In 1851, a John Connor was leasing the premises here from John Murphy (who I presume was the bootmaker we've just met next door?) Connor was succeeded in fairly quick succession by John Devine, Judith Brophy (a publican in the 1860's), Edward Lomasney (described as a shopkeeper in 1870), Steven Brandon (1871), William Delaney and the Ramsbottom family.
According to Eddie Boylan, it was in the 1890's that Edward 'Ned' Ramsbottom bought the license of a pub owned by Miss Teehan (across the street, on the corner of Lester's/Lyster's Lane) and transferred it to his wife Margaret's house here. She was a native of Tipperary. In 1901, they were living here with their six young children; Patrick, James, Henry, Margaret and Norah. They had one servant, eighteen-year-old Elizabeth Stapleton. Ten years later, James was listed as shop assistant, and five-year-old Kate was the latest addition to the family. Also in the house on Census Night were a niece, Bridget Ramsbottom and a new general domestic servant, Sarah Drennan. In the 1930's the business was run by Patrick and Norah Kavanagh (née Ramsbottom above).
It's been suggested that The Wren's Nest was an 'early house' for workers in Odlum's Mill who were 'up with the birds', but I think that's unlikely, as other pubs around the country have the same name (which is obviously intended to conjure up snug and cosy images). Whatever the origin on the name here, what is certain is that it has no connection with the notorious 19th-century Wrens' Nests on the Curragh. These rough shelters, made from sods and furze, housed young women - many of them orphans after the Famine - who entertained the soldiers in the nearby military camp. In 1861, the twenty-year old Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, was serving here in the Grenadier Guards when he was visited by one of the Wrens, an 'actress' named Nellie Clifden.
As far as we know, Nellie never lighted on 'our' Wren's Nest, but the Prince certainly did visit the town. The same summer as he was disporting himself with her, he got some extra exercise by marching with his regiment from the Curragh to the Heath for manouvres (this time of the military variety). The troops also paraded through Maryborough where "every window and available position was occupied by ladies and gentlemen from the surrounding country, while thousands of the peasantry thronged the streets and leading thoroughfares, breathless with anxiety to get a glimpse of the Prince1. Forty years later, on the death of his mother Queen Victoria, the philandering Albert Edward, known as 'Bertie', became King Edward VII.
Completely renovated in 2008, and run by P.J. Kavanagh, Edward Ramsbottom's grandson, Kavanagh's Bar & Venue is now considered one of the finest entertainment venues in the Midlands. Its Comedy Club presents a huge variety of Irish and International Acts and is responsible for the annual Halloween Howls Festival. From 2006 to 2009, the venue also hosted éistmusic, an acoustic music club run by Vincent O'Brien and John Dunne. It seems appropriate that one of the many acts to appear there was fiddle-player Frankie Gavin, composer of 'The Wren's Nest', a great jig you'll find on De Danann's Anthem album.
1 As reported in The Irish Times, Monday, July 22, 1861,