Booze-free bars have existed in Ireland for generations

Vaughan Yates, owner of The Virgin Mary bar, reported to have been the first alcohol-free bar to open in Dublin (Thursday May 9, 2019)
Vaughan Yates, owner of The Virgin Mary bar, reported to have been the first alcohol-free bar to open in Dublin (Thursday May 9, 2019)

Your recent story “Ireland’s first alcohol-free pub” was interesting but inaccurate. Temperance organisations have opened lots of ‘pubs-with-no-beer’ here in the past.

(Alcohol-free bar opens for business in Dublin, May 9)

Letter to the editor

Letter to the editor

The one I’m especially interested in was the ‘Catch-my-Pal’ Protestant Total Abstinence Union, founded on July 13, 1909 by the minister of the Mall (3rd Armagh) Robert Patterson.

It spread like wildfire, after a year it was claimed that they had 155,000 members and they opened a variety of premises meant to be alcohol-free substitutes for pubs.

There was one behind the courthouse in Armagh, another still stands in Portadown.

There is one, now a private dwelling, in Blaney, Fermanagh. Others were built in Ireland and as far away as Tasmania. Patterson toured the world as principal organising secretary of Catch-my-Pal before ending his days as minister of Cliftonville. He was also an Orangeman and many total abstinence lodges were founded under his influence.

Although Catch-my-Pal clubs’ glory days didn’t last long; the last Club for Pals (in Coleraine) didn’t close until the 1970s and there is still a snooker hall which bears the name, though not the spirit of the organisation, in Dunmurry. The term ‘Catch-my-Pal system’, coined by Patterson, entered the language to describe the recruitment of friends by friends, and it was used to raise the famous ‘pals’ battalions of Kitchener’s Army in the Great War just five years later. Anyone interested can learn more on my Facebook page (Catch-my-Pal Historical Union). I’d be especially interested to hear from those who may know about the organisation in their area or have paraphernalia associated with it. Alcohol-free pubs have been in Ireland for a long time!

Mark Wilson, Poyntzpass