Accommodation, groceries, taxi service, petrol station, car hire and shipping agent, Reilly’s pub did nearly everything.
John Reilly built his pub in 1820 in the village of Newtownbutler, County Fermanagh. He was a stonemason from Ballyconnell, County Cavan and also built the hotel next to the pub as well as Newtownbutler’s courthouse and market house.
Newtownbutler is about seventeen miles from Enniskillen and was close enough to the Great Northern Railway when it opened, to benefit from increased trade from travellers going between Dublin and Donegal. Horse drawn creamery carts collected milk from local farmers and took the milk to Newtownbutler’s Willow Park Creamery.
In 1856, Philip Reilly is a grocer, wine and spirit dealer as well as hotel proprietor and a county directory of 1880 lists Mr Reilly as a shipping agent for emigrants for the Guion Line.
In the early 1900s, Reilly’s pub grocer shop is a thriving business. A billhead of 1915 describes John Reilly as a Tea, Wine and Spirit Merchant. Business ledgers list tea, sugar, flour, currants, soap, bacon, malt, rum, tobacco, washing soda, cakes and bread.
As well as this the pub provides a taxi service by horse drawn carriage then motorcars and a petrol supply service. A ledger from the shop gives a fascinating insight into life in Ireland. Lord Erne uses the car and spring cart to bring ice to his home at Crom Castle and between 1914 and 1915, the local Parish Priest, Father O’ Doherty, uses the Mercedes car for parochial visits. Fares varied from three to five shillings which represented a day’s work for a labourer of the time.
The interior of many Ulster pubs looked like Reilly’s. Wood and glass partitions create private snugs. A shared ceiling means no one is completely cut off from their surroundings. Mirror backdrops reflect the glasses, bottles and polished copper measures. The furniture is basic and comfortable.