Day 66: Poi Joy

Fermoy is a town of around 6,000 residents on the Blackwater River in County Cork. Its Gaelic name, Mainistir Fhear Mai, means “Monastery of the Men of the Plain.” It was named after a Cistercian Abbey that was nearby from the thirteenth century until monasteries were dissolved during the reign of Henry VIII and their lands transferred to the king’s supporters.

Laetitia took her group to Ballyhooly Castle and on a hike in Castleblagh Woods. When they did their walkabout in Fermoy, Laetitia heard a story about a middle-aged woman from Fermoy who went to Hawaii and decided to stay there.

Went a spinster who lived in Fermoy
To Hawaii, she said, to try poi
And was modest and staid
Until she got leid
And went off in search of a boy toy.

Day 65: Tryst Mist

Laetitia and her group went to Ardglass in County Cork. It is a small village with the usual church, post office, a few stores, and a pub, all centered around the village green. In the center of the green was a statue of someone on a horse that was a favorite roosting spot for pigeons. Radiating out from the center were sidewalks lined with flowers, shrubs, and trees all arranged in an elegant and tasteful manner. Laetitia and her group stopped at the pub there on the way to Fermoy. The conversation with some local residents there centered on the green and how beautiful it was. What also emerged from the conversation was the observation that it was a favorite trysting place for teenagers and a funny story about an incident that occurred after the village installed lawn sprinklers. The story provided Laetitia with the limerick of the day.

There once was a young Irish lass
Who enjoyed making love on the grass
‘Til the sprinklers came on
And her erstwhile Don Juan
Ran quite nude through the streets of Ardglass.

Day 64: Swill Thrill

Watergrasshill is a small picturesque community of about 1,000 souls with an old stone church and several pubs. Its Gaelic name (Cnocan na Biolraighe) means little town of the water-crosses

When Laetitia and her group arrived there, a wake was in progress for Kathleen, a woman known for her hospitality, especially to bachelors. She fancied herself a fine cook, and several times each week had one or another bachelor from the town or countryside over for dinner. She had started this in the 1930s, long before the days when one could simply put some prepared food product in the microwave, and when cooking was mostly done by women. In those days, bachelors were generally believed to be congenitally unable to prepare decent food for themselves. Those who could afford it ate in pubs or restaurants, and those who could not had meager fare indeed.

Many of the bachelors were regulars and universally praised the food she prepared. However there was a bit of a discrepancy between the rave reviews her cooking received from her regulars and what the rest of the townsfolk observed. At parish church potluck dinners, she usually contributed soup and soda bread. The soda bread was so hard that some suspected that she had used a recipe for hardtack from the Napoleonic naval wars, and the soup was an unseasoned gruel of mashed root vegetables more fit for livestock than people.

There was occasional gossip about her in the town among groups of grinning men and groups of women with raised eyebrows, but there was a general consensus that her hospitality provided a public service. Laetitia talked to an elderly man who came out of the wake. He had been a frequent dinner guest for many years, and what he whispered became the subject of the day’s limerick.

A fine lady from Watergrasshill
Made root soup that resembled pig-swill
But the men who did dine
Pronounced it quite fine
For she made love with unsurpassed skill.

Day 63: Malt Fault

Today, Midleton is probably best known as the home of Jameson Irish Whiskey.  The Cork Distillers Ltd. facility in Midleton opened in 1825.  Jameson production moved there after the original Jameson facility in Dublin closed.

The distilled spirits known as Irish whiskey can be traced back to the twelfth century. The oldest surviving licensed distillery in the world is the Old Bushmills Distillery in County Antrim in Ulster, which dates back to 1608.

Briefly, the whiskey-making process involves soaking grain (traditionally barley) in water until the seeds begin to germinate. Once the grains have begun to produce sugars, but before they begin to sprout, the mixture is heated to stop the germination process. In Ireland, the heating process is done in ovens; in Scotland it is done over open peat fires giving Scotch whisky its distinct smoky taste. The product of this process is called malt. The malt is ground and put in vats with water and yeast to ferment. The beer that is produced by the fermentation process is then distilled to make whiskey.

Irish whiskey is distilled three times; Scotch whisky is distilled twice; Bourbon is distilled once. The most expensive whiskeys are made from pure barley malt. Less expensive whiskeys are usually made from blends of barley and more abundant (and thus cheaper) grains, such as wheat. The whiskey is then aged in wooden casks, often ones used previously for sherry. The whiskey is often enhanced by additives (usually trade secrets) that give each brand its distinct flavor.

Laetitia and her group did a walkabout in Midleton, followed by a distillery tour and whiskey tasting. During the tour, Laetitia overheard an argument between a father and his adult son that centered on the son’s poor taste in liquor. It was the source of the limerick of the day.

Said a Midleton dad, “It’s a shame, son
And there’s none but yourself for to blame, Son
Drinking bar Scotch and Bourbon
Is mighty disturbin’
In the town where they make pure-malt Jameson.”