Irish Short Story Week Year Two
March 11 to May 1
Please consider joining us for Irish Short Story Week Year Two, now set to run until May 1. To participate all you need do is to post on one Irish Short story or a related matter and let me know about it. You are also welcome to guest post. You need not follow my schedule at all. I am updating all posts by participants periodically and at the end of the event I will do a master post spotlighting the blogs or writings of each participant and it will have a permanent place on the fixed pages below my header picture.
I think I have yet to post on a work by a writer from Northern Ireland but with Michael McLaverty I am moving to fix that hole. McLaverty (1904 to 1992) was born in County Monaghan and then moved as a child to Belfast where he spent the bulk of his life. He was a teacher and a principal in addition to writing two novels and a number of short stories about life in Northern Ireland.
"The Poteen Maker" is told in the first person by a man recalling an old teacher of his, (I confess I did not know that poteen is high potency alcoholic drink made from the first distillation of fermented mash in the process of whiskey making. All whiskey had to be taxed by the government and poteen was home made and untaxed). Making poteen was declared illegal in 1691 but that never stopped anyone. I have never experienced this but my guess is it packs a real kick and produces a mean hangover and is probably not real smooth. Brewing it was kind of a way an ordinary citizen could try to assert his independence from the British.
It is interesting to learn from the story what when on inside a small school with one room and one teacher. One day the boys come a bit early and they see the teacher boiling some brown liquid in a bunsen burner. The teacher says he is preparing for the class a demonstration of how to purify dirty water so the boys will know how to do this one day. Then of all the luck the district school inspector walks into the school and "what is going on". With a wink and without the boys ever the wiser the two men share the first shots of the poteen,
"The Poteen Maker" is very enjoyable story. I would happily read more of his work. I read this story in William Trevor's Oxford Book of Irish Short Stories.
|"No thanks, Mel promised me all the Jameson
I can drink"-Carmilla
|"Carmilla, have some poteen, one glass
The Ulster County historical society has a very informative article on McLaverty.