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Hello again from Ireland where the never-ending saga that is 'Brexit' continues to dominate the news here. With still no end in sight there is now a real fear that a 'hard border' may yet become a reality in Ulster.
This month we have another fine 'lyrical yarn' from Pat Watson as well as an explanation as to why there are so many Italian Chippers in Ireland!
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Until next time,
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'For 34 years I lived behind the Iron Curtain, so I know only too well what it means once borders vanish, once walls fall. We need to do everything to bring about a peaceful co-operation.'
Meeting with Irish political and business officials these words of support from German leader Angela Merkel have been widely interpreted as a sign of solidarity with Ireland, and especially with respect to the possibility of a 'hard border' around Ulster after Brexit.
The decision by the UK to leave the European Union has been plagued by infighting among members of the ruling Tory Party in Westminster. Vote after vote and proposal after proposal has been rejected by the British Parliament with many hard-core 'Brexiteers' seemingly happy for the UK to crash out of the EU, without any kind of a deal in place.
The deadline for leaving has again been extended with the British PM Theresa May hoping that she can somehow muster support from across the political divide by courting agreement from the Labour Party.
While there has been indecision and even chaos in Britain the signs from the EU regarding support for the Irish position are thus far more promising.
At her meeting with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar the German Chancellor was asked how the terms and spirit of the 'Good Friday Agreement' could be maintained:
'I heard that you have the same saying as what we say in Germany: 'Where there's a will there's a way'.'
The expansion of bicycle routes in Ireland continues to advance with the announcement that the long-awaited cross-Dublin cycle track is to finally go ahead.
The Liffey Cycle Route will run alongside the city river on both sides and will provide 5 Km of route from the East-Link Toll Bridge all the way along the Quays to Heuston Rail Station. Boardwalks for pedestrians will also be installed as part of the plan announced by the city planners.
Dublin City Council also operates a bike lending scheme whereby commuters can access bikes for a small fee at various stations around the city and return them to any other station when their journey is completed. The service is used by locals and tourists alike.
Cycle routes have really been expanded in Ireland in recent years with just about all of the major tourist sites offering cycling options, including the Ring of Kerry route, Blessington Greenway at Wicklow and the Inishowen cycle route in Donegal to name a few. The newer Waterford Greenway route is very well regarded, offers amazing views and utilizes 46Km of unused railway line from Waterford City to Dungarvan.
Distillers of Irish Whiskey have expressed their delight that the European Union has assigned a GI (Geographical Indication) to Irish Whiskey. The GI designation indicates that a product has a specific geographical location and is of notable quality. The GI has previously been applied to Champagne in France and to Prosciutto in Italy. Irish cream and Irish Poitin were also given the coveted GI assignation.
Carleen Madigan is a representative of the Irish Whiskey Association:
'"As sales of Irish whiskey continue to boom globally, we have seen a trebling in the complaints to the association regarding fake Irish whiskey around the world. The GI provides the strongest possible protection against these infringements and gives us the basis for enforcement action against misleading products.'
The GI status of Scotch Whiskey is now very much in question given the fact that the UK looks set to leave the EU.
In a first for Irish Whiskey distillers, Teeling Whiskey’s 24-year-old single malt has been named the 'World’s Best Single Malt’ at the 2019 World Whiskies Awards.
The founder of the Distillery, John Teeling, was naturally exuberant:
'To be honoured as the World’s Best Single Malt and in the process become the first Irish whiskey to ever have achieved such world-wide acclaim is very humbling and reflects the global resurgence and revival of both Teeling and Irish whiskey. We are now right back at the top table of global whiskey and we look forward to continue leading this new golden era for Irish whiskey.'
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While Ireland is known for many things including Shamrocks, Guinness and Blarney, it may surprise that the humble Irish chipper is regarded as being among the very best in the world. What is also surprising is that many are owned and operated by Italians!
According to the Irish Traditional Italian Chippers Association there are now over 200 Italian-owned Chippers in Ireland.
The first of his countrymen to set up in Ireland was Giuseppe Cervi who arrived in Dublin late in the 1880s. He worked as a labourer until he had saved enough to buy a hand-cart and cooker on which he could prepare and sell chips to the many locals leaving pubs at night. With his wife he established the first ever Dublin chipper on Pearse Street and is even credited with being the originator of the famous Dublin saying: 'a one and one' (meaning one fish and one chips portion). By the year 1909 there were 20 fish and chip shops in Dublin alone.
