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The proper pints of Rosie Connolly’s

BY NATHAN CUSHING of RVANews

  • Who: Tommy Goulding, a man with Irish blood and English heart.
  • What: A traditional, old-fashioned pub
  • Where: 1548 A E. Main Street, Shockoe
  • When: Opened 2005 in the aftermath of Gaston
  • Why: To give downtown RVA a pub like one you’d find in downtown Liverpool
  • Beer/Dishes: Staples like Guinness, Harp, and Smithwick’s. Also popular mixes like Brown over Bitter (Newcastle and Fullers), Snake Bite (Lager and Cider), and Black & Tan (half Guinness/half Bass).

Entrées include: Lemon Pepper Salmon, Prime Rib, and Steak and Mushroom Pie (braised beef, onions, and mushrooms with a roasted garlic and red wine gravy, topped with a puff pastry and served with mashed potatoes).

Many are quick to claim Irish ancestry around St. Patrick’s Day. But Tommy Goulding, the 64-year-old owner and bartender of Rosie Connolly’s pub in Shockoe, just might have everyone beat.

“I never thought I would call any other place home,” Goulding said last week about Richmond between Guinness pours–shamrocks shaped in the head of each pint–during an afternoon funeral reception held at his pub.

Although both sets of his grandparents were Irish, Goulding himself was born and raised in Liverpool, England. As a young man in the late 1960s, he began working graveyard shifts at a nearby Ford manufacturing plant. He did that for 17 years.

In the late 1970s, Goulding’s sister and brother-in-law emigrated to the US and opened Penny Lane Pub.1 Back in Liverpool, Goulding was passably happy at Ford, but Britain’s weak economy stymied any immediate possibilities for career growth.

“There were no jobs,” Goulding said. “I was stuck where I was.”

So in 1980, inspired by his sister’s success in America, Goulding and his wife “filed papers” to emigrate across the pond. But bureaucracy is seldom quick, and years passed with no reply. Goulding and his wife began to forget their pending applications.

In 1985, still “Liverpudlians,” Goulding and his wife agreed to purchase a cute house from a nice old lady down the road. After selling their own house ahead of the purchase, the Goulding’s learned that the nice old lady had sold her house to someone else. With their old house sold, and no new house to move into, the Goulding’s were virtually homeless.

Amid this crisis of homeownership, the couple received a surprising letter: their emigration papers, filed five years ago, had finally gone through.

The Goulding’s moved to Richmond.

For the next 16 years, Goulding was the “night time guy” at his sister’s Penny Lane Pub. During his time there, he drank through the night with Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant, served English actor and singer Petula Clark, and chatted with members of Def Leopard and ZZ Top.

He also became friends with local restaurateur Michael Ripp, whom was planning to open Havana ’59 in 1994 and wanted Goulding to manage the bar. Goulding declined, but the two remained friends.

Goulding did, however, come on board in 2003 when Ripp opened O’Brienstein’s, a concept that fused a Jewish deli with an Irish pub. (continue reading on RVA News)

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