse. Bricks and mortar can be fixed.
I’ve spent many a pleasant hour at the Irish Embassy. I’ve come to know many members of staff, management, and ownership. I consider several to be my friends. It pains me to see them so touched by the fire. Perhaps it’s the upcoming Easter holiday but I also believe that these people are sincere in their vow to resurrect the pub. They are off to a good start by keeping the heart beating.