This new industry was certainly not confined to Ireland with the north of England having many more chippers than Dublin. Scotland became the undisputed centre of the trade with thousands of Italian chippers operating there by the time of the first war. Immigration from Scotland into Ireland and especially in to Ulster had continued during the eighteenth century and of course the Italian chippers arrived with them.
It should be noted that the most famous chipper in Ireland, Beshoffs, was set up by the Ukrainian Ivan Beshov who arrived in Ireland in the 1940s. He was the last survivor of the 'Mutiny on the Potemkin', a rebellion that broke out aboard the Russian battleship Potemkin in 1905, and was arrested in Ireland upon suspicion of being a German spy!
He proved his innocence of that charge and in a salt and vinegar covered irony his first chipper was destroyed by the German Luftwaffe who accidentally bombed the North Strand area of Fairview in Dublin in 1941. He relocated to the city centre where Beshoffs became a Dublin institution!
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'Gather up your cows and bring them home now,'
that's what Pakie said as he walked past very fast on his way home from work.
'But it's only six o'clock yet and I don't bring them home until eight.'
'There's lightning and thunder coming, so bring them home now and you might make it before the rain'.
I think he changed it to rain because he saw that I was frightened of the lightning and thunder. Then he hurried on walking very fast.
If he was hurrying like that it looked bad for me because I had farther to go than him and I had to get the cattle from the far end of the callow. If I ran very fast and beat them on with my stick I might make it.
Off I ran as fast as I could but the cows knew it was early and I had to run from one side of the field to the other beating them on one at a time as they thought I was daft bringing them home this early. There had been no wind all day but now there was a sort of strong whirlwind, warm and blustery, sort of going all directions at once. Was this a fairy blast? It certainly was eerie.
Then I heard the first rattle of thunder rolling up from the bottom of the sky to a spot over Lennon's shop. I had to pass that way so I would meet the shower on the road. Then there was a great zigzag flash of lightning, that must be fork lightning and fork lightning is more dangerous. Oh! Oh! The thunder was rolling up the sky again, higher and nearer this time and much, much louder.
I had barely got the cattle out on the road when the rain started, huge drops, bigger than I'd ever seen before. The lightning flashes were one after another now and the thunder rolled one on top of the other. I beat the cattle into a run but I could not hear myself shouting at them with the noise of the thunder. Then the rain was running down my face so fast that I could not draw my breath without turning my face to the ground to keep the stream of water off my mouth and nose. My braces began to stretch, as my old trousers got heavy with water. I was the third person to grow into these trousers and the many patches on the backside were now making it very heavy. That's what comes from sliding down the hay-shifter.
This morning the dry sand was running between my toes but now the road already had a sheet of water, deep enough to cover my toes. Lucky I was in the bare ones, (wearing no footwear). As we started up the hill to the trees the water got deeper under my feet, it was up to my ankles now and the torrents were tearing the gravel from under my feet and the lightning was very near. The thunder was now a tearing sound and I could smell the raw sulphur smell of the lightning.
Would the next flash hit me? I was seven years old and I had just made my First Communion. I would say my communion prayers.
I give Thee my body that it may be chaste and pure. I think chaste means clean and even behind my ears is clean now with all the heavy rain and my feet, which are always dirty, are definitely washed now.
I give Thee my soul that it may be free from sin. There's a cow-dung after passing in the torrent but it's washed away now. I can't think of any sins now so I suppose I'm all right.
I give Thee my heart that I may always love Thee. I suppose I do love You. You look a nice little fellow in your Mother's arms.
I give Thee every breath that I shall breathe, 'as if I could stop' Hadn't I to turn my face to the road a minute ago to get my breath. And especially my last - maybe this is my last if the next flash hits me. I might turn into a little cherub and I could fly above the cows and beat them on. But then I'd be naked and the people in the shop would laugh at me.
I give Thee myself in life and in death that I may be Thine forever and ever. What am I talking about? Aren't You already in total charge already? Isn't it You who makes the lightening and thunder and the rain and everything, You can do what You like so I might as well trust You?
I didn't know that the shop was full of people crying with fear and saying the rosary. Jack who was standing looking out the door saw me and shouted, come out ye bunch of cowards and see this.
Faces and more faces appeared at the door and windows. Some even came out in the rain. They were laughing and crying at the same time. How was I to know that the weight of the rain had pulled all the patches off my trousers and that my backside was looking out?
I was ready to die a minute ago anyway, so what did I care! I laughed too and walked on with my cows. I would never again fear death or people laughing at me.
'The Thunder Storm' is one of sixty lyrical yarns from 'Original Irish Stories' by Pat Watson, Creagh, Bealnamulla, Athlone, Ireland.
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