John (Jack) Nealon
and keen boxer
John (Jack) Nealon, one of Ireland’s oldest and most respected pub owners, has died after a sudden illness at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin. He was 83.
Born in Killala, Co. Mayo, in 1925, he left home at the age of 14 to serve a two-year apprenticeship in Co. Westmeath before moving to Dublin where he became charge hand in The Big Tree pub in Dorset Street.
In 1954 he embarked on his first business venture in a partnership in Nealon-Slattery’s pub in Capel Street, often reminiscing in later life of having pulled pints there for Brendan Behan and “the gorgeous Gael” – Irish heavyweight champion boxer Jack Doyle. In 1960 John bought his own pub, Nealons of Smithfield.
John ran the bar in the Laurel Park Ballroom which was owned by his brother, Leo, in Bray, attracting up to 2,500 boogeying to such attractions as the Royal Showband and Dickie Rock in the 1960s.
Helping him behind the bar were his wife, Carmel, his late brother, Noel, and brother-in-law Eamon Brady who owned the Horse and Tram on Eden Quay and now owns Brady’s in Terenure and Brady’s (Castleknock Inn.)
A keen sportsman, John played for Parnell’s GAA club in Donnycarney, Dublin, and was a member of Arbour Hill Boxing Club in the late 1940s and early 1950s, competing against some of the best of the day and fighting and winning for Ireland against Wales.
He also loved cycling and would cycle from Westmeath to Dublin on all-Ireland days. While running his pub in Smithfield, John joined Fine Gael and was elected to Dublin Corporation, playing a very active role in the late 1960s in helping to improve policy on inner city housing and finding new homes for people.
In 1972 he moved his business and family to Skerries, County Dublin where he bought the Coast Inn. He later bought Nealon’s Pub in Church Street, Skerries, currently run by his daughter, Rita. His son John jnr owns Blue Cafe Bar at The Harbour, Skerries.
John was honoured by the Licensed Vintner’s Association for having been one of Dublin’s longest pub license holders. He and his wife, Carmel, had 11 children and the couple would have celebrated 60 years of marriage later this year.
John is survived by his wife, Carmel, and his children Irene (Nealon-Meinzolt, Germany), Pauline (Shortall), Rita, Rosemary (McNulty, Chicago), Dympna (Nealon-O’Toole), John, Angela, Brian, Jacqueline (Drumm), Mary (Dowling) and Katherine, also brother Leo and sister Peggy (Brady), and 11 grandchildren.
John Nealon born September 25th, 1925, died December 31st 2008