By Yadira Betances
---- — LAWRENCE — In the Merrimack Valley, the Claddagh Pub and Restaurant symbolizes the history of the Irish men and women who helped build the city. After the pub was put up for sale, there was fear that some of that history would be lost.
But, Brian Farrell, who opened the pub in 1992 along with Coley Ryan and Paul Morton, made a leap of faith and bought out his business partners.
”I’m very excited about it. The Claddagh has so much to offer and it’s here to stay,” Farrell said.
With St. Patrick’s Day being celebrated today, the kitchen will be busy serving corned beef and cabbage while glasses of Guiness will be rolling off the bar. The Claddagh at the corner of Amesbury and Canal streets was the place to be standing on Saturday as the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade marched past for the first time in three years.
No one is happier to have the Claddagh stay open than members of the Division 8, Ancient Order of Hibernians, where the Irish organization holds its meetings.
“It’s important to keep that tradition alive. The Irish have contributed so much to the city, building the dam and staying here to become teachers, lawyers, bankers and leaders in the city and in Washington,” said president Bill Sullivan.
The Hibernians host lectures, Irish language classes and other events on the second floor of the building.
Anne Marie Nyhan Doherty, president of the Ladies Hibernians is also happy Farrell is keeping the Claddagh open.
”He did a favor to the Irish, the Hibernians and the city of Lawrence,” Doherty said. “He has kept part of our heritage and history alive in the city.”
The Rev. Bill Waters, chaplain to the Hibernians, which was established 143 years ago, said he gives Farrell a lot of credit.
”The demographics in the city are changing, which is not a negative, but it is important not to forget the Irish contributions and history in the city of Lawrence and it’s important to have a visibility present which he is doing by keeping the Claddagh open,” said Waters, a campus minister at Merrimack College.
Farrell, 46, was born and raised in County Dublin, Ireland. He came to the United States at age 20.
”I wanted to come to the land of opportunity, which is why so many other people have come to Lawrence,” he said. He has three children - daughter Aine Mhaire and sons Liam and Aidan.
Even though he has been working in pubs and restaurants since he was 16, Farrell also had a career outside the industry. He was a sales support specialist at Genzyme Biosurgery for six years; a project manager at IBM for 16 years, and worked at Lotus Development for two years.
Farrell started working at the Claddagh 12 years ago and bought into the business eight years later.
”The Claddagh is still part of me and part of the fabric of the city,” he said. “I still believe there’s a demand for what we offer. I see the economy turning around which is good for everyone in the city.”
In keeping with traditional Irish pubs, he will soon be opening for lunch. He will continue hosting live music, including Irish bands on Friday and Saturday nights.
”For people who have visited Ireland and experienced the warm, friendly atmosphere, I want them to feel the same way here,” he said. He also recently installed 17 television sets to attract sports fans.
The Claddagh, he said, will also continue its association with area nonprofit and institutions and other organizations by hosting and sponsoring fundraising events. Last year, for instance, a comedy night raised $17,000 for Melmark New England, a school for students with autism.