Tales of The Harbour Bar: The one about the fire…
If you’ve visited upstairs in The Harbour Bar, you’ve probably noticed many of the little knick-knacks and curios that hint at the pub’s rich history throughout the years. However, only the eagle-eyed will have noticed some scorch marks on the rafters, just above the green pantry by the door to the ladies’ toilets. We asked Paul O’Toole Sr. to tell us the tale...
It was lunchtime on August Bank Holiday Sunday back in 1955 - one of the busiest days of the year for The Harbour Bar - when a fire was started upstairs, in what was then the living quarters.
Paul O’Toole's younger brother, Gabriel, was crouched on the floor with a box of matches. He was striking them to try and shed light under the bed, when suddenly the bedclothes caught alight. The flames spread quickly, engulfing the bedroom as the young Master O’Toole ran for help.
In 1955, Bray had no full-time firemen and was staffed by volunteers who would run to the station from their homes (or the pubs they were in) when they heard the siren ringing in the Town Hall on the Main Street. The brigade arrived on the scene, climbed onto the roof, knocked a hole and fed the hose through.
Luckily for the family, the customers - and, indeed, for us - disaster was averted! The fire was controlled and no one was hurt, locals helped to move any perishables from the bar downstairs, and neighbours took in the O’Toole children for a few weeks while the damage was repaired. The bar was even open again the following day in time for the Bank Holiday Monday revellers. The roof was repaired, and the place was back to normal after a few weeks.
And what became of young Gabriel O’Toole, you ask? His brother Paul tells us that their father was so angry, he said the boy would not be able to attend Presentation College, as hoped, and was shipped off to the French Foreign Legion instead. The next time they heard from him, he was battling the Taliban on the Khyber Pass..!
Gabriel has since retired from the military. He lives in Co. Donegal and is a successful painter.
Posted by The Harbour Bar on September 29 2014