The Black Sheep: A Piece of Ireland in the Heart of Ashland City

ASHLAND, Ore. — The secret is out. If you are longing for a piece of Ireland, you will find it right here in the heart of Ashland city. Behind the red doors on the Plaza is the Black Sheep Pub, an authentic British public house that offers patrons a large slice of Ireland on Sunday afternoons.


Revelry is Led by Mostly Amateurs

The revelry is led by a cast of mostly amateurs who play an assortment of traditional instruments—fiddles, penny whistles, flutes, and pipes—that fill the air with a diverse blend of Irish charm.

It all began 25 years ago and has been growing in popularity ever since. With its convivial atmosphere and welcoming policy of opening its doors to all age groups, the Black Sheep Pub, overlooking Ashland’s historic downtown Plaza, is a happy Sunday afternoon treat for many  Celtic music lovers.

There is no set program in this three-hour jam session of amateur and professional musicians who let the wishes of the audience dictate the flow of music. Week after week, the crowd shows up, and the musos play Irish ditties to the clapping and stomping of a delighted audience.


Members of the Cast

A Roll Call of locals who make Sunday at the Black Sheep special is:

Singer – Jim Finnegan, who says the sessions are his “church” and who has been a regular performer for the last 21 years.

A player of the Irish fiddle and drum, known as a bodhran – Brook Taylor, fell so deeply in love with Celtic music when she first attended a session at the pub in 2017, that she took lessons to learn to play the two instruments.

Fiddle and uilleann pipes (Irish bagpipes) – Kevin Carr of Grants Pass, a convert of the Celtic music scene for the last 25 years.

Singer, guitarist, mandocello, and bodhran player – James Keigher of Rogue Valley.

Ceili dancer – Kayla Blanchflower, leads people in Ceili dance, creating a warm and festive scene.

Guest of honor – Carl Ricci, an American of Italian descent who drives 25 miles from his home in Eagle Point to attend the Celtic sessions and who has a specially reserved table for his exclusive use set up closest to the group of musicians.


Where You Belong

With the motto of “Where You Belong,” it is not difficult to understand how the Black Sheep Pub and its Sunday afternoon gig is attracting more and more attention. Another reason for its popularity could be because owner, Clarinda Merripen, does not charge a cover fee for those wishing to enjoy the Irish music and impromptu sing-along.

Local Brook Taylor spent her childhood in Southern Oregon with an Irish mother and Scottish father, so her Celtic roots run deep. There was always a recorded ditty playing in the background, she says.

But the Sunday sessions could not survive without a venue, and the Black Sheep Pub has more than played its part in maintaining a convivial and welcoming atmosphere for its visitors. It remains open to all age groups until 11 pm.

“Craic,” Irish slang meaning good times, is something most people enjoy, says Lucy McAleese. She and her husband Gerard own Kells Irish Public in Portland, which hosted the Kells Portland Irish Festival over St. Patrick’s weekend in mid-March.

The Irish toast, ‘Cead Mile Failte!’ means a thousand welcomes, and never a truer toast was made at both these public house establishments. “No matter who you are, or where you are from, everyone is invited,” says McAleese, adding that there is no faster way to immerse yourself in a culture than through music, dance, and food.



America has many long-standing traditions with the Irish. The first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held in New York City on March 17, 1762, 14 years before the Declaration of Independence was signed.

There are 31.5 million residents in the U.S. claiming Irish ancestry – including 10.6% of Oregon’s population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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