My father-in-law, Geoff Cronin was a raconteur with a encyclopedic memory spanning his 93 years. He sadly died in 2017 but not before he had been persuaded to commit these memories of his childhood and young adulthood in Waterford in the 1920s to the 1940s.
The books are now out of print, but I know he would love to know that his stories are still being enjoyed, and so I am repeating the original series of his books that I posted in 2017. I hope those who have already read will enjoy again and that new readers will discover the wonderful colour of life in Ireland nearly 100 years ago.
Whiskey And Its Disciples – 1949
In the thirties you could get several kinds of whiskey in the pubs of Ireland but the brands which dominated the market were Powers, Jameson and Paddy. These were manufactured by three separate and distinct firms, Paddy being made in Cork and the other two in non-Cork locations, – far off places like Dublin.
Competition between the firms was lively and each had its own Travellers – nowadays called “Reps” – who covered the country booking orders, collecting accounts and most importantly, maintaining customer relations.
Brand loyalty was most marked in Cork and any self respecting Corkman would not be seen drinking anything but Paddy. Nevertheless, all three brands were widely sold because each one had a distinctive taste and a definite tradition. For example, Jameson was considered to be a sort of Protestant whiskey, Powers would be a good middle of the road Irish Catholic whiskey and Paddy was a CORK whiskey.
Of course, there were plenty, more than enough some would say, of Corkmen in Dublin and a Dubliner heard ordering a Paddy, maybe because he liked the flavour, knew in his heart that he ran a serious risk of being mistaken for a Cork man. Such was the frame which surrounded the following story told to me by a good Corkman at a late night drinking party in Dublin.
Three commercial travellers representing respectively Powers, Jameson and Paddy were in the habit of meeting in a Cork hostelry whenever their paths crossed on their regular journeys to that city. The spirit of the meeting was one of friendly rivalry and much useful information was exchanged – who was a good payer or a bad one, who was going where next week, what was happening within the industry etc. It was usually a short meeting, since each had his calls to do, and only one round of drinks would be bought, each taking it in his turn to buy. Needless to say, they all drank whiskey and, of course, each would be expected to drink his own product and support his own firm.
On this particular day, it fell to the Powers rep to stand the round of drinks and he stood up to the bar and ordered three half ones, a Power, a Jameson and a Paddy. But, as he finished, the Paddy rep said, “hold on a minute there, I’ll have a Jameson this time!”
Deeply questioning eyes impaled the Cork man as the drinks came to the table. Water was carefully added and the first sip was taken with a subdued, “Good Luck.” Glasses were put down and cigarettes lit in silence, all eyes still searching the Corkman.
A second sip was interrupted by the Powers man. “Be God, you’re a right man to be travellin’ for Paddy and you not even drinkin’ yer own product. What the hell are ye at at-all?”
The Paddy man downed the last of his Jameson and flicked his cigarette ash in the general direction of the ash tray before answering.
“Well now, I’ll tell ’oo. I have an appointment in ten minutes to meet a very important customer and I wouldn’t want to have the smell of drink offa me, goin’ in there!”
©Geoff Cronin 2005
About Geoff Cronin
I was born at tea time at number 12 John Street, Waterford on September 23rd 1923. My father was Richard Cronin and my mother was Claire Spencer of John Street Waterford. They were married in St John’s Church in 1919.
Things are moving so fast in this day and age – and people are so absorbed, and necessarily so, with here and now – that things of the past tend to get buried deeper and deeper. Also, people’s memories seem to be shorter now and they cannot remember the little things – day to day pictures which make up the larger canvas of life.
It seems to me that soon there may be little or no detailed knowledge of what life was really like in the 1930s in a town – sorry, I should have said City, in accordance with its ancient charter – like Waterford. So I shall attempt to provide some of these little cameos as much for the fun of telling as for the benefit of posterity.
Thank you for visiting today and I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse of Waterford in the 1930s and 1940s courtesy of Geoff Cronin. As always your feedback is very welcome. thanks Sally.