WALKING into O’Hagan’s Bar in Eskra, you can’t help but think that if the walls could talk, they would tell many great tales of community spirit and family values.
For many years, this rural public house has played an important role in the area as a meeting place for people from far and wide who seek entertainment, a friendly ear, or quite simply, a lovely pint of Guinness.
The bar has always maintained its warm, welcoming vibe, not succumbing to the trends of the modern cocktail bars that you see popping up nowadays.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the bar being secured by the O’Hagan family, in a trans-Atlantic deal no less!
Current owner, Shane O’Hagan elaborates on the history of the bar…
“Having been built over 100 years ago, the earliest owners we are aware of are the McCarroll family – Arthur McCarroll and his son, Packy,” said Shane.
“The bar was then taken over by a man called Phelim Donnelly and his wife, whose daughter Deirdre is now a practicing solicitor in Omagh.”
When it came to the bar falling into the hands of the O’Hagan family, Shane explains how the original deal was done from the other side of the Atlantic.
“My dad Patsy was originally from Eskra but emigrated to Canada when he was about 18.
“When the bar went up for sale, the deal was done from Canada and he moved home in August 1973 and officially opened the bar on October 1, 1973.”
Patsy O’Hagan was also a coal merchant and opened a grocery shop beside the bar as well as his own chip van.
Having created such an essential hub for the community, it wasn’t long until the bar expanded.
Shane continued, “Having seen the emergence of other lounges when the old dance halls and carnivals were becoming a thing of the past, my dad expanded the bar, building a lounge that could hold about 500 people.”
With the expansion complete, the family-run bar obtained an opportunity to host some of the biggest names in Irish and country music including Daniel O’Donnell, Foster and Allen, Paddy Reilly and Philomena Begley, as well as such contemporary acts as Nathan Carter, Derek Ryan and Lisa McHugh.
“One of the most memorable nights for me personally,” states Shane, “was the second time Bagatelle performed in the lounge – the place was packed!
“In recent years, we’ve also welcomed the likes of The Whistlin’ Donkeys and All Folk’d Up on a regular basis, two fantastic bands who always draw in a great crowd.”
Keen boxing fans, the O’Hagan family have also turned one of their outbuildings into a boxing club.
Shane said, “We always loved boxing, so when Bishop Kelly’s ABC needed a new place to train, dad decided to make use of the space we had.
“The club trained here up until the Covid lockdown, but it’s only recently we have managed to get a committee together and get it going again, so now, Bishop Kelly’s home is here in Eskra.”
Explaining how a pub like O’Hagan’s has survived the test of time, Shane concluded, “We are still very grateful to be a very busy pub in a rural area.
“I think that, nowadays, some people don’t see a pub as a necessity because they can just buy their drink in a supermarket, but we still have customers who see the local pub as an outlet, a place to come and hear a bit of news, meet friends and have a chat.
“Some think a pub is just a place to go and get hammered, but it’s much more than that…
“We see it as a place to meet after football, a place for charity groups to meet, a place for people to come to on a Sunday evening to do the lotto and have a few beers.
“There are rural areas in Tyrone that don’t have a pub to offer such things to the community these days, which I find rather sad, but it’s a pleasure to still be in a position to carry on such an important tradition,” concluded Shane.
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