‘…a good market for flesh and fish….’ Celebrating good food and drink in Midleton.

Main Street, Midleton, was designed as a market place - and with the Food and Drink Festival in September, it reverts to this function.

The broad and straight Main Street in Midleton was originally designed as a market place – and with the Food and Drink Festival in September, it reverts to this function.

Does anyone know how to clone a human being? I fear I may have to subject myself to the procedure this month. Tomorrow, Saturday 12th Sept, Midleton celebrates its annual Food and Drink Festival. The whole Main Street from the Courthouse to Brodrick Street will be closed off for the festival, which will spill over into Connolly Street. The festival actually started on Friday 4th September with Fishy Friday – an appropriate celebration of Midleton’s proximity to the sea and the fishing port of Ballycotton.  Wednesday 9th Sept saw the official launch banquet with a medieval feast in the Jameson Heritage Center. Tomorrow’s street festival is the main event.

What I suspect is that most visitors will not be aware that Midleton had a good reputation for produce as early as 1750. In that year, Dr Charles Smith published The Ancient and Present state of the County and City of Cork. This survey of the county included the remark that Midleton (or Middleton, as he wrote it) possessed a good market for flesh and fish. The remark was interesting in that it almost certainly reflected the reputation of the town’s produce at the time. Alas, in keeping with the eighteenth century tradition of emphasizing the importance of meat and fish, Smith does not discuss the vegetable produce of the town. One would give much to know what people thought of the local vegetables and fruit at the time.

The earliest list of grocers and food shops in Midleton dates from 1824 (Pigot’s Directory). One gets the impression that the listing may be incomplete. It lists just three bakers, two butchers, a couple of grocers….and eight or nine spirit dealers, which gives an idea of the priorities. There was one distillery (Hackett’s) in 1824. Market day was, of course, on Saturday and there were four fairs during the year.

MiddletonFoodAndWineFestival2013 Slater’s Directory of 1856 gives us more detail: eleven bakers, eight butchers (five on Charles Street – now Connolly Street), fifteen grocers, nine spirit dealers and nineteen public houses (pubs). The Murphy brothers ran the only distillery (Hackett’s had closed by 1850). In 1870 Slater’s listed fifteen bakers, eleven butchers (all on Charles Street except for one on Main Street) and twenty-two pubs. In 1881 there were just ten bakers, still eight butchers, thirty two grocers (!) and only nineteen pubs.

These changes reflected the changing economy of Midleton from 1824 until 1881. The directories also show how the railway completed in 1859 had a major effect on the shopping habits of the people with more imports being made more readily available.

The Ballymaloe Quartet. Rachel Allen, Myrtle Allen, Darina Allen and Rory O'Connell.

The Ballymaloe Quartet. Rachel Allen, Myrtle Allen, Darina Allen and Rory O’Connell.

Midleton’s modern obsession with good food can be traced to Myrtle Allen. The doyenne of modern Irish cuisine opened a restaurant in the dining room of her home, Ballymaloe House in 1964. Myrtle had the bizarre notion of serving food produced locally and in season instead of relying on imported, and out of season, ingredients. Nowadays this is considered to be a standard policy in the best restaurants. With cookery courses being launched a couple of years later, Myrtle and Darina O’Connell (now Darina Allen) have had an enormous influence on the Irish restaurant trade. But it went further than that – they also had a huge impact on Irish artisan food producers, making the Ballymaloe effect even more important in the whole world of Irish food.  A very good reason to celebrate good food and drink during the harvest season in Midleton..

Link: http://info660993.wix.com/midletonfoodfestival

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Markets and Fairs in early Stuart Imokilly and Barrymore.

With Cork, Youghal was the most important town in the county in 1600. It was the center of commerce in the eastern part of County Cork.

With Cork, Youghal was the most important town in the county in 1600. It was the center of commerce in the eastern part of County Cork. Its development was promoted by Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork for forty years until 1642.

