Photos by Conal Thomas

When Tom McMahon was young, he’d drink in Larry Mulligan’s pub in Stoneybatter. Even back then, he says, cheese paired with drink was a constant.

“What you ordered was cheese and pickles, and what came down to you was a block of cheese, a jar of pickled onions, and a tin of cream crackers,” he says, running his hands through thinning white hair. “It was great.”

These days, McMahon, and like-minded cheese lovers meet down the road in Walsh’s pub each Tuesday. What started with a handful of regulars has now become a larger affair.

And these Cheesy Tuesdays are more than just a board of pungent snacks: they’re a community gathering, McMahon says.

An Accidental Affair

Anthony Malone, the manager of Walsh’s, pulls pints at breakneck speed.

Christmas is coming, after all, and this local is filling up. “Pint of porter,” he says each time a punter orders a pint.

One punter in particular is about to arrive, and she’ll bring the cheese, he says.

It all started about a decade ago, Malone is saying, when a few regulars asked if they could eat some of their favourite cheeses inside, with a cold pint.

Then, as if summoned, in from the cold comes Catherine Keogh, a founding member of Cheesy Tuesdays, and provider of the snacks. With her is a bag crammed with different cheeses. She gets to slicing.

“It happened accidentally,” she says. “I was working for a music company and I used to look after the riders [the performers’ snacks]. It was lovely stuff, and once the gig was over I’d clean down the dressing room and bring the leftovers in here.”

After a few years passed, Malone took notice and decided to support the venture, paying for the cheese and passing it around to more and more regulars each week. But the core group still keep a packed board for themselves every Tuesday.

Alongside red grapes and salt-and-pepper crackers sits Stilton with cranberries, Applewood smoked cheddar, Wensleydale with toffee and the pièce de résistance, Pié d’Angloys, a soft, creamy cheese best eaten at room temperature.

It’s just something different, says Keogh. In the early days, the group would get competitive about who could bring the nicest or rarest cheese.

“There’s never any left. People are scraping it off the board,” she says. “We’ve had some really interesting ones. There’s a Welsh cheese called Little Black Bomber, and it’s absolutely delicious – a mature cheddar.”

Tonight, a large cheese board gets carted off and passed around as Keogh, McMahon and others get to work on their own, smaller board.

The group aren’t connoisseurs by any stretch, says McMahon, with a pint in one hand and brie in the other. It’s a simple weekly gathering, but it does means a lot to those involved and to those it benefits.

Scraping the Board Clean

For the last six years, Walsh’s manager Malone and the Cheesy Tuesday crew have thrown a Christmas charity night filled with, Keogh says, cheesy tunes, raffle prizes, and, of course, plenty of cheese. Last week, they raised €2,000 on the night for St Francis Hospice.

Such has been the success of Cheesy Tuesdays that the whole pub gets a slice these days. “I don’t know whether it brings in people or not,” says Keogh. “But there’s a running joke with some of the locals that they’re going to have an Easy Singles night. They threaten to bring in Calvita.”

Tom McMahon could only drink wine, for health reasons, three years ago. That’s how he really became involved. Now, he says, he has his “cheesy friends” – Stoneybatter locals like Keogh who nip down each week.

Sometimes people in the pub don’t understand what’s going on, though. “When you have someone here, and you offer them some cheese, often they’re like, ‘No No! I didn’t order that!” says McMahon. “But no, I say, it’s free!”

The smoked cheeses, he says, are a personal favourite For Keogh, it’s the Cornish Cruncher cheddar from Marks and Spencer.

Tonight, it’s “the spine” of the Cheesy Tuesday crew, around half a dozen of them sat in the pub’s alcove, away from the hubbub.

Malone still pulls pints frenetically, Keogh slices off another bit of Pié d’Angloys, and McMahon chats with a new arrival.

“It’s a real novelty and it’s really word of mouth,” she says. “I literally just pick up six cheeses from wherever each week and pass them around the bar.”

Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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