It was impossible to disguise that I was an middle class English woman, and did not belong in a Northern Irish Protestant working men’s club. However, my hosts were keen for me to witness the atmosphere in the smoke-filled bar, and enjoy a traditional Ulster dinner with them.
I didn’t recognise the names of most of the dishes that were listed on the white ceiling above us, but was delighted that a straightforward plate of sausage and mashed potato could be requested for me. So long as I didn’t choke on the heavy cigarette smoke, this could be a fun evening of people-watching.
However, as soon as the other club members discovered my identity, the atmosphere in the bar changed. Within minutes everyone had left in disgust. Those who had granted a woman entry to this smoky sanctuary of male privilege would be severely punished.