One of the aspects of regional history in Ireland was the existence of Presidencies in the provinces of Munster and Connacht. These were subordinate authorities set up in the sixteenth century to impose greater governmental control over these provinces.They alleviated the burden of control placed on the Castle (the government in Dublin Castle) and allowed for more rapid response to local issues.

Shortly after the climactic Battle of Kinsale in 1601 and the ending of the Nine Year’s War in 1603, the Council of Munster (the Lord President of Munster and his chief officials) set to work on modernizing the regional economy. The key to this was the encouragement of a monetary economy based on licensed and regulated markets and fairs.  Margaret Curtis Clayton has done a splendid job of compiling the information on the markets and fairs that were newly licensed in Munster in the period 1600-1630. It should be noted that the establishment of a market or fair on someone’s property generated additional lucrative income and often enhanced an existing settlement or improved its economic prospects. The period from 1603 to 1642 was one of rapid economic change in south east Cork.

It’s worth noting that Chore Abbey (Midleton) had a market licence from 1608 renewed in 1624 – suggesting that the settlement that survived the dissolution of the Cistercian abbey was now thriving. The proximity of an annual fair in Castleredmond, first licensed in 1609, was a further boost to the local economy. In each case the licence was issued to the proprietor or landlord, who was then obliged to appoint a clerk of the market to regulate it. The proprietor also had to designate a place for the market or fair and ran a pie-powder court to settle disputes. (The name comes from the French term pied poudre, or dusty feet, for the court was a summary court conducted on the spot.) The proprietor had to pay an annual fee to the Crown for the licence and was entitled to keep the fees charged to stall-holders and the profits of justice from the pie powder court.  It is worth noting that fairs were often linked to church feastdays.

John Speed's map of Munster 1600-1611.

John Speed’s map of the province of Munster 1600-1611.

In this post our concern is the licensing of such markets and fairs in the south east Cork baronies of Imokilly and Barrymore.

Carrigtwohill: 5 Feb 1607/8. Fair – no details. Prop. David Barry, Viscount Buttevant. Renewed 1618, details lost.

Castleredmond: 24 June 1609. Fair on 3 May & 1 day following. Prop. Sir James Craig. Rent. 6s 8d Irish. Renewed, with one additional day, on 23 Dec 1624 in favour of Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, for a rent of 6s.8d. (Note: the date 3 May was the traditional Feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross.)

Chore Abbey (Midleton): 14 Oct 1608. Market on Saturday. Prop. Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald. Rent: 5s English. Renewed in favour of Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, on 23 Dec 1624, for a rent of 6s.8d.

Dangandonyvane: 25 Nov. 1606. Fair on Feast of St James (25th July) & 2 days following. Prop. Thomas FitzGerald. Rent not recorded.

Killeagh:11 July 1631. Market on Tuesday. Fairs on 1 June and 1 November each with one day following. Prop. William Supple. Rent not recorded.

Rostellan: 25 Nov. 1606. Market on Saturday. Prop. Thomas FitzGerald. Rent not recorded.

Youghal: 22 Dec 1609. Market on Wednesday and Saturday. Fairs on Eve of St Luke (18 October) & 3 days following and on the Feast of the Ascension (usually late May). Prop Youghal Corporation. Free of rent.

What is of interest are the two market days in Youghal and the two annual fairs there. Clearly Youghal was of major importance. Cork appears to have had a market every day until 1613 when a shortage of goods led to the market being restricted to Wednesday and Saturday. Also of note is the absence of any licence for a market in Cloyne, Ballinacorra, Mogeely or Ballymartyr (Castlemartyr). Nor is there any market on Great Island – the nearest one being in Carrigtwohill. The absence of a market in Cloyne suggests that Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald was wary of intruding on pre-existing market rights established by the bishops during the medieval period. The market in Carrigtwohill followed a tradition of markets going back to the 1200s. In respect of Chore Abbey (Midleton), it is interesting to note that Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, succeeded Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald as leaseholder of both the old monastic estate, and Castleredmond. FitzGerald had died in 1612.

Reference: Margaret Curtis Clayton: ‘Early Stuart markets and fairs in Munster, c1600-1630.’ Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, vol 115 (2010), pp 167-177.