In the end, it came down to who wanted it more. By all accounts, that distinction went to Bronx native Frank Gallagher.
In his attempt at last month’s second annual “Win Your Own Pub in Ireland” contest, sponsored by Guinness, Gallagher, 65, turned up wearing a custom-made T-shirt bearing the name of the Bantry, County Cork pub which was up for grabs. While other contestants responded to the 50-word essay part of the contest with just that, a 50-word essay, Frank wrote a poem which brought the house down laughing. On the first throw of the darts competition, after weeks of practice, Frank threw a bull’s-eye. And during the pint-pulling contest, while other contestants waited quietly for the head of the pint to rise, Frank set it down, walked away and broke out in song, an Irish verse, “Some Fellows When They Go A-Courtin.”
“That was my wife’s idea,” Frank admitted later. “June had said to me, ‘It’s so boring up there, sing a song or something; tell a joke.'”
The advice proved to be vital, especially considering that the judges decided his pint-pulling skills were only sixth-best out of the ten finalists.
Frank will have plenty of time to practice. A retired salesman for Bacardi rum, he plans to relocate with June from Fort Lauderdale, to try his hand at running the 150-year-old Kilgoban Pub, a cozy establishment in the heart of Bantry. And he knows that good advice can be found just a few miles away in the Cork town of Cobh, where South Boston native Jay Mulligan, 28, last year’s winner of the popular Guinness promotion, owns the Connie Doolan.
That pub has flourished, although Mulligan, who lost his truck driver’s job of seven years shortly before he won last year’s contest, has added his own touches. Among them, videotapes of the Boston Bruins, and on the walls, pictures of everyone from hockey and basketball teams to one of Massachusetts Senate President Billy Bulger.
Gallagher, a beefy, hearty man, is sure to bring his own flair to the Kilgoban, although it’s likely he’ll veto the idea of installing palm trees, submitted by his wife June, a Florida native.
June met Frank while working together in a New York office, in the late 1950s. In less than a year, they had married and moved to Florida. While Frank is eager to get working behind the stick, he is also looking forward to exploring Ireland further. He first visited last year, when he and June went to the County Donegal home in which his father was born. One of nine children, Frank’s father would become one of the eight who would emigrate. “I only wish he could see me now,” said Frank.
As for the other nine finalists (whose essays were picked from thousands entered from all across the United States) all seemed to agree that Frank deserved the prize. During their week in Ireland for the finalist round, Gallagher apparently beat the rest in one other area which did not show up on the official score cards — product sampling. That might serve as useful advice for anyone practicing for next year.
Why Me? by Frank Gallagher It would be bliss Selling Guinness In my beautiful Kilgoban pub! I've been told I'm cut from the mold To pull pints and sell pub grub... I've pipes and fiddle; Have sung a little From Bantry to Malaga... Before this verse Gets any worse Give the pub to Gallagher!