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Our Irish come out Monday

Posted: March 14, 2008 12:29 a.m.
Updated: May 18, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Guinness brewmaster Fergal Murray holds a pint of Guinness in the Gravity bar at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. The storehouse is one of Dublin's most visited tourist attractions. Guinness brewmaster Fergal Murray holds a pint of Guinness in the Gravity bar at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. The storehouse is one of Dublin's most visited tourist attractions.
Guinness brewmaster Fergal Murray holds a pint of Guinness in the Gravity bar at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin. The storehouse is one of Dublin's most visited tourist attractions.

It's easier, it seems, to find Leprechauns in Santa Clarita than it is to find their human-sized Irish counterparts.

Elusive four-leaf clover - OK, Shamrocks - are easier to find, it seems, than a noticeable Irish community here.

Pot 'o' Gold? A rainbow?

You'll probably have better luck with them than finding an Irish Santa Claritan.

All that changes Monday, however, when anyone with even the faintest trace of Irish family history comes out of the woodwork to celebrate St. Patrick's day.

And, despite the scarcity of an Irish accent in Santa Clarita Valley - where only 35 O'Briens, two O'Hares and eight O'Hara's are listed in the phone book - Irish history will be made here on St. Patty's Day.

St. Patrick's Day 2008 will be the day Santa Clarita's only Irish pub gets Guinness on tap - at least for one special day.

"I'd have Guinness on tap in a heartbeat," said Bob Burnell, co-owner of LB Mulligans, about not having it year-round. "I just don't have room for the nitrogen tank."

When Newhall Land built the building that serves as home for Mulligans in the early 1970s, it didn't provide the room required to house the tank needed to supply Guinness to customers.

"We're going to have thousands here Monday," he said. "We'll put them on the patio, inside and out."
On Monday, Mulligans will get the dark Irish beer that's older than America itself (established in Dublin in 1759) on tap for its customers that day.

Guinness - the murky black stout - is about as Irish as it gets in Santa Clarita.

"More than half the bars and restaurants carry Guinness on tap," said Guinness sales representative Rex Ives. "Guinness is an established brand. It doesn't matter what kind of bar or establishment it's in."

More than 30 businesses sell Guinness on tap in Santa Clarita, Ives said: "They (Mulligans) will have that on draught for St. Patrick's Day."

* * *

Fergal Murray, who lives in Dublin, is the Brewmaster for Guinness.

He spoke to The Signal this week by phone from New York City about the push across America to produce one of the most celebrated beers in the world.

"I have to ensure that it gets out to our customers on time, that it tastes good, looks good," he said. "There isn't anything like Guinness. It's just Guinness.

"Certainly in the US market, this would be a peak time in our schedule," he added. "We are well received around the world, especially on St. Patrick's Day."

Before he was named the patron saint of Ireland, Patrick was born in the village of Bannavem Taberniaei, in Roman Britan, in the year 390.

He's credited with having driven the snakes out of Ireland, but being a profoundly religious individual, the stories about his treatment of snakes was more a metaphor for his treatment of heathens.

But, snakes weren't the only ones to have left Ireland.

Many Irish immigrated to California during the Gold Rush, landing principally in San Francisco, according to the authors of the book "Irish Families on the California Trail."

The book traces the family histories of many early Irish immigrants who traveled west, largely, from big cities in the East such as New York and Boston, but also came directly from Ireland by boat around Cape Horn, lured as many were by the promise of finding gold.

According to the book's publishers, O'Lochlainn's Journal of Irish Families, many worked on the railroads. And, if there were entrepreneurs among them, they usually stayed in California to publish newspapers.
A quick scan of the Santa Clarita phone book, however, seems to suggest that not many of those early Irish immigrants made it south to Santa Clarita.

Mulligans bartender Lori Kinney is in the phone book. She proudly tells you her mother's full Irish.

Patsy Flanagan is also in the phone book, but she's from Virginia, not Ireland.

"I have people ask me if I'm Irish all the time," said Flanagan, the woman with the Virginian accent who teaches special science classes to students at Meadows Elementary School. "It doesn't get much more Irish in a name."

When pressed, however, Flanagan - like many as St. Patrick's Day nears - finds a link to the Emerald Isle.
"I have a wee bit of Irish in me. My family's basically from English and Scottish roots ... but there's some Irish in there."

* * *

There is one place in Santa Clarita where the Irish are expected to gather in droves ... at least on St. Patty's Day.

Bridget Hickok is the manager of The Londoner pub on Soledad Road near Sierra Highway in Canyon Country.

She plans to get to her tavern very early Monday and begin doubling all her kitchen orders for Irish fare that day.

"I get a lot of people in here St. Patrick's Day. I have to double my recipes from what I had last year and last year I had to triple what I made the year before that," she said.

The Londoner's Irish menu is expected include a lot more cabbage and a lot more corned beef, Hickok said.

Oh, and yeah, plenty of Guinness.

"I had an Irish girl show me how to pour Guinness," Hickok said quietly as if trying to protect a family recipe. "Yes, there is a right way and a wrong way to pour it and she showed me how."

Asked if the Irish barmaid was available for an interview, Hickok shook her head sadly.

"She moved back to Ireland last year," she said. "But, she emails me every day on MySpace about how she misses it here.

"We all miss her."

And, even though her pub (which she's run for the past three years) is an English fish-and-chips-serving pub and not particularly Irish, it's close enough to being Irish to attract anyone who says they're close enough to being Irish themselves.

You may not find a pot of fabled gold at the end of The Londoner rainbow on St. Patty's Day, but you can go home with a pint-sized glass bearing the Guinness logo.

Hickok said she'll give St. Patty revelers a clean unused Guinness glass to take home and keep the used glass with its foam-streaked drippings of beer.

Hickok identifies herself as half-Irish, half-Italian. "People are afraid of me here," she added.


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