Sir, – Mullingar Pewter is – or was – famous in Ireland and throughout the western world for its reproductions of images from the Book of Kells on goblets. I owned a number of them, but over the course of 30 years gave them all away. My favourites were the pewter goblets decorated with the symbols of the four Christian evangelists.
Last month I saw a new set of these goblets. I was at Dublin Airport, and decided to buy two of them: Matthew (the man) and Mark (the lion). I brought them to a clerk, who escorted me to the shop’s counter. She produced two boxes – “the boy”, she said, and “the bird”.
No, I explained, those are the symbols for St Mark and St Matthew – and neither of them is a boy or a bird. And the Book of Kells? No, these goblets were made in Mullingar, she said, not in Kells.
I have been a regular and frequent visitor to Ireland since my first year in Dublin in 1961-62. Ireland was Ireland then. Most of Ireland is now, it seems, a part of the loud chain-store commerce that we call western civilisation. That’s not for me. I don’t want to walk down the vulgar, noisy Grafton Street, or the cultural embarrassment called O’Connell Street.
If I come to Ireland again, I want to be dropped somewhere in west Donegal, up near Errigal, or out on the Kilmurvey end of Inishmore. Or maybe somewhere in Mayo or in Connemara.
Or should I just give up, and not come back? Then I can try to remember when Ireland wasn’t a shopping mall, full of generic clerks selling generic world goods and generic world souvenirs – boys and birds on genuine Irish pewter cups, and Irish T-shirts made in Singapore. – Yours, etc,
Prof BERT G HORNBACK,