Billy Brooks Carr, from Houston in Texas, enjoyed an association with Mulligan’s for more than a quarter of a century. He died in 2011 but this did not terminate his connection with the famous Dublin saloon. In fact, it enhanced it. Billy’s family and friends have put together their recollections and pictures that go some way towards depicting this force of nature. You can find out more about Billy on his Facebook page which is maintained by his family:
We all mourn the loss of Billy’s, Mike’s and Davy’s father, David C. Carr – a delightful combination of charm, grit and all the mysterious forces of the universe…
Billy’s ‘rain’ as king of the one-liners
by Mike Carr
Early one morning Billy was holding court at the 38-foot long bar in Humble, Texas. About six of the lads were talking about religion, sports, politics, or one of the great issues in our lives.
At the far end of the bar a customer yelled, “I need some service down here!” Billy walked over and asked him what he needed. The customer said a Singapore Sling. Billy said he did not have all the ingredients needed to make one. He asked if the man wanted a beer or a shot instead. The customer said, “Get me a Miller Lite.” Billy poured the beer and went back to the conversation.
About ten minutes later, the same man said he needed more service. Billy said, ‘What can I do for you?’
The man said, ‘I’m looking through your stock and I see gin, lime juice, simple syrup, club soda, cherry brandy, lemons and maraschino cherries. So what ingredient are you missing so you can’t make me a Singapore Sling?’
Billy replied, ‘I don’t have the fucking umbrella.’
And with that, Billy turned back around and rejoined the conversation.
We never saw that customer again.
Long Weekend or Billy’s Proposal
The following three recollections come from Billy’s brother, David, and were written down by another brother, Mike.
On St Patrick’s week-end in 1996, the big day was on a Sunday, so we started celebrating on Friday. Dave knew that none of the staff was going to charge Billy for his drinks, and for the three days Billy would drink about one keg of Guinness. To recoup the money, Dave had a promotion going on. He made a sign Help Billy celebrate St. Patrick’s weekend – Buy him a pint. The small print said that Billy may or may not talk or visit with you while drinking your pint. 97 people signed up and their number was also their pint number, so if you were number 24, the 24th pint would be yours – pay in advance, of course.
On Sunday night, one of the waiting staff from Outback Steakhouse came in with a young woman home from college. He asked Billy how he was doing on the Guinness list. Billy said: ‘I’m on number 88’ and then explained to the young woman Dave’s promotion. The young lady said: ‘Ok, we will buy you a drink’. When she came back, she reported that she spent her last penny on Billy’s drink and a tip. Billy asked: ‘What will you do now?’ She said: ‘I’ll just use Dad’s credit card’. Billy went down on one knee and said: ‘Will you marry me? You have all the qualities I’m looking for in a woman. You spent your last penny on a drink for me and now you’ll use your Dad’s credit card for more drinks.’ His proposal was denied.
Billy meets new friends
As recounted by his brother, David Carr
In March and April of 1992, my brother Billy and I went to Ireland. Before the trip, Billy said, “Now, I’m not responsible on this trip.” (Which was Billy’s way of saying that he was not going to buy any drinks.)
We stayed in Dublin for 6 days at the Royal Dublin Hotel on O’Connell Street. Every day after breakfast, we would walk down to No. 8 Poolbeg Street to John Mulligan’s Bar. There, we would plan the day, which pubs to visit and what sights to see. Most of the sights we saw through the window of the pub across the street. During the 6 days we went to 76 pubs. One day, on our daily visit to Mulligan’s, the barman told us about a young accordion player named Sharon Shannon and that she would be at the Harcourt Hotel that night. We heard about the accordion player from 3 or 4 people on our wanderings that day, and that night we ended up at the Harcourt.
The place was packed. I went closer to the stage and Billy stayed near the bar. I looked up and saw Billy looking at an empty pint glass, turning it in his hands. A young lady came up and said something. I later learned she said “You look like you’re desperate for a pint. If you help me carry these drinks back to the table, I’ll buy you one.” Billy and the young woman brought the drinks to a table of 6-7 Guinness drinkers. Back at the table, Billy began to entertain his new four friends and helped tote the drinks back to the table after each round. I could tell that the shout was working its way around the table. What would Billy do when it was his turn? I glanced up and saw that after 2 more rounds, it would be Billy’s turn. I looked back. Only one more person to pay before Billy’s turn but…where was Billy? I saw him at the next table entertaining newer friends and drinking with them, as they took turns buying the rounds. Billy, of course, was at the end of the line to purchase drinks. True to his word, Billy never bought a pint of Guinness in Dublin but thanks to the other people of Dublin, he had many.
