Are you a Charles Dickens fan? He created some of the world's best known fictional characters. Even his minor characters usually had some weird quirk that defined them. The portraits of many of these characters remain in our minds long after the book ends. And we are reminded that these characters are like people we know in real life.
Walking into Nash's Irish Castle in the mid 1970s was as close to a Dickensian experience as one can imagine. An iconic barman Christopher (Kit) Nash and his wife Josie, both Dublin born and both wonderfully generous and gregarious, held court to a coterie of colorful and wacky regulars and visitors who visited the bar. Brogues were common. Political discourse, social commentary and a passionate advocacy for a free Ireland were constant. Machinists, lawyers, health care and media professionals, factory workers, real estate sales people, neighbord folks, law enforcement people, university students and instructors, moralists, know-it alls, realists, idealists, storytellers, winners and losers - they all weighed in on social truths and issues of the day. And there were songs - lots of them.
Nash's was my home away from home for a good part of a decade. While in law school, I worked for Congressman Clement Zablocki whose district office was across the street from Nash's. The first words uttered to me by Kit in 1974 when I first entered the bar were, "Ah, you're a bloody tinker," which was Kit's way of reminding me that the Ward's were the Kings of the Tinkers in Ireland (The Tinkers are more politely referred to today as the Traveling People). So began a long association with Kit and Josie.
Nash's also became the home of Blarney. John Testin and Kevin Stapleton had joined Bernie McCartan and me and John Maher had left the band. We played there on a regular basis and built a room in the basement for our equipment and practice sessions. We practiced every Monday evening but on some Monday's we just sat at the bar telling jokes and stories and watching the front door to see which characters would enter to enliven our evening.
Everyone I know who frequented Nash's has a story to tell. I met my wife Cathy there. I can only remember one occasion when Kit and Josie were mad at me (and Chuck). They had gone to Ireland, so Chuck and I decided to paper the outside of the bar and rename it. That did not go over well. But, as I said, even the minor characters have weird personality quirks. I kind of miss those days and that colorful and unpredictable supporting cast.
Ed Ward - Featured Blogger
Ed Ward is the founder of Milwaukee Irish Fest.
He also founded the Irish Fest Foundation and the Ward Irish Music Archives.
Ed is a permanent member of the Irish Fest Board and serves as the Chair of the Entertainment Committee.
View more blogs from Founder's Corner, here.