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Tag: Cork

Brexit and backstop, Britain and Ireland

Tuesday, 15 January, 2019

“The misunderstandings are too many,” noted the Irish writer Frank O’Connor, and he was convinced of where the blame lay. “Ultimately, perhaps, all the misunderstandings can be traced to sixty miles of salt water which stretches between Britain and Ireland.”

O’Connor was writing in in Cork in 1940 and, one hundred years earlier, Mr and Mrs Samuel Hall embarked upon their three-volume opus Ireland, its Scenery, Character, etc. Their journey, as we say today, began with a purgatorial crossing to Cork, and their thoughts pre-echoed those of O’Connor:

“It was not alone the miserable paucity of accommodation and utter indifference to the comfort of the passengers that made the voyage an intolerable evil. It was once our lot to pass a month between the ports of Bristol and Cork; putting back, every now and then, to the wretched village of Pill, and not daring to leave it even for an hour, lest the wind should change and the packet weigh anchor.

Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that comparatively little intercourse existed between the two countries or that England and Ireland were almost as much strangers to each other as if the channel that divided them had been actually impassable.”

The “wretched village of Pill” mentioned by the Halls there is actually Pillgwenlly, which is now a parish in the Welsh city of Newport. And Wales, as we know, voted for Brexit. The misunderstandings are too many.


Sweeney by Matthew Sweeney

Thursday, 9 August, 2018

On Sunday morning, in Cork, the poet Matthew Sweeney succumbed to a cruel ailment that causes its sufferers so much agony as it wastes away the human body irreversibly: Motor Neuron Disease. Matthew Sweeney was 66 when he died and his poem Sweeney hints at the heart-breaking destruction he experienced in his final year.

Sweeney

Even when I said my head was shrinking
he didn’t believe me. Change doctors, I thought,
but why bother? We’re all hypochondriacs,
and those feathers pushing through my pores
were psychosomatic. My wife was the same
till I pecked her, trying to kiss her, one morning,
scratching her feet with my claws, cawing
good morning till she left the bed with a scream.

I moved out then, onto a branch of the oak
behind the house. That way I could see her
as she opened the car, on her way to work.
Being a crow didn’t stop me fancying her,
Especially when she wore that short black number
I’d bought her in Berlin. I don’t know if she
noticed me. I never saw her look up.
I did see boxes of my books going out.

The nest was a problem. My wife had cursed me
for being useless at DIY, and it was no better now.
I wasn’t a natural flier, either, so I sat
in that tree, soaking, shivering, all day.
Everytime I saw someone carrying a bottle of wine
I cawed. A takeaway curry was worse.
And the day I saw my wife come home
with a man, I flew finally into our wall.

Matthew Sweeney (1952 – 2018)

Matthew Sweeney


The Galtees and the Irish apostrophe

Sunday, 10 June, 2018

Today’s climb of the Galtees, the Munster mountain range that encompasses Tipperary and Limerick, is in aid of the Mercy University Hospital Foundation, which does good work for the people of Cork and neighbouring places.

The Galtees

Punctuation note: When referring to the Galtees, there is no need for an apostrophe. In Ireland, though, the fact that the apostrophe is seldom used to form a plural noun in English, is ignored, generally, and the general punctuation rule that the possessive of a singular noun is formed by adding an apostrophe and s, whether the singular noun ends in s or not, is applied arbitrarily.


Hurling is their song and their verse

Sunday, 3 June, 2018

Splendid evening had by all in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, where Cork and Limerick delivered 70 minutes of epic hurling in front of 34,000 delighted spectators, for whom this uniquely Irish game is their song and their verse.

“I believe hurling is the best of us, one of the greatest and most beautiful expressions of what we can be. If you could live again you would hurl more, because that is living. Hurling is our song and our verse, and when I walk in the graveyard in Cloyne and look at the familiar names on the headstones I know that their owners would want us to hurl with more joy and more exuberance and more abandon than before, because life is shorter than the second half of a tournament game that starts at dusk.” — Dónal Óg Cusack

Hurling


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


One Ring to Rule Them All

Tuesday, 20 February, 2018 0 Comments

“Eight medals he has, a record unbroken
Of Cork hurlers he is surely the king
So now all together, one last rousing chorus
Three cheers for the maestro, the bould Christy Ring”

Christy Ring


Better the butcher than the meat

Saturday, 22 July, 2017 0 Comments

“Either you get eaten by a wolf today or else the shepherd saves you from the wolf so he can sell you to the butcher tomorrow.” — Ogden Nash

meat


Gin of the week: Blackwater No.5

Thursday, 13 July, 2017 1 Comment

Famed for its salmon runs, the Blackwater River rises on the Cork-Kerry border and flows east into Waterford before entering the Celtic Sea area of the Atlantic Ocean at Youghal. Along its meander, it passes by the town of Cappoquin, home of the Blackwater Distillery, which produces Blackwater No. 5, a recent addition to the Irish gin spectrum.

