BERNIE O’Keeffe’s Irish heritage washes deep in his veins — just like the 3600 pints of Guinness he has consumed.
His great-grandparents emigrated from Ireland in the 1840s, so it’s not surprising that the popular Terang resident will head to Ireland to celebrate his 70th birthday in July.
Even less surprising is that he will sample a local Guinness at every pub he visits on his month-long trip.
He’ll even have his birthday party in a pub run by a man with the same surname in the same town where his grandparents were married.
“My cousin went over a couple of years ago and found a local pub where the licensee was also an O’Keeffe — spelt with a double F,” he told The Standard.
“I’ve always wanted to visit Ireland and my 70th birthday seemed like a good time to do it.
“My grandfather Martin O’Keeffe married in Ennis, County Clare, in 1841 and emigrated to Australia with his bride not long afterwards.
“They settled in Melbourne, then the Geelong district before buying land near Garvoc in the 1870s.”
A visit to a Guinness factory showroom is also on the itinerary and he’s looking forward to getting a free sample.
And he will visit Avoca, where one of his favourite television shows, Ballykissangel, was filmed.
“Fitzgibbon’s pub is still standing and I want to drink a Guinness there,” he said.
“During our tour I’ll probably have a beer in the middle of the day and Guinness at night.”
The retired carpenter will be accompanied by Warrnambool resident Belinda Allan, who offered to be Bernie’s guide and driver.
He’s never been to Europe before, but has visited the Philippines with an Apex working party to help the poor and to Singapore.
Mr O’Keeffe is a weekly visitor to Warrnambool’s Seanchai Irish hotel where he plays darts and socialises.
“I usually have three to four pints before the game,” he said.
“It gets my eye in. I’m up to Guinness number 3600 now.”
Ms Allan, 26, who has known Mr O’Keeffe for several years, said she wanted to help Bernie achieve his dream.
“He was always talking about wanting to go to Ireland so I said to him one day, ‘let’s just do it’,” she said.
“I’ve got the time, so we’ll hire a car and see the highlights on a 32-day tour starting and finishing in Dublin.
“He’s asked me to advertise for any O’Keeffes in Ennis to join him for a pint on his birthday.”