You haven't experienced New Bedford until you visit a tiny town on Ireland's southern coast.

Youghal -- population 8,000 -- doubled as the Whaling City in Moby Dick, the 1956 film starring Gregory Peck. Not much has changed there since Hollywood descended in 1954. Seventy years later, the charming, tight-knit community is still proud of the movie, still proud to be associated with Massachusetts.

This spirit is on clear display in the center of town at the aptly named Moby Dick's Pub. The walls of this cozy waterfront gathering spot are covered in movie memorabilia. Look across the room and see an autographed photo of director John Huston. Look up and see a sketch of New Bedford's Whaleman Statue. Look behind the bar and see a drawing of 19th-century New Bedford featuring the Seaman's Bethel. At the far end of the room, see a banner with "New Bedford" in big, bold letters.

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Tell the staff you're from New Bedford and, if you're lucky, see the owner emerge from the back dressed as Captain Ahab, sucking on a pipe and clutching a harpoon.

Phil Devitt/Townsquare Media
Phil Devitt/Townsquare Media

That was the scene when I visited Youghal (pronounced "Y'all") with friends Kayla and Ray during a cross-country trip last week. The three of us -- all SouthCoast natives -- had been eager to see the town since we touched down in Dublin, 150 miles north, two days earlier. We weren't disappointed.

Owner Kevin Linehan showed up in time for us to tell him we were from New Bedford. He handed us vintage postcards commemorating the filming as we finished our pints. Then, we set out for lunch. A few minutes later, the owner was on the street, flagging us down. He was joined by his daughter, Deirdre Linehan, who wanted to get a photo of us for the pub's social media. Of course, we agreed. Where else could we be made to feel like royalty simply for being from New Bedford?

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Kevin hurried back into the pub for a couple of minutes and when he joined us again, he was suddenly Ahab, the salty, vengeful whaler. His outfit was perfection, complete with a tarpaulin hat and a peg leg. He posed for some photos with us, then anointed tall and bearded Ray the new Ahab, putting the getup on him. There we all were, 3,000 miles from home, laughing and snapping photos on the beautiful Irish coast with new friends, all thanks to a black-and-white movie based on Herman Melville's beloved 1851 novel.

It's said that Huston chose Youghal for New Bedford because of its 19th-century appearance. The ancient port town 30 miles east of Cork hasn't changed much in the 70 years since Huston filmed there. New Bedford saw its Irish double for the first time at the Zeiterion Theatre premiere in 1956. New Bedford and Youghal formed a "twinning" agreement in 2013, Kevin noted.

Moby Dick Crew
Getty Images

"It's just wonderful," Deirdre said of the connection. "I'm working in a primary school, and even now I'm able to bring the kids on a tour of Youghal and tell them how wonderful it is that the filming of Moby Dick happened there. The younger generations coming up are learning about Moby Dick and it was fantastic to get my dad to come out and talk to them about the filming."

The third-generation Linehan involved in the business, Deirdre said the family pub regularly serves Americans. Visits from New Bedford people don't happen all the time, she said. Still, every new guest presents an opportunity to spread the word about the movie.

Captain Ahab
Getty Images

"We're definitely trying to keep it alive, especially now with the 70th anniversary," Deirdre said. "We want to get people to come and remember the brilliant history attached to Youghal and New Bedford."

The town hosts an annual Moby Dick Festival and the pub on its website promises patrons "a whale of a time."

Deirdre said she hasn't yet been to New Bedford but is excited to one day visit with her father. When they come, a stop at Moby Dick Brewing Co., among other places, will likely be in order.

Thanks for the hospitality, Youghal. We're proud to "twin" with you.

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