Billy pays for a drink
As recounted by his brother, David Carr
At the end of our trip to Ireland in 1992, we went over to Liverpool to visit our dear friends, Peter and Winnie Kilbride. On our first day there, we went to Flanagan’s Apple. I told Peter and Winnie to go slow on the first round, and let Billy finish his drink and see what he will do. Billy looked uncomfortable when he finished and no one else wanted a drink so I gave Billy some money and said, “Just go buy one for yourself.” As Billy was paying, Winnie took his picture and Billy had a guilty look on his face.
Later, Billy ended up on stage playing bones and singing the Leaving of Liverpool. Then the drinks started coming in.
In 1997, my daughter, Jennifer, was in the U.K. at school. One weekend, she went to visit Uncle Peter and Aunt Winnie. They took her to Flanagan’s. Jennifer made a sign that read “Billy Carr actually paid for a drink here April 6, 1992.” Of course, she took a picture and we all had a laugh when we saw it. Billy was unhappy, worried that the picture might ruin his reputation.
While in the bar, the same band was playing. Jennifer introduced herself. They all asked about Billy and took up a collection to buy him a pint when she came back to Houston.
Remembering Billy Carr: Wordsmith, unwitting family counselor and murder mystery master
by Caroline Gallay
Death has gotten weirder in the digital age. Maybe it’s the instantaneous nature of contemporary communication, but losing someone today and coming to grips with the sudden reality that they will no longer answer their cell phone or reply to your emails makes it all the more hard to process.
When Billy Carr died three weeks ago at the age of 63, he and I were in the midst of planning one of his famous mystery pub crawls. These crawls are famous for the attention to detail that goes into them — think floor plans, character profiles and extensive timelines — but especially for Billy’s inimitable style of narration. He would at once guide guests along while chiding them for being so thick as to need guidance. It was sort of his way; if he teased you, he must have thought you were alright.
The last email he sent me, which was also our final exchange, made reference to one of his characteristic terms: OFFs, or “Old Fucking Farts.”
“Some of our group are what I call OFFs. Bars are too loud, too new, too old, the music is awful (anything after 1979), the crowd is too young, the drinks cost too much and are not made right — in short, they only like what they know. We want to show them something they don’t know.”
OFF may have been a term that Billy coined, but it certainly wasn’t one that applied, and he showed me much I didn’t know.
To understand Billy Carr you must also have some familiarity with another Billie — his mother, the liberal Texas Democrat who spent more than 40 years as an organizer and activist known for her bluntness and no-BS attitude. (Her obituary, written by her dear friend and contemporary Molly Ivins, sheds some light on the sort of sons she raised.)
But this is about the Billy I knew. It’s been a privilege.
It’s been a privilege to parade with him and his brothers when they were honored as the Grand Marshals of the 2010 Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, to man their booth these last few years at the Rory Miggins Memorial Irish Stew Cook-Off, to learn to play the bones along with them at Blaggards shows, and to ring in the last two new years with them at Brian O’Neills — new years that, thanks to their touch, appeared brighter than any I’d embarked on before.
It’s been an honor to know these three brothers, who seem to have an endless supply of stories, of jokes, of limericks, and also, it seems, of pint glasses, which they’re known to keep on their persons and generously distribute to fellow imbibers.
But the Carrs have probably meant more to me than they know, and their influence in my life stretches far beyond our immediate interaction.
I met Billy through my father, who met him through his brothers, who he met, as he meets most people he doesn’t meet in pubs, on the golf course.
The many Wednesday evenings I spent on a barstool between Billy and my Dad did more for our once-strained relationship than any amount of counseling or cajoling possibly could have.
You see, Billy was the ultimate arbiter. He didn’t like everybody, and he felt no obligation to pretend otherwise. If he did like someone, it meant something, like a wizened, Irish Anna Wintour nodding curt approval at an outfit.
And so when he reintroduced my father and I with an obvious fondness for each of us individually, he did it with a kind of authority — a command to camaraderie.
If he liked us, we must be alright, after all. And if he wanted us to get along, there was no question that we’d fall in line.
It’s been through our shared responsibility to Billy and his brothers, who obviously take family and friendship very seriously, that we came to reevaluate our responsibilities to each other. We call more now, reserve time for one another and swap old stories even as we make new memories.
