O’Neill’s or the Three Tuns

O\'Neils Pub

O’Neill’s used to be called The Three Tuns. I can’t understand why chains insist on stripping all the local character from pubs. Some things however, are not so different:

It cannot be denied that [around 1850] the Three Tuns was not the most salubrious of hostelries. It became the haunt of the riff-raff after fairs and other entertainments on the Heath, and the large crowds that congregated outside its doors would attract pick-pockets and cheats. In 1977 there was a riot in which 30 “roughs” fought a pitched battle with the police and more than 120 involved.

From “Blackheath Village and Environs” by Neil Rhind.

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18 Comments

Filed under blackheath village, pubs

18 responses to “O’Neill’s or the Three Tuns

  1. It was still the Three Tuns when I moved to Blackheath and we occasionally used to get a pint there. It was a much quiter pub than O’Neill’s, and not worse for that.

  2. Georgie

    IT WAS GREAT IN THE ’60S AND EARLY ’70S. The three tuns was the hang-out of artists and some famous musicians,also some very radical journo’s. someone should do a documantary on Blackheath Village @ that time.

  3. Bob Land

    I sometimes had pint or two at the Three Tuns, 1957 to 1958, it was a very quiet place,
    even in the weekends.

  4. I lived in Blackheath in 1971/1972, loved the pub.

  5. Michele O'Brien

    Does anyone remember Gerry Tuck who was governor of The Three Tuns (now O’Neill’s) in the 1960s/70s?

    He’d left to take over the (I think) Union Jack pub in Woolwich by the time I came to live in Blackheath but his reputation at The Three Tuns lived long after his departure from the Village.

    But I did meet up with him in Greenwich one afternoon and it did not stretch the imagination too far to see him in Blackheath as depicted by his former customers in The Three Tuns, give or take a spot of artistic licence here and there.

    The 60s/70s was the era of flower power and hippydom, free love and cheap pot. And The Three Tuns with the flamboyant Mr. T in charge enjoyed a reputation as a turn-on, tune-in, drop-out kind of place popular with bohemians, artists, consumers of exotic substances, flower children in long floaty dresses and cheesecloth shirts (remember them?) and motor cyclists. Or so I am told.

    In those days the pub had what is known in the licensed trade as an island bar and it had hand-painted murals on the inside walls done by an artist who lived locally.

    After Gerry’s departure the pub was taken over by Charlie Boyle, an ex-Thames lighterman, and his wife Olive. Them I did know at The Three Tuns. They were a delightful couple but as different as chalk and cheese.

    As Charlie was small, compact and solid, so Olive, a Glaswegian lady with a west coast Scottish accent you could gut fish with, tended toward the extrovert with a lively sense of humour.

    Under their tenure out went the island bar, to be replaced by what Charlie used to boast was the longest bar in Blackheath, the hippies departed for fresh fields, the hand-painted murals disappeared and the place adapted to a change of pace and style.

    Charlie and Olive at The Three Tuns were especially popular with older drinkers. So much so that Olive jokingly named one particular area by the windows “Geriatrics’ Corner”. What’s more, the “geriatrics” who drank there, instead of taking offence, considered the designation hilarious and referred to it as such themselves.

    I can’t see that happening in a Blackheath pub nowadays. Can you?

    • Hi Michelle, Yes I do remember Gerry Tuck, loved the way he ran his pub.
      I worked as night porter at the Clarendon Hotel in the early 70′s and had a pint or two in the tuns before going to work :-)

  6. Nature Woman

    I am from the Netherlands and came in 1967 to “the Tuns” as we called it then, with a group of friends from Lewisham and Blackheath, all hippies and lovers of Maria Junanita. Does anybody remember a guy called Ian Btomley who called himself Keeth Townley then? He must have been around 17 in those days. It was the year the Beatles brought out the Magical Mystery Tour album..

  7. mal

    Hello! to all, I too remember the Three Tuns with nostalgia, I was a Merchant Seaman staying at my bosuns house in BlackHeath and we drank at the pub every day. the Bosun’s name was Spider Spinks, if you know of him, a blue Star man. I got to know the Publican and his wife quite well, also the Bar Maids, they were all great. That was back in the late sixties, early 70′s.My name is Mal Taylor, they called me “Peanuts” with affection. So to all who drank at the Three Tuns during this time, A fond hello.

