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Limerick

“If gold rusts, what then can iron do?”

Saturday, 19 January, 2019

Geoffrey Chaucer’s philosophical question from The Canterbury Tales was posed during the early morning rain in Glenaree, above Glenbrohane, County Limerick, Ireland.

Gate


Limerick 2020

Thursday, 10 January, 2019

The so-called European Capitals of Culture for the year 2020 are Rijeka in Croatia and Galway in Ireland. One of the cities that didn’t make the final cut was Limerick, which made a valiant but unsuccessful attempt to become a European capital of culture.

“He knows how it is to leave Ireland, did it himself and never got over it. You live in Los Angeles with sun and palm trees day in day out and you ask God if there’s any chance He could give you one soft rainy Limerick day.” — Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes

Limerick2020


Catch of the day

Friday, 1 June, 2018

It is said that some people in Limerick deliberately self-harm just so they can visit Ford’s fish & chip shop after being discharged from the nearby St. John’s Hospital. Located on John’s Street in one of the city’s more rugged quarters, Ford’s offers solid comfort at reasonable prices. For example, a whiting filet costs just €2.80. The fish is covered in a batter that was traditionally made from beef dripping and then deep fried, although oil is used today. For those in need of food, fast, Ford’s offers substantial filling, affordably, and St. John’s Hospital is at hand when it comes to healing the customers.

Ford's


Hurling: Letter from Ireland (1937)

Sunday, 20 May, 2018

For some people in the Northern Hemisphere, summer begins with the start of the Munster Hurling Senior Championship. It’s a cultural thing that has its roots in an agrarian society driven by grass growth and the arrival of better weather. Today, the festival opens at 2 pm with Limerick vs. Tipperary at the Gaelic Grounds.

The connection between Munster hurling and Graham Greene would not be known to most attending today’s game, but the great English novelist was the editor of Night and Day, described as a British rival to the New Yorker, in the 1930s and during its brief life he published a piece titled Letter from Ireland by Elizabeth Bowen, the doyenne of Anglo-Irish writing. Snippet:

“Cork left Cork for Killarney when the All Ireland Hurley Finals were played there. Tipperary won. This was a great day for the whole of the South of Ireland; special trains were run and the roads for a hundred miles round streamed with cars and bicycles, most of them flying flags. The Tipperary contingent passed my way. Those who unluckily could not get to Killarney stood on banks for hours to watch the traffic. This is, in the literal sense, a very quiet country: the Troubles and civil war were fought out in an almost unbroken hush, punctuated by a few explosions or shots. Voices are seldom raised, and you can (so to speak) hear a dog bark or a milk-cart rattle or a funeral bell toll two counties away. But these great Sundays of sport galvanise everything; from the moment you wake you know that something is going on.

Hurley is the fastest game, short of ice hockey, that I have ever watched. It is a sort of high-speed overhead hockey, played with sticks with flat wooden blades, and it looks even more dangerous that it apparently is. Though a game that would melt you in the Antarctic, it is, for some reason, played only in summer.”

There are gems of appraisal and style in everything that Elizabeth Bowen wrote. Her observation that “the Troubles and civil war were fought out in an almost unbroken hush,” is revealing, given that her Letter from Ireland was published just 14 years after the conflict ended, and “Cork left Cork for Killarney” is delightful. Today, some 80 years later, Tipperary will leave Tipperary for Limerick.

Limerick vs. Tipperary


Where Drunken Thady met the Bishop’s Lady

Thursday, 22 February, 2018 0 Comments

Michael Hogan was born in Thomondgate in Limerick in 1832 and following the publication of his epic poem “Drunken Thady and the Bishop’s Lady,” he was crowned “The Bard of Thomond”. The work tells the tale of the vengeful wife of the Bishop of Limerick and her life of unspeakable vice. One night, while roaming the city streets, she met a Thomondgate drunk known as Thady and tossed him over Thomond Bridge into the Shannon. Drowning, he found religion, and asked God for forgiveness. Having repented his sins, his life was spared, and he was the Drunken Thady no more. The Bishop’s Lady was not for turning, however.

Each night, she roamed, with airy feet,
From Thomond Bridge to Castle-street;
And those that stayed out past eleven,
Would want a special guard from Heaven,
To shield them, with a holy wand,
From the mad terrors of her hand!
She knocked two drunken soldiers dead,
Two more with battered foreheads fled,
She broke the sentry-box in staves,
And dashed the fragments in the waves!
She slashed the gunners, left and right,
And put the garrison to flight!

Thomondgate


My mother’s Christmas cake

Saturday, 17 December, 2016 0 Comments

The tin that was used for baking this cake was bought in Ballylanders, County Limerick, in the early 1950’s for 2 shillings and 9 pence. It measures nine inches across. Now that Ireland has gone metric, that measurement can be expressed as 23 cm. A euro equivalent for “2 shillings and 9 pence” is harder to compute, though, as the price refers to a foreign country — a pre-decimalization Ireland of almost no disposable income, zero inflation and a tendency to regard even humble baking tins as once-in-a-lifetime purchases. But, regardless of whether you are using an antique tin or a modern one, it is vital that you line it with a double-thickness of silver foil.

INGREDIENTS

750 grams sultanas
350 grams self-raising flour
150 grams “soft” brown sugar
250 grams butter
4 tablespoons water
4 tablespoons brandy
4 eggs
1 teaspoon almond essence
pinch or two ground almonds

PREPARATION

Preparing the fruit Put the sultanas (light-coloured ones are preferred but the darker variety will do) in a saucepan and add the water and brandy. Heat gently until the mixture begins to steam. Remove from heat and cover saucepan.

