Archive for the ‘Cork’ Category

County Cork

Posted: October 14, 2012 in Cork
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I decided to take on Cork straight off. I knew it was the largest county by land mass but also the area that divides opinions most. They’re a bit like brown sauce. Some love it and others hate it. They don’t seem to just exist inoffensively like Leitrim or Carlow. Sort of the Simon Cowell of Ireland. Or is it Louis Walsh? Well, that’s what I was to find out.

Cork. Like or Loathe?

Before getting the plane down there, I decided to do a bit of research. Cork got it’s name due to its geographical position. Because all rivers in Ireland run from north to south due to the magnetic pull of the south pole, all waters found themselves being emptied out into the English Channel through the Cork shoreline. The Irish government at the time took the decision to plug all the water outlets in the county by using massive corks so that Ireland kept some water for itself. Initially it was known as ‘Ireland’s Cork’ and eventually over time, due to wear and tear, ‘Cork’.

Ireland’s Cork

Cork are famously known as the rebel county. The origins of this are rather murky. The most likely reason for the nickname is after the Revolutionary Elite Brigade to Eradicate Limerick Supremacy (R.E.B.E.L.S.), a paramilitary group formed in 1788 after Limerick  threatened to carry out their land-claim mission by courting and impregnating Cork women, set up home in Cork and raise their children as Limerick men and women. The Rebels won the day by dressing and washing better, in the process wooing their own women first.

I am big into rivers and lakes and my first port of call was to straddle the River Bandon. It rises in the Shehy Mountains before ending up in Kinsale. One of the towns it flows through is Bandon Town itself. I stayed there for one night. The most remarkable aspect to Bandon was the colour scheme for the housing. There is an unwritten agreement that every house is painted either red, green, yellow or orange. Some have attempted to display individuality to their own detriment. A Clare blow-in, in 1996, decided to paint his house blue. Within a day his dog was dead, his cats missing and his car was graffitied ‘Blue, my hole’. He moved back to Clare within a week.

Bandon’s strict colour scheme

Bandon was discovered by an English undertaker in 1604. He found that only three people lived in the town and was covered by branches and weeds. He cleaned it up and moved all his family over from England, claiming that ‘no catholic may reside in this town’. When a catholic did eventually settle in 1821 they accepted he wasn’t too bad as he sold cheap coal, had good-looking daughters and the ban was lifted.

I followed the river down to the historic town of Kinsale. We’d all read about the Flight of the Earls, the last time a handful of ancient clansmen set foot in Ireland before going off on holidays in Spain and Italy. I managed to get talking to a pub owner about this and he says it was his ancestor who spilled the beans to the English that the Irish and Spanish were waiting on an ambush. I asked if he felt embarrassed by this and he laughed, saying them northern hoors were better off flouncing about with their mad accent and marching in central Europe. He claimed his ancestor got a bottle of Newcastle Ale for his treacherous behaviour which had inspired this man to set up a pub, keeping the family influence alive in Kinsale.

Gaelic Ireland sold for this

My final port of call was in Cork City itself. This was a most interesting visit. I was unaware of the Dublin/Cork rivalry in all aspect in Irish life here. The rebel locals refuse to eat anything made or packaged in Dublin. Some retailers go as far as to ask the lorry driver if he drove through the capital. If he answers in the affirmative the product is rejected and the lorry burned to the ground. It seems to be a cold war. On the outside they smile and nod at each other but deep down there appears to be a deep resentment in Cork over the whole ‘capital’ tag. I happened to use the word ‘captial’ instead of Dublin when chatting to the bar manager in their biggest pub. I was promptly refused another drink. It cuts deep. This was my brown sauce moment. I could either tell them to wise up and accept the location of the nation’s maiden city or feel their sympathy. I chose the latter. Cork is a vibrant city free from the class divides of Dublin. In Cork, everyone is working class and look poor.

A Cork family, yesterday

Cork is a place full of character and story. Every bend in the road has a memorial to someone who was ambushed less than 100 years ago. They’ve seen the worst of the internal wars. They’ve contributed to the All-Ireland Football Final trophy in Sam Maguire, a native of Dunmanway though you wouldn’t know it. The Bandon river brought me through Dunmanway. I had to ask a few people about Maguire before I got an accurate answer. Maybe they thought I was a British spy. I liked Cork. Its people are passionate and unreasonable. They have arrogance and humility in equal amounts. A bit like the Dubs. More Louis Walsh I think.