  8. Hello Mal, I remember Spider, a gentleman, a real Merchant Navy son of the sea. It was a time when Blackheath seemed full of personalities and characters with links to the sea and to the Thames.

    Charlie Boyle, an ex-Thames lighterman turned publican, and his Glaswegian-born wife Olive presided over The Three Tuns and I was introduced there one day to Spider by another seafarer, Tim Harvey.

    Harvey, ex-wartime Royal Navy, was a Port of London Authority tugboat captain on the Thames at the time. His tugboat I recall was the Lord Waverley.

    They were all great company and Harvey’s yarns were legendary – and some were even true.

    But even someone as gullible as me drew the line at him as a seaman being put ashore in wartime Yugoslavia by submarine with commandos on a secret mssion, not being able to keep up and being “rescued by nuns.”

    But his tugboat captain’s loathing for the “Gravesend sharks” appeared perfectly genuine. Why they were all “sharks” in Gravesend I never found out but I remember his phrase “they share the babies out at Christmas time.”

    Also the advice he said he was given by an older colleague when he first went to sea in the Navy as a youngster – “act green, keep clean and catch the first boat ashore.”

    I wonder if they really do share the babies out at Christmas time in Gravesend ….

  9. Anonymous

    yes I remember gerry, I was a barmaid there from 1971 to about 1974 does anyone remember me my name was Marylyn. Gerry and Diane ran the pub for several years until she leff around 1973/4. Selina Scott joined as Gerry’s partner shortly afterwards. Mickey Evans was the potman and my ex boyfirend. We had many famous bands – we even chucked out Marc Boland. Manfred man used to come in for half a pint. Many happy and sad memories in the 3 tuns.

    • Hi Marylyn,

      I do remember you and Mickey from those days.

      I was about 18 and nightporter at the Clarendon for a year or so in 1972.

      Wasnt your mate’s name Mandy from Lee/Lewisham?

      Let me know :-)

      Koos from Holland

    • bob

      I also worked at the three tuns in the late sixties and early seventies, at the time I was a friend of Gerry and diane, and I do remember Marylyn{pearson} as I remember. had many a lock in there. I wonder where Gerry is now?

  10. remember the pub from my schoolboy/student days Jim Riddock a painter and my art teacher at Eltham Green I think!! did the murals, he lived round the corner from the pub, great memories of the people and characters , Manfred Mans, guitarist used to drink there.

    • Stephen Gamble

      Hi Chris, I also was taught by Jim Riddock. A great inspiration and teacher. A great sense of humour, too! I don’t know if he is still alive – he’d be 92 or thereabouts. He used to arrange viewings of the “Civilisation” series by Kenneth Clark (bought the book that followed which I still have), and other films in the Library at Eltham Green. I was there from 1980-82 for the Sixth year. He also took me to London to see exhibitions like the Pissarro one at the Hayward Gallery, and smaller exhibitions of Kokoschka, Boudin, Utrillo, and the Barbizon school. His teaching was much superior to what I received at St Martin’s School of Art when I left Eltham Green. Stephen Gamble.

  11. Heathcliff

    Does anyone remember a man called Ted the Chop? He used to come several times a day for a pint of Worthington E. That was back in 1976-77.

  12. Macca

    Certainly do, He used to double up as the Manager of the Three Tuns football team of which i used to play for. Included various ex dynamo kiev and red star belgrade vets

  13. Kevin Aitchison

    I remember Gerry at the Tuns,we used to live next door above the betting shop.We were 4 New Zealanders and a Scotsman(Drew)I am Kevin,the other Kiwis were John,Lionel and Bob. Lionel was a merchant seaman.The Tuns was brilliant.I think Gerry,s brother worked there and his girlfriend. I remember Manfred Mann visiting and Sandy Shaw too
    It being 11th Nov today,I remember a customer who had been a Japanese prisoner of war and all of a sudden he would get up off the bar stool and march up the bar and then sit back on his stool not realising what he had done.
    We were there 1969 -1972
    Hello everyone!!!!!!!!!!!

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