Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Peculiar Case of Cork People.

A harrowing affliction. Note: Bruce Willis is not from Cork.

As another edition of The Late Late Show neared its finale, Ryan Tubridy busied himself in carrying out the final task of the show; the awarding of a prize for a viewer at home who has answered the selected question correctly, a well-oiled ritual carried out each week. It was a woman who had won this week and her name was Julie. As soon as Julie and Tubs had moved past the incipient congenial greetings, Tubs queried as to where Julie was from. "I'm from West Cork actually Ryan." That seemingly insignificant answer to an equally insignificant question actually troubled me. Well, troubled is the wrong word, I'd say more strangely amused me. For it almost unequivocally summed up the Cork people and their psyche. Let me explain..

It was the use of the word "actually". Why did Julie insist on using it? Tubridy had not accused her of being located in another county, he merely asked her where she was from. "West Cork" would have sufficed but she insisted on jabbing the apparently fatuous "actually" at the end of the sentence. For me, it wasn't fatuous or unintended, she was stamping her authority. 

"What a churlish question Ryan you foolish ninkenpoop. Where the fuck did you think I was from? ROSCOMMON?? Could you not detect from the sweet aura of my voice and the strong tone in my accent that I am from the most fabulously rebellious county in Ireland? For shame." This is what I believe she meant by the seemingly unassuming "actually".

Now it is possible that I am examining Julie's statement a tad too foreniscally but I feel that her terse retort is indicative of the attitude of the Cork people, the siege mentality that the county abides by. For Cork is no ordinary county; it is no Laois or Carlow or Fermanagh. Cork is a county of people who are loved and loathed in equal measure, a county that is the subject of much ridicule but that still retains an air of respectability, a county of (the langers will love this) rebels.

They're just a bit different, aren't they? Special one might say. From the People's Republic of Cork shenanigans to the national anthem of Cork, The Langer Song. They are the Americans of Ireland; loud, brash, afraid of anything non-domestic and thought to be unintelligent. They love to be noticed. It is a proud moment for Cork when a Cork-related story is the main headline on RTE News. It doesn't even matter what the story is, if it's related to Cork it has to be good. Cork people, naturally, claim that it is a moment that is too rare and symbolic of the anti-Cork bias abound in the Capital. Indeed, Dublin's status as the capital city of Ireland is rejected by Corkonians for Cork is apparently the "real capital".

A quality that almost all Cork people retain is the inability for any type of self-criticism or even assessment. Whether it's Roy Keane's unflinching self-assurance during and indeed after Saipan or even Stephen Ireland's refusal to apologise for his grandmother-related indiscretions five years ago, Langers have a thing about admitting when they're wrong (Well, Keane was partially right in my view but I am NOT getting into Saipan).

I have an anecdotal example to back up my claims. Cork folk, collectively as well as merely individually, have a propensity to ignore their (countless) misdemeanours. A few years ago I was in Cork City wandering around one of the markets that clutters the City centre. As I flicked through some of the t-shirts on display, one of the stalls was selling one particular piece of clothing that caught my eye. It was a green t-shirt with the faces of two of Cork's most revered sons, Michael Collins and Roy Keane, emblazoned across the front with the caption under reading "TWO CORK HEROES. BOTH SHOT IN THE BACK". Charming yet incontrovertibly puzzling. To the best of my knowledge, Michael Collins was shot in Cork by presumably a Cork person. You can say he was metaphorically shot in the back (He was physically shot in the head), many people would say he was betrayed by men whom he trained, but Cork people cannot exonerate themselves from any culpability with a paltry t-shirt. YOU shot him Cork. No one else beside you. YOU shot that particular Cork hero in the back. No point mourning him now, is there?

When I told this story to my Cork friend, let's call him Brendan Roche, he told me that it was frivolous as it's common knowledge in Cork that "It was a Kerry person who came over the border and shot Michael Collins, NOT a Cork person." Typical Cork behaviour. Admonishing themselves from any blame while flagrantly besmirching the good name of a superior county. 

Cork people like trouble too. Once upon a time, they didn't need to impudently chant "REBELS, REBELS" to inform people that they were a recalcitrant people; they showed it with actions. Cork was the county most active during the War of Independence and was also an Anti-Treaty stronghold. While nowadays Cork people don't usually organise ambushes (Unless dear old Paul Galvin is in town) or have their city burned by tans they still love to show off their insubordinate streak. 

The GAA players of the county have been involved in more than a few strikes in recent times. The aforementioned Roy Keane, de facto King of Cork, displayed a distinctly Cork style of rebelliousness during his playing career what with Saipan, Alf Inge Haaland and prawn sandwiches. Indeed, Stephen Ireland committed the most rebellious act of all by admitting he'd rather "shoot himself" than live in Cork. Claiming Cork is shit is even seen as rebellious by Cork people. And if Cork GAA, Roy Keane and Stephen Ireland have anything in common besides their birthplace it is indeed that they have all caused a bucketload of trouble in the last 10 years.

I have no beef with Cork. After reading this you may suspect that I hate Cork. I don't. I think Cork is a fantastic county with vibrant people and stunning scenery. It's just fun to mock (Hindsight note - "Vibrant people", what a horribly inane and bland statement). I'm from Kerry you see. We have this thing, us and Cork, we're not meant to get along. I'm meant to hate them. But I don't. Or do I? They're not as bad as Dublin... but they're no Kerry. My perplexing rhetoric surrounding my feelings regarding Cork encapsulates our feelings about the Cork people and county wonderfully - They're a bit odd. In a good way.

1 comment:

  1. Speaking of relatively well dressed, I remember when the brother came home to visit one  Summer, the early eighties it must must have been, as he was studying at Sadler's Wells at the time. He had dyed his hair a lurid red, and this at a time when lurid redness had not yet become commonplace. I had just come out of the Franciscan church, after having been to Saturday confession, and I could see him walking away down College street. As he passed each shopfront, I could see the shopkeepers and their assistants emerge onto the street to stare after him. Mind you, the fact that he was wearing a skirt might also have accounted for the curiosity he seemed to arouse. It was a rather simple, if elegantly cut skirt, in grey, if I remember, and he wore a matching set of leggings. He looked good. Those were the days.