It’s easily one of County Roscommon’s most famous pubs. It’s certainly one of Ireland’s most renowned GAA pubs. And this week, indeed all this year, Murray’s in Knockcroghery is celebrating a remarkable milestone: 100 years in business!
While the celebrations running from Wednesday to Sunday this week are going to be a major highlight of ‘Centenary year’ at the famous family-run pub, there will be further events throughout 2016 as the Murray family and the people of the area commemorate this great milestone in a manner synonymous with Murray’s down through the decades…through music and song, craic, conversation and camaraderie!
John and Etna Murray, the current proprietors, believe that the establishment which is now Murray’s has probably been a pub since as far back as the 18th century. “There’s been a pub in this building for at least 300 years” says John.
The Murray connection started exactly one hundred years ago. John’s grandfather, John S. Murray, purchased the building in that historic year of 1916. Incidentally, the ‘S’ in John S. Murray stands for ‘Somers.’ John was from Rahara and his grandson reckons he was probably in his forties at the time of the purchase.
John S. Murray had purchased a public house, and would soon develop it into a General Merchants.’ John was married to Susan Walls, a native of Co. Derry, who was a schoolteacher in Scardaun.
John S. had served his time as a shop boy in another famous premises, Haughey’s shop in Athleague. After running what was now Murray’s bar for a few years, he expanded. Soon the premises was supplying everything the public needed. It became a drapery, hardware store, wool mechant’s, even an undertaker’s!
As the business expanded, so too did the family. John and Susan had ten children –Jimmy (Jamesie), Michael, Maura, Tony, Phelim, Emmet, Malachy, Paddy, Sue and Ollie.
Murray’s Bar survived the burning of Knockcroghery by the Black and Tans in 1921, although John S. Murray was beaten and tied up by the attackers.
The pub and shop continued to thrive throughout the decades and its entry into legend can of course be directly linked to Roscommon football’s golden era from the late 1930s into the mid 1940s.
Jimmy (Jamesie) Murray, son of John and Susan, captained Roscommon to a series of victories, most notably the All-Ireland Senior Football successes in 1943 and ’44. His brother, Phelim, also starred. The bar window in Murray’s became a focal point with the Sam Maguire Cup on display! The ball from the 1944 final was hung over the counter – and remains there to this day.
Jimmy Murray took over the business from his father in the 1950s, having served his time in Molloy’s of Main Street, Roscommon.
Jimmy married Ann Costello, then a schoolteacher in Mount Plunkett, and a native of Headford, Co. Galway. They had five children – John, Michael, Mary, Susan and Jimmy.
Jimmy Murray’s huge profile arising from his GAA exploits – along with the general popularity of the family –continued the success story. On a practical level, Murray’s was catering for the needs of its customers, and on a social level it was a friendly place to visit, with the pub an immensely popular venue for locals and visitors alike.
Knockcroghery was a thriving village with several shops and bars, a chemist, a butcher, a bicycle shop and two fuel outlets.
Murray’s pub was in many ways the heartbeat of the community, synonymous with football, music and good porter! The bar was frequented by some great characters down the years. Jimmy’s GAA feats, which he was always very modest about, brought the pub to national and even international attention. It became the norm for sports personalities and celebrities from all walks of life to call to the famous Jimmy Murray’s of Knockcroghery. Ordinary GAA folk from every county of Ireland flocked to the pub and Jimmy himself was always in great demand. Over the years Jimmy and his family adorned the walls with photographs of great teams and press cuttings and the premises became something of a GAA shrine.
John Murray, Jimmy’s son, effectively took over the premises in 1982, although his parents remained very much involved. John and his wife Etna now run the premises. They have three children – Claire, James and Ann Marie. Jimmy and Ann Murray are both now deceased.
In this historic year of 2016, this great pub prepares to celebrate 100 years in business. The Murray family would like to thank all their customers and neighbours and friends for their support and invite everyone to join in their centenary celebrations.