Signposts and maps refer to it simply as Moy, but the friendly Tyrone folk for centuries have always called it The Moy. In the 18th and 19th centuries, ‘The Moy Fair’ was one of the great horse fairs in Europe. Marshall Ney, of Waterloo fame, bought his charger here, as did other European generals, so that Irish horses attacked Irish horses in some of Europe’s famous battles
The Moy became the Nisinovgorod of Europe, and I was told that on the day of The Fair there were interpreters speaking six different languages in Moy’s pubs; but, alas, when horses in war became obsolete, many great Moy families were ruined.
The Fair was held in the large, attractive tree-lined square, with its beautiful flower beds, created by Lord Charlemont in the 18th century on the pattern of Marengo in Lombardy, with which he fell in love during his travels through Italy in 1754.
One can add to the history of The Moy the fact that John King, the first white man to cross the continent of Australia in both directions, hailed from this village. He was the sole survivor of a party of three who set out in 1860 to walk from Melbourne to the Gulf of Carpentaria and back.
The Moy retains to this day an atmosphere which is quite unique – the charm of yesterday and the amenities of the present.
When I called there in early August, it was ablaze with colour.
Never have I seen such a profusion of flowers – they were everywhere, in colourful shaped beds and in hanging baskets beautifying many a delightful residence. The most charming flower-bedecked row of fine houses in the square is where you will find Tomney’s quaint little pub, with its delightful stained glass windows. The Bar is at least 300 years old, and certainly was here when the great horse fairs were held in the square.
A black and white photo in the bar testifies to that.
The present owner is Dickson Tomney, friendly and hospitable from the moment I met him. Called Dickson after a distant cousin, Archbishop Dickson of Armagh, he told me a lovely story about the Archbishop. In 1870, in order to raise money to complete the building of the Catholic Cathedral in Armagh City, he held a monster bazaar in Dungannon. In the raffle he put up his beloved chain and cross as the top prize, and the proceeds from the bazaar amounted to £7,826.14.3, a huge sum for those days, and enough to complete his cathedral.
The person who won the cross later presented it to the Tomney family, where it remains to this day. All his life, Archbishop Dickson had a great devotion to the great Dominican saint Catherine of Siena – inside the cross was her relic and, appropriately, Archbishop Dickson died on her feast day, 29th April.
The last time this small pub was renovated was back in 1946, and today the public bar shows off the Art Decor of this period, with its largish semi-circular mirror intercut with red and black stripes – most unusual and different from anything I’ve seen in my travels.
A couple of framed posters on the walls drew my attention: Peter Keegan & Co, Ltd., Old Irish Whisky.(You will note the word Whisky is spelt the Scotch way, without the ‘e’.) The second was the last poster of the local cinema, closed down in March 1958.
The final films shown that month, for your information, were The Tommy Steele Story; Bundle of Joy; Battle of the River Plate; The Sullivans and The Sea Hawk. Like most country bars, Tomney’s is made up of a compendium of tiny rooms which, in many ways, makes it more appealing.
Across the hall is what you would call the parlour, and to the rear of the public bar is a delightful little ‘French room’, complete with its small chandelier wall lights, wallpaper to match and a lovely French clock on the mantelpiece – no trouble idling a few hours here.
Could this room be a throw back to the days when French Cavalry officers refreshed themselves here after buying their mounts at the Fair? To the rear again is another small lounge, shaped like the interior of a railway carriage, simply but tastefully furnished.
For 30 years this was a store room for coffins (a reminder of the times when the family was in the undertaking business).Look out in the corner for an unusual German music box, and above the rustic fireplace a nice mahogany cabinet.
There’ s a poster in this room which I couldn’t make any sense of – it reads The Standard of Temperance KIRO The Temperance Story of 20th Century Wheatley and Bates.
An opemstaircase will lead you down into the back yard, and as enchanting a beer garden as you will see anywhere. Drinking garden tables are scattered around the freshly painted white outhouses.
Here you will find old mangles, farm carts and a bountiful selection of flowers in beds, hanging baskets, garden ornaments. Even the old wine barrels were topped with bouquets of flowers.
It was only later I realised that there where other businesses being carried on here: a garden centre, a small back store in the centre of the yard selling wickerwork, and along one side a beguiling little Irish cottage with its red window shutters, packed with antiques.
Dickson, as well as running the bar, is also an auctioneer and Valuator, while his brother-in-law runs the remaining businesses in the back yard. Together the Tomney-McNeice families run an elegant guest house – ‘Charlemont House’ – just along the terrace at No.4.
Built in 1760, it is certainly one of the most imposing residences in the Village, and I can assure you that once you step into the hall, you’ll feel you are stepping into the elegance of another era. Seldom in Your travels throughout our fair land will you find a charming village quite like The Moy.
That’s because it was built from a dream, and Lord Charlemont had the finances to ensure his dream became a reality.Tomney’s is a ‘dreamy’ little pub, complete with the finest pub garden of them all – well worth an exploration.