John McCaslin

Frederick Ryan Jr. swears he was only thirsty for a pint of Guinness when, accompanied by his wife, Genny, and the couple's three daughters, he ducked into the Ronald Reagan Pub during a visit to Ballyporeen, Ireland.

By the time the president and chief operating officer of Allbritton Communications in Washington left the pub, he owned it.

"I hadn't even been drinking," said Ryan, a top aide to President Reagan who is chairman of the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum in California. "The funny thing, I called Nancy Reagan and told her I just bought the Irish pub named after her husband, and she paused and said, 'Have you been drinking?'"

When the Ryans arrived at the pub named for the late Irish-American president after he sipped a pint there more than 20 years ago, they found the door locked.

However, they found the owners, John and Mary O'Farrell, upstairs, and the couple soon explained that their family was expanding, and to gain the needed space, they were auctioning off everything in the pub.

The O'Farrells, at the same time, were more than happy to give the American visitors a tour of the pub, where Ryan was surprised to find "everything still in its place - tables were set, glasses were on shelves, taps behind the bar. And all the Reagan memorabilia was still there."

"Right then and there, I asked Mary how much she would want to sell the pub for. She said she would have to consult with her husband. The next thing you know, they came back with a price, and I said: 'OK, I'd like to buy the pub from you.' And I bought it.

"My wife came back in and said what's going on, and she said, 'Your husband just bought the pub.'" (Yes, the Ryans still are happily married.)

Here's the kicker: the one-time Reagan aide hired a company to disassemble the pub completely - bar, stools, beer taps, pint glasses, a cabinet, tables, chairs, signs, pictures on the wall, even the wallpaper - "they took everything out, shipped it to California, and reassembled the pub, which I have donated to the Reagan Library," Ryan said.

Most fittingly, the O'Farrells have agreed to travel to the California library next month and be behind the bar to pour the first pint of Guinness when the Ronald Reagan Pub reopens during a reunion of Reagan alumni.

"What's the greatest thing for me is that this pub was to have been auctioned two weeks later," Ryan said. "I was there at just the right time, as if it was meant to be."


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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