Yesterday members of Urban Sketchers Galway got together in Neachtain’s for an aul’ afternoon’s sketching. There were about eight of us in total, sitting in various nooks and crannies of the pub. Neachtain’s was one of my very favourite pubs when I was a student in Galway University. I’ll even say it was my favourite. In those days the air in the pub was a thick grey fog of cigarette smoke, and sometimes it was hard to make out your mate ordering a round. That was before the Irish made the enlightened, visionary and unprecedented decision to ban smoking in enclosed public spaces. After the ban, all pubs smelt most suspect, but maybe it was the aftermath of cigarette smoke because it’s gone now (or perhaps my nose doesn’t work as well as it used to).
Every square inch of the walls and ceiling in Neachtain’s is covered with artfully-designed posters for plays, festivals and concerts. The walls are lined with shelves of books. Never in all my years of hanging out in Neachtain’s did I read a book from the shelves nor look particularly closely at any of the posters, but they added to the warm and funky atmosphere: this pub was hipster twenty years ahead of the trend. There is usually live music in the evenings, and it used to be traditional – Galway being what it is, it probably hasn’t changed a bit. Homemade soup is served all day, and you can see soup-serving going on at the back. Neachtain’s clientele can be quite hippie, so it was surprising that I didn’t manage to get any white beards into my sketch. Maybe the people I used to hang out with there (okay, get pissed with) have white beards now and I can ask them to pose for me sometime. Neachtain’s is full of rooms, snugs and cosy corners. I sat in one with Dorothy, Josephine and Agnieszka, three of our number. I drew the view from the back room through the doorway into the (tiny) main section, and Dorothy treated me to my first ever gin and tonic in a bowl…I decided to commemorate the occasion by focusing on the pretty drink. It was fun to suggest the glass and ice by deepening the shadows around them.
Gin and tonic. With lemon, lime and ice cubes. Mmmm. Wish I had one in front of me now.