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Bartender at Islip pub has led trips to Ireland for decades

The manager of Mary Dowling’s pub just returned from his 15th trip to the Emerald Isle, where many patrons go to connect with their Irish heritage.

Edward "Lanny" Skehan speaks about taking customers to his homeland at Mary Dowling's pub in Islip on April 2, 2018  (Credit: Newsday / Rachelle Blidner)

At an Irish pub in Islip, everybody may not know your name, but you have a better shot if you’ve ever gone on a trip to Ireland with the bartender of 30 years.

Edward “Lanny” Skehan, the manager at Mary Dowling’s, recently returned from his 15th trip taking dozens of patrons around his home country. He said he began leading trips in 1990 after customers at the bar — then named Lily Flanagan’s — expressed an interest in seeing the Emerald Isle. He now leads groups of up to 40.

“They want to find their heritage, their ancestry, where they come from in Ireland,” Skehan said. “They don’t look at it as a destination of sunshine but where they came from.”

The pub is on Main Street in the hamlet, where nearly 30 percent of residents are of Irish heritage, according to U.S. Census estimates.

Some customers go to Ireland to seek out distant family members, including one woman who went trout fishing with a relative she met on a farm, Skehan said. Many customers dive into their family histories upon returning to the states and go back to Mary Dowling’s to update Skehan on their progress, he said.

Joe Frizalone, who purchased the bar with his brother-in-law and renamed it last year after his Irish mother-in-law, said the trip — which is organized through CIE Tours International and paid for by customers — was a tradition he wanted to keep alive.

“We’re an Irish bar. Taking a trip to Ireland is a way to get the people who come here together for a week,” he said.

Skehan, who grew up in Limerick City, Ireland, and lives in East Islip, said he changes the itinerary of the trip every time, in part to keep it interesting for repeat customers. The most recent trip, from March 21-28, included visits to the towns of Dingle and Kinsale.

Lindenhurst couple Heidi Hieke and John Manuel said they have gone on the trip four times. They said they share a camaraderie with the other customers.

“We’ve been going to this pub for almost 20 years,” Hieke said. “We do get a little closer to them when we travel.”

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