On Oct. 10, 2010, the youngest Carr brother, Mike, made a hole-in-one at Clear Creek Golf Club on hole 14 — David Carr had accomplished the same feat, on the same hole, on Sept. 4, 2007, and Billy Carr on July 13, 2003. It’s something of a miracle — certainly statistical anomaly — and it was a fitting site for Mike and David Carr to spread the first of their brother’s ashes. (Other bits of Billy’s remains will be distributed to his most privileged Houston pubs.) Although my missing of him is not likely to dull, Billy lives on in the terrific responsibility he’s bestowed on me. I’m resolved to keep the weekly communions with my father, but I’ve also been charged with another mission.
At the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in March, I’ll be on the Carr’s annual float as in other years, this time responsible, along with my boyfriend, for bringing to life one of Billy’s last grand visions: An enormous paper mache hand, holding a pair of bones and waving goodbye at passersby.
Tale of unpainted furniture
by Doug Black
I met Billy Carr , and his brothers, in the fall of 1989. I had just moved to Houston and was looking for some furniture for my newly rented townhouse. I spotted a sign in a strip mall that said “unpainted furniture”. That’s the ticket I said to myself and drove over and went in… or so I thought. I had mistakenly entered the operation next to the furniture shop which was Mama Hattie’s Pub , owned and operated by Billy and his brothers David and Mike.
There was a small handful of fellows sitting at the bar watching Notre Dame and Michigan play football. As my eyes adjusted to the darker lighting inside I was greeted by a large ruddy face with a crooked smile and happy mischievous eyes. A cap was balanced atop his copper-red hair, and he wore a white bartenders apron with a pen and an order pad in the chest pocket. “ What will you have? “ he said. His voice tone and lilt only reinforced my first impression .. he was large of a real leprechaun.
Within 24 hours of that first meeting I was out on the golf course with Billy, his brothers, and their pal Leo. I felt as if I had known Billy and these characters for years. For the next 2 years I guess I would have seen Billy 4 times a week. Each visit was , as the saying goes , was like a box of chocolates. You never knew what you were going to get, but it was always good. Cheers Billy , I miss you Lad.
Friendships recorded and celebrated
by Peter Kilbride
I was a good friend of B Boys. I was born in Liverpool and still live on the Wirral so not far away. My wife Winnie and I were sent to Houston when the company I worked for opened up a branch office and we ended up being there from 1985 to 1989 and during that time were honoured to meet and become friends with the Carr family.
As you probably know by now B has a twin brother Dave (Ace) and a younger brother Mike, our friendship has lasted so long and I was lucky enough to be able to visit with them in Houston earlier this year.
When I was in Houston we lived up on the north side and the three brothers ran their bar in a small town called Humble the bar was Mama Hattie’s named after their grandmother.
At first it only sold beer and maybe wine but the guys made their money by dishing out about 250 lunches each day. It’s a difficult thing for Englishmen and Irishmen abroad to find something you can call palatable beer, well Mama’s sold Guinness, draught Bass and Harp larger, how could we go anywhere else ?
After a while the place next door closed and the Carr bros took the lease and knocked through. It was decided where the bar was to be and joiners were brought in to try to craft the bar in a likeness to John Mulligan’s of Poolbeg St.
Based only on photographs and people’s hazy recollections, they did not do a bad job and during this renovation period the guys had applied for a full liquor licence which in Texas meant they could sell everything. So it came to pass that B Boy was the designated Bar Manager and somebody bought him the book about how to make cocktails (another story) but suffice it to say B liked to serve Guinness and whiskey and if he liked you he liked to talk.
Billy as artist and philosopher
by Jim Culligan
My wife, Lela, and I knew Billy Carr for many years in Humble Texas. He was a very unique person. Quite the philosopher and artist as you will see from the story I’m relating.
One day as I was driving down the highway in Humble, I happened to glance over at a Mexican restaurant and saw painting on a wall that enclosed an outside eating area.
I pulled in the parking lot and asked Billy what in the world he was doing. He informed me that he and his brothers had purchased the restaurant and were going to convert it into an Irish pub. He was painting the wall to look the stone fences in Ireland.
The restaurant became the Ballybunion pub surrounded by a 3 foot wall that from a distance looked like the stone fences in Ireland.
The Ballybunion had an Irish stew cook off team called the “Booziliers”. Billy hand painted the tee shirts for the team to wear. This was just done with a paint brush and cans of enamel.
One of his favorite saying was “It just doesn’t matter” which he included on the back of the tee-shirt.
Billy Carr was one of a kind and a very dear friend whom we miss sorely.