Monks use Internet to market their bowls


The Benedictine monks of Co Limerick's Glenstal Abbey have turned to the World Wide Web to find a market for their traditional crafts, using a new Internet-based auctioning company to sell carved wooden bowls.

The bowls, one of which was presented to the Pope by the former president, Mrs Mary Robinson, are carved by Brother Ciaran Forbes, who sells them through Selfridges in London and the Simon Pierce Glass chain of US shops. But he has now gone online, auctioning his distinctive bowls through the new Irish company, The proceeds go to the upkeep of the 19th century monastery and boarding school.

The company's founder, Ms Claire Cronin, has a brother who attended the famous school as a boarder and who suggested that the Web would be a suitable outlet for the products, which range in price from about £30 to £1,000.

"I have been bowl-turning for the past 30 years," Brother Forbes said.

The auctioning company was launched at the beginning of this year after private financing of £1.5 million was raised. Based in Dun Laoghaire, it employs 15 people. It is closely modelled on the US company eBay, which Ms Cronin saw in operation while working in the US.

"We do not have inventory or logistics to deal with. We are really just a broker," she said.

Among the items which have come up for sale are a Mercedes disco bus used by U2 on the Zooropa tour, complete with a dance floor and sound system. Proceeds are going to charity and bidding has reached the £15,000 mark.

The Beanie Babies craze has also hit the Republic, and a selection of the soft toys are available on the site. Ms Cronin said the most popular items were travel tickets, computers and electronic equipment.

Also for sale are a New York lunch with Limerick author Frank McCourt in aid of the American Ireland Fund. For those unable to make the lunch, currently costing £480, Mr McCourt will be available aboard a QE2 cruise in July, introducing a screening of Angela's Ashes. The voyage is a snip at £1,800 sterling.