Life’s a beach with Matt the Miller and Freney the Robber

    By Jimmy Rhatigan

    GUESTS wore colourful beach garb, sipped sodas, cocktails and loose ale and the gin at Matt the Millers was a real summer tonic.

    A Beach Party with music by After Dark and DJ Eddie Hughes was a light fantastic as young and wannabe young entered into the spirit of a pub where the craic is mighty and you just might meet your match.

    The night was both traditional and novel. After Dark have been playing at the venue for over 20 years and it was atypical too, the first of many themed nights on the entertainment agenda.

    Perhaps what those who let their hair down didn’t realise was that pals from another time were probably there in spirit, enjoying the action and gagging for a jug of frothy ale or black porter.

    Mingling, ambling, bursting to get back their human touch were the bold Matt the Miller and a fellow patron of yesteryear, the infamous Freney the Robber whose gang ruled the Thomastown, Inistioge area.

    Matt was an entrepreneur. Freney robbed the rich to help the poor, our answer to Robin Hood perhaps but he was known to purchase a few porters from his ill-gotten gains. He loved Matt the Miller’s.

    And, wait for it, he was credited with the first battered fish to be served in our city.

    He would cast his line or whatever was used for fishing in days of old, into the neighbouring Nore, land a salmon, dry it in the cellar of his local tavern and, hey presto, porter splashed dry fish became a local delicacy.

    Tales about Freney are legendary. He was brilliant at outwitting the British Red Coats who ruled the roost in our bailiwick at the time.

    While Freney was emptying pockets and purses, a young local lad showed real business acumen and was eventually nicknamed Matt the Miller, for good reason.

    He was an enterprising boy, almost as clever as Brendan Treacy and Ray Brophy.

    The story goes that at a time in the ago, local peasants would turn their crops into their landlord in lieu of rent.

    These crops were delivered to a young miller called Matt who ran a mill at John’s Bridge.
    Matt kept the best barley to develop his own home brew. As the years rolled on, Matt’s brew grew stronger and more popular and he opened a hostelry in the mill, now Matt the Miller’s.

    Condemned men were led to the gallows below Greensbridge and their last stop was Matt’s Tavern.

    In the tavern, the true or not so true story goes that many of our motley collection of thieves and rogues had their last request granted.

    The Last Supper of sorts would consist of fresh fish from the River Nore, a loaf of home-made soda bread and a jug of Matt’s ale.

    The poor unfortunates were sent to their maker with full bellies, just as the beach party guests may have felt after a splendid night of eat, drink and be merry.

    Ray or Brendan will confirm that Matt’s ghost appears twice a year in the building where he was once the head honcho.

    No doubt the bold Freney also puts in regular appearances.

    Next time you get wind of a themed night at Matt’s, make sure to go along.

    Old friends are best.

    And meeting ghosts can only lift your spirits.