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A leprechaun at my table

The Pope, a leprechaun and an alleged IRA leader walk into a bar...

The late Graeme Mudge’s characteristically light touch and sense of humour near smiles out of the mural he gifted Peel Street pub, The Irish Rover, in the early 1990s.

Mudge, an Irish Rover regular, painted the work, which was eventually mounted in the courtyard, as if it were a window looking into the bar inhabited at that moment by local identities as well as other real-life characters who are unlikely to have visited Gisborne. Among the locals is a green-shirted Kieran Grealish who carries a couple of pints from the bar to his father, the late Peter Grealish’s table in the foreground. Also at the table is Pope John Paul II, evidently amused at the antics of a sprightly leprechaun standing on the table-top, straw in mouth to blow bubbles in the pontiff’s pint.

In the background, under the exit sign, architect Graeme Nicoll chats with Peter Grealish’s son-in-law, Paul McGuinness. The dark-haired woman pulling a pint at the left of the work is Nerida (nee) Wilkinson, while in the kitchen behind the hatch at the end of the bar is chef Kim Baker. The two men at the bar are Welsh twins Don and Roy Davies. Known as the Taffies, the brothers worked in shearing gangs and on ships, says Kieran Grealish.

Graeme is amused

“They were really good characters. They’d come in early, have a few drinks and leave.”

At the right of the picture, Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Fein, a large Irish republican political party that was historically associated with the IRA, inspects paintings on the pub wall.

“Graeme thought that was hilarious,” says Kieran Grealish.

“He said no one would ever know.”

The Pope clearly doesn’t, distracted as he is by the antics of the leprechaun who is the artist himself. In fact, the tableau attracts the attention of several people in the pub.

We could be drawing a long bow here, but the only connection between the Pope and a leprechaun Google can find is that of 18th century little fullah the Irish Empire says was the first Irish person to be beatified since Oliver Plunkett in 1975. This is the sort of obscurity that would have amused Graeme Mudge.

Fionn Mac Coilte

The sainting of Fionn Mac Coilte was apparently stalled for a couple of centuries or so due to protracted legal proceedings. Because Mac Coilte died a natural death, the Vatican required proof of two miracles. The Vatican disqualified the first miracle but approved the second. When Colman Mulcahy suffered incurable Parkinson’s disease in 1964, his family prayed to Fionn Mac Coilte and the Limerick man was cured. The third miracle happened in 1792. On the eve of St Patrick’s Day Mac Coilte fell for a leprechaun trap containing the Boyle townsfolk’s gold rings.

“He was told he would be released if he cured Lord Cantwell’s mother of gout,” says the Irish Empire.

“However, Lord Cantwell went back on his promise and a crowd gathered, demanding that Mac Coilte be set free.”

Mac Coilte escaped and watched the Cantwell house burn down with its inhabitants inside. It’s not clear why, where or how the miracle occurred but on August 23 this year a beatification ceremony of Fionn Mac Coilte was held in the Vatican square.

Since the sale of the pub, Lana Davy has bought the mural and gifted it back to the Grealish family. Crowdfunding helped reimburse what she paid.

SLAINTE!: At the centre of this mural by the late Graeme Mudge is a tableau that involves a sprightly leprechaun, who is the artist himself, and a pope. Gifted by Mudge to the Irish Rover in about 1995, the mural is now home with the Grealish family. Picture by Stephen Jones