Next, place the brown sugar in your mixing bowl. Take four eggs and break each one separately in a saucer to test for quality before adding to the sugar and beat until the mix is creamy. Add a half-teaspoon of almond essence for flavour.

The wooden spoon test Gradually sieve in the flour and fold into the mix adding a few pinches of ground almonds as you go along. Remember those sultanas and brandy? Cut the butter into the steamed fruit and add to the flour, sugar and eggs in the mixing bowl.

Use the “vertical wooden spoon” test to see if the consistency of mix is suitable. If the spoon stands to attention, you are on the right track. Finish off by adding the remainder of the flour.

More lining for the tin now. This time it’s greaseproof paper, folded doubly. Pour the mix into the lined tin and paste into the corners. Make a hollow with your hand in the centre to allow for expansion.

The baking tin Bake at 180 degrees for twenty minutes and then at 160 for an hour; leave in the oven and probe the centre of the cake with a knitting needle (recommended) or other sharp object until satisfied that it is baked thoroughly.

A slice is best enjoyed with a big cup of tea. If a roaring fire is at hand, appreciate the warmth, and remember that this cake was once made by a person who lived her life for the benefit of others, many of whom were grateful, and remain so.


The fourteenth Station: Legacy

Monday, 7 December, 2015 0 Comments

The happy news: These “stations,” these posts, will appear in book form in time for the 6 September anniversary next year. In this way, part of my mother’s great legacy will be preserved and published. She’d like that.

Mammy in Bally

As we stand at this final station in the life of Kit Fitz, as she was known by so many of those who admired and respected her, we give thanks for the privilege it was to have shared her company for so long. Her boundless energy and thirst for knowledge ensured that every moment in her presence was theatrical, informative and challenging. The Latin phrase, ora et labora (pray and work), which is rooted in Christian mysticism, was the engine of her life. She knew that time is fleeting and in her doing and her being she encouraged everyone to make good use of the precious hours we’re allotted. Despite the constant urging to strive and to save for “the rainy day”, she abhorred the pathetic existence of the workaholic. There had to be time as well for play. The cards, the games, the music and, above all, the prayers, were important because they helped anchor a person in the world.

We miss the constant expressions of wisdom and we regret not documenting more, but we are determined to share and safeguard this priceless legacy.


The sixth Station: Childhood

Sunday, 29 November, 2015 0 Comments

One of my best friends in this photo is a dog. Actually, the dog is more of a playmate than a friend here. Animals are not toys, but they can offer children endless delight. Cuddly creatures are far more fun than gewgaws of wood or metal, no matter how cleverly these things might be designed and crafted. Farms are zoos of a kind, and while most of the animals are involved in the earnest business of converting their meals into milk, meat and eggs, there are other players on the periphery, such as cats and dogs, and their roles blur the line between work and play.

Childhood in Cullane

One of the noticeable things about this photo is the lack of things, apart from a very utilitarian bucket, a tin can and some items drying on the wall. Subsistence farming in the rural Ireland of my childhood did not generate luxury. It wasn’t quite a cashless society, but there was little in the way of disposable income. Despite this, there was no hunger and neither was there material or spiritual poverty. Ghosts still existed and fireside stories about “the troubled times” and characters who “drank the farm” had the power to enchant — if one was disposed towards enchantment, that is. And I was.

Even the prosaic had charm. On the last night that I sat and spoke to my mother beside the fireplace, she told how a neighbour, Hanny Egan, assisted her with the knitting of jumpers. Going to a shop and buying clothing for children was still a novelty at the time. The money wasn’t there, anyway, so the alternative was to make the clothes oneself. Hanny Egan wore a long black coat and she would put a large ball of yarn in each pocket. As she walked to the village of Ballylanders and back, with her knitting needles in hand, she would cast on the stiches — one plain, one purl — and pass away the journey productively. Hanny specialized in the knitting of sleeves, which was quite tricky; my mother worked on the bodies of the jumpers, which required more exertion, and the two of them would then join up the parts over tea.

Love cannot always be articulate, but this act of love was one of many that made for a happy childhood and the creation of those jumpers says all that one needs to know about these people. Within their limited means, my parents did heroic things for their children. They were totally selfless. No holidays for them. No extravagances, either. There may not be much in the way of stuff in that photo but the things that are absent could not be bought nor captured by a camera.

Our next station in this series of meditations on 14 photographs is Farming.


The deep-fried comfort of Donkey Ford’s

Sunday, 2 February, 2014 0 Comments

It has been said that people in Limerick have intentionally injured themselves just so they could visit Donkey Ford’s fish & chip shop after having been discharged from the nearby St. John’s Hospital. Located on John’s Street in one of the city’s many rugged quarters, Ford’s offers greasy comfort at very affordable prices. For example, […]

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Welcome to Limerick

Saturday, 21 December, 2013 0 Comments

Given that we’ll be bound for Limerick later this morning, there can be no better way to start the day than with a sprightly slip jig from the Irish piping tradition in the form of O’Farrell’s Welcome to Limerick. The tune was published around 1800 in “O’Farrell’s Collection of NATIONAL IRISH MUSIC for the UNION PIPES, Comprising a Variety of the Most Favorite Slow & Sprightly TUNES, SET in proper STILE & TASTE with Variations.” Here, with variations, it’s interpreted by the tasteful Australian guitarist Steve Cooney.


Sixty years ago today

Monday, 18 June, 2012

“Monday for wealth, Tuesday for health, Wednesday the best day of all. Thursday for crosses, Friday for losses, Saturday no luck at all.” — Wedding day proverb. On Wednesday, 18 June 1952, Michael Fitzgerald and Catherine O’Donnell were married in the village of Lisvernane, County Tipperary. The ceremony was followed by a meal at the […]

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