Before the botanicals, the optics. The elegant rectangular bottle comes with an embedded map of the region. This attractive detail is an argument for repurposing the bottle as a paperweight or a container for a sprig of juniper. And talking of juniper, it’s very up-front here, along with hints of lemon balm, lavender and lots of other delicate botanicals. The result is a subtle, serious gin that rewards regular tasting. Those looking for a refreshing twist on the traditional G&T might consider a decent measure of Blackwater No. 5 with a slice of pink grapefruit and a top-up of Poacher’s Well tonic water from nearby Wexford. Now we’re hurlin’, as they say in the sunny South-East.

Blackwater No.5


For sale: mannequin, one-armed recently.

Tuesday, 25 April, 2017 0 Comments

The famous six-word novel attributed to Ernest Hemingway reads like this: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” The Hemingwayesque mannequin shown here was spotted at the Castletownroche Car Boot Sale in County Cork, Ireland.

Castletownroche Car Boot Sale


Claud Cockburn’s Cork literary colony

Thursday, 2 February, 2017 0 Comments

At the height of the Spanish Civil War, George Orwell wrote Homage to Catalonia and in it he accused Claud Cockburn of being under the control of the Communist Party. Was the star journalist a Stalinist? The debate raged through the 1940s and when it became uncomfortable the suspected “Red” moved his family from England to Ireland and the Cockburns set up home in Youghal, County Cork, in 1947.

With a household to maintain and a dodgy reputation to contend with, Claud needed to be agile and he was. He created his own “literary colony” and proceeded to type a constant but uneven income stream under a variety of names. In his memoirs, he recalls a visitor to Youghal describing the hive of creative industry thus:

“He claimed to have met Frank Pitcairn, ex-correspondent of the Daily Worker — a grouchy, disillusioned type secretly itching to dash out and describe a barricade. There was Claud Cockburn, founder and editor of The Week, talkative, boastful of past achievements, and apt, at the drop of a hat, to tell, at length, the inside story of some forgotten diplomatic crisis of the 1930s. Patrick Cork would look in — a brash little number, and something of a professional Irishman, seeking, no doubt, to live up to his name. James Helvick lived in and on the establishment, claiming that he needed quiet and plenty of good food and drink to enable him to finish a play and a novel which would soon bring enough money to repay all costs. In the background, despised by the others as a mere commercial hack, Kenneth Drew hammered away at the articles which supplied the necessities of the colony’s life.”

And it was James Helvick who helped the family win the lottery, as it were, with the novel Beat the Devil. Helvick, aka Cockburn, met John Huston in Luggala and sold the film rights to the Hollywood director and this advancement from penury to prosperity is recalled by Claude’s late son, Alexander, in Corruptions of Empire: Life Studies & the Reagan Era. As we’ve been pointing out here this week, Luggala, the outstanding 18th-century Irish house and estate in County Wicklow, is now being offered for sale by Sotheby’s International Realty for $29 million.

What did Helvick/Cockburn do with the fat film cheque when it eventually arrived in Youghal via Luggala and Hollywood? Champagne and a bicycle were involved, as we’ll find out tomorrow.

Luggala


When Hollywood came to Cork

Wednesday, 1 February, 2017 0 Comments

On Monday and yesterday here, our topic was the impending sale of Luggala, the beautiful 18th-century Irish house in County Wicklow. Sotheby’s International Realty want $29 million for the estate, an incomprehensible sum for many people today and an unfathomable amount for the creative types who once found refuge in Luggala.

Claud Cockburn was one of these and his Wicklow adventures were recalled by his late son, Alexander, in Corruptions of Empire: Life Studies & the Reagan Era. Claude, author of Beat the Devil, met John Huston in Luggala and made a pitch for the novel’s screen potential. The Hollywood director was impressed and soon afterwards he made his way to Youghal, the ailing port on the Cork coast, where the Cockburns lived precariously:

“By the time Huston and his wife came down to Youghal to talk more about the screenplay he couldn’t read Beat the Devil on the phone, not ours at least, because it had been cut off for non-payment of bills. Telegrams shuttled back and forth between Youghal and Hollywood and finally the offer came: £3,000 for rights and screenplay, or a lesser sum up front, against a greater, but as yet insubstantial reward — the famous ‘points’ — in the distant future. My father naturally took the lump sum on the barrel, used some of it to plug the roof and appease the bailiffs and then went to work with Huston on the screenplay.

The film had a sumptuous cast: Bogart, Peter Lorrie, Gina Lollobrigida, Jennifer Jones, Robert Morley. When it finally got to Youghal there was a great to-do in the form of a grand screening at Horgan’s Cinema. The people of Youghal, not entirely without reason, found it incomprehensible but applauded heartily, none more so, I imagine, than the bailiffs and other representatives of the commercial sector of the town.”

But there was a fly in the ointment. As the film’s credits rolled, the screenplay was attributed to Truman Capote, “from a novel by James Helvick.” Who was this James Helvick and how was he related to Frank Pitcairn, Patrick Cork, Kenneth Drew and Claud Cockburn? Or were all they the same person? The answers can be found here tomorrow.

Beat the Devil