103 years ago in 1915 a great man from Galway passed away but his legacy and spirit lives on strong in the Craic House today. Those of you who have already enjoyed our amazing tropical beach bar may have already spotted his portrait on the wall, keenly watching the comings and goings of our famous Irish outpost.
Known as ‘Big’ John Joyce (Seán ‘Mór’ Seoighe in Irish) he has a special place on our wall due to his own garrulous love for life and particularly for having a bit of craic while imbibing a stout or whiskey in hostelries in his native Ireland and beyond.
John was a bit of a legend in his day and his story is worth telling. Born in 1839 John was the fourth child born to his parents but none of his siblings had survived. The midwife was sure he would not either so in the middle of a dark Connemara night a messenger on horseback was sent to the blacksmith to request the Nine Irons. These small iron amulets were an antidote to evil known in Irish folklore and were pressed against the skin of the new-born baby. John not only survived but grew up to be a strapping lad known far and wide for his sound and solid constitution.
John had many adventures across America in the 19th century yet always had the Nine Irons next to his skin, having promised his mother never to remove the charm. He survived injury on a Mississippi Steamboat while firing the furnace and was given up for dead when prospecting for gold in the Rocky Mountains only to survive stronger than ever.
Once back in Ireland John was known for his gregarious love for life and good company and remained well known for his strength and agility. HIs party trick, when enjoying a few pints, was to take a ‘fifty-six’ (an iron weight of 56 pounds) in each hand (so 51kg in total) and jump from a standing position into an empty porter barrel and back out again.
If that wasn’t enough to cement his legend and legacy he is remembered for leaping with a 56er in each hand on to the counter of the Royal Hotel in the centre of Galway. However when he jumped off again he crashed straight through the floor in to the reception desk a floor below.
As you can tell, John was an adventurer and a very social man. You can be sure he would approve of having his portrait adorning the wall of The Craic house today in a remote corner of the world called Malapascua. Be sure to raise a toast to John and the Nine Irons next time you are here. If it hadn’t been for the Blacksmiths quick work that dark night in 1839 there may not be a Craic House at all!
Sláinte Seán, sláinte.