Railway Bar stays on track

Belturbet’s iconic Railway Bar is under new management, with Fiona McMahon taking the reins from hugely popular local woman, Lily O’Connor.

Fiona took over the running of the much-loved pub, with its cosy atmosphere and regular clientele, at the start of June, and it’s been “onward and upwards”, she says, ever since.

Lily has run The Railway Bar for the past 29 years and, edging closer to 30, set about finding a suitable heir.

Remembering Fiona from her early days in the trade when she use to pull pints behind the polished counter, Lily didn’t have to look too far. She propositioned her fellow Milltown native, who didn’t need any persuading.

Before Lily, The Railway Bar, located on Belturbet’s historic Diamond, was run by the late Sonny Flynn who ran the establishment since the late 40s. “It’s here decades, and forever and a year for as long anyone can remember,” says Fiona of the bar. “It’s part of the furniture of Belturbet.”

She adds of her own background: “When Lily first took over the pub, she brought me in to work a few hours. I’m a neighbour of Lily’s [in Milltown], so between going to school in Belturbet and then working here in my spare time, I got to be familiar with the place, born and reared between Milltown and Belturbet. Lily had talked about retiring at some stage. When the opportunity came up, knowing the place like I do, and the business that’s there, I jumped at it.”

Mum of three to Shauna, Caitlin, Sean, Fiona left the pub trade for more than a decade and a half in order to concentrate on raising her family.

Since taking over the management, Fiona has revitalised the place by hosting regular music nights, while investing during the pandemic in transforming the rear beer garden with a state-of-the-art outdoor bar.

She accepts that it is a “brave” move post-pandemic to take over the lease on such an establishment when so many battle-hardened souls, who had been in the trade for years, used the pandemic as an opportunity to bow out. “A brave move, definitely, but it’s working out so far. I absolutely love the place, the customers know me. A lot of trust was placed in me [by Lily], so I’m more privileged than anything else.

“We’ve put a focus on bringing in more live music, and with outdoor dining during Covid, we refurbished our backyard, and installed a new bar out there, which has gone down very well.”

Much of that construction work was done by Fiona’s partner Cathal Kane. “We’ve made good use of the space there, with an outdoor bar, and it’s given the place a whole new lease of life.”

Fiona concludes by saying she is excited for what the future holds in store. “Yes, definitely. I’d just like to thank Lily, and all our customers, old and new. I’m very thankful for their support, and I’m looking forward to sharing many more good memories with our customers in the future.”