We’re both looking at markets this week: Finola is concentrating on the delights of our local Christmas community fairs, while I am looking at the ‘big market’ further afield.
The Republic’s second largest city can trace its history back to a community of monks, scholars and scribes which St Finbarr established on the banks of the River Lee in the 6th century. The area was known as an Corcach Mór – ‘the Great Marsh’. This settlement became a notable centre of learning, giving rise to the phrase Ionad Bairre Sgoil na Mumhan – a motto adopted by the modern University College Cork as ‘Where Finbarr taught let Munster learn’.
First a town and then a city grew up around the marshes and in the 18th century large tracts of low lying land were drained and reclaimed, forming the area which is now the commercial centre of Cork, including Saint Patrick’s Street, the Grand Parade, Grattan Street and Cornmarket Street. In 1786 the Corporation of the City undertook to create here a new meat market ‘in the English style’. A grand opening took place on 1st August 1788. This was before the emerging United States of America had elected George Washington as its first President, and in the same year that Captain Arthur Philip’s First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay with its cargo of convicts – ‘The Founders of Australia’.
The English Market in Cork is an essential part of any visitor’s itinerary. Even the Queen went there for a look around during her Irish tour last year and reportedly was very impressed with it. We followed on last week, to visit the new Fresh from West Cork stall which has been set up over the Christmas period to sell the delicious produce which emanates from our small part of the world, and which has justly gained a country wide reputation. The stall is being ably run by Walter from Loughbeg Farm – just down the road from us, and it’s hoped that this trial period will result in Fresh from West Cork becoming a permanent fixture at the market.
It’s no longer just a meat market – you can find every variety of good food there, as these pictures hopefully show, and an excellent cafe upstairs. If ever you are passing through, don’t forget to call in.