Don’t Forget Us: The Cratur – A story from this month’s issue of the Ohio Irish American News

Don’t Forget Us: The Cratur
by Lisa O’Rourke

After watching a rural veterinarian revive a dying lamb with a drop of the “cratur”, you would have to wonder, what exactly is that “cratur” stuff? The lamb was very grateful for it anyway. Cratur is a euphemism for whisky, but I have heard it used more often for Poitín, pronounced (put-cheen).

“Truely a spiritual thing that the Irish did long ago when they trapped the pure and magical of nature to create from sunshine and rain, in the mountains and valleys, the original treasured spirit “Potcheen””.

The above quote is from a legal distiller of Poitín, the Bunratty Winery in Ireland. Poitín is the Irish equivalent of the mountain moonshine of the United States. Like the US moonshine, it has been mainly illegal to produce and possess. Also like the moonshine of the US, it is made and found mainly in the remote mountainous areas of the country and is something that is mentioned only discreetly amongst acquaintances.

When I first visited Ireland, I never heard anyone talking about it. Like many things, it was something of the past, and not something in which people showed much pride. Just like here, it has some connotations of a past that is less than educated. However, I would occasionally hear an older person say that many things could be cured with a “drop of the cratur, from arthritis to the common cold.

The first poitín that I was exposed to was presented one cold evening during Christmas, while my husband and I were visiting in Connemara. It was taken from an unmarked bottle stored at the back of a kitchen cabinet. The lady of the house admonished the husband for revealing that they kept such thing in their house, but we reassured them that we were not going to expose them. I was offered a glass. Just smelling it was enough to make me fear for the survival of my eyebrows, I was not about to ingest it! My husband happily had one glass, but that one glass was enough for all.

Time Magazine placed it at number one in its “Top 10 Ridiculously Strong Drinks” list in 2010. According to the magazine, poitín could reach 95% alcohol by volume. Other sources state that it comes in at anywhere between 45% -90% alcohol by volume.

I heard a story during my recent visit to Connemara. It was about a young man whose grandfather was a rather infamous poitín maker in his day. He was caught by the local guards during their pursuit of a dangerous criminal. The guards saw his still and some bottles hidden on the property. The grandfather displayed intelligence and bravery and helped to apprehend the criminal. The guards felt that they could not prosecute the man for his still under those circumstances.

They actually tried to recruit him to the guarda force at that point. The grandfather realized that his lack of literacy in English anyway would make that impossible since he would be unable to write reports, so he declined the position. He was allowed to continue his production unhindered, and the essence of his recipe has survived and been passed down and perpetuated through the generations. The young man who was at the center of the story is getting ready to begin legal, craft-style production of the grandfather’s recipe.

What is happening in Ireland is much like what has happened here; people are realizing that some of the products that they found backward or old-fashioned in the face of modern mass-production actually have value. There has been an impressive food revival, especially in West Cork, where they are making things like handmade cheese and sausages.

Anyone who believes that food in Ireland is not good really needs to improve where they travel. Organic is not a necessary label with many of these producers since they were never anything else. Along with food, there is also a craft beer and cider revival going on around the country, and again, just like here in the US, is very popular with the younger crowd. So, poitín was inevitably next on the list.

The history of poitín is probably as long as that of the country itself. The term poitín comes from the Irish word for small pot, which describes what the mixture would have been made in. A law was passed in 1661 placing a tax on spirits made for personal consumption. The law was reinforced in 1760 with another law that made it illegal to operate a still.

Poitín was made in rural areas, mostly in the mountains and places that would have been difficult to get to. Stills were often put on land borders so that one person could blame another for the still and its products. Just like the moonshine operations here, smoke was often a give-away that something illegal might be “cooking”, so the windy Connemara weather provided a good disguise for the stills.

Poitín, however, has had a bigger battle to fight. Due to the strength of the drink, there are many stories of people becoming very ill after drinking it, with even blindness having been reported. After my experience with it, the idea of someone becoming sick after drinking it seems likely but I have never heard of anyone actually losing their sight.

Poitín is also not consistently made from any one product. It could be made out of things like barley, potatoes or apples; whatever someone had plenty of. With the mix of ingredients and makers, the quality of poitín varies greatly. Yet there are families who have a reputation with the locals for making a batch of reliable quality.

So now poitín, the old-wives cure for arthritis and colds, is starting to become respectable. The families, who have had underground production for generations, may be the ones to profit finally from their grandfather’s secret recipe. The European Union has sanctioned that only poitín made in Ireland can be called that, so if you see it in a bar or liquor store, you know that you are getting the “pure drop” that is in so many songs and stories.

Quote from:

Other sources used:

Time, “Top 10 Ridiculously Strong Drinks” Nov. 16, 2010“How poitín went from illegal moonshine to being sold in Tesco” Nov.17, 2013.



A Letter from Ireland – A Story from this Month’s Issue of the Ohio Irish American News

by Cathal Liam
“…but the fools, the fools, the fools! — they have left us our Fenian dead…”

Once again, those hallowed, compelling words filled the air. They echoed among the gravestones in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery as they once did exactly one-hundred years ago.

Now, on a fine summer’s morning last month, a special ceremony was re-enacted honouring the burial of a famous Fenian, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, a man who’d suffered great hardships at the hands of his English jailers. But despite his life’s misfortunes, he managed to overcome each adversity while keeping the dream of Ireland’s freedom alive in his heart.

This tribute marks the first of a yearlong series of forty-some State ceremonies celebrating Ireland’s 2016 Centenary Programme. Rossa, an Irish revolutionary, was a 19th-century Fenian who’d fought long and hard to see Ireland free. His life and subsequent death became a symbol for many Irish nationalists and revolutionaries the world over. His funeral, organised by the Irish Republican Brotherhood [IRB] in support of the newly formed Irish Volunteers [1913], was, in effect, a call to arms. It was IRB’s wish to prepare the Irish people for an upcoming rebellion.

In the presence of the Irish Defence Forces’ 6th Infantry battalion, Ireland’s present-day President, Michael D Higgins, led the official State commemoration in Glasnevin. He was accompanied by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys.

Michael D’s stirring words captured the attention of the thousands who’d gathered to witness the observance. “Even 100 years after his death his name is synonymous with the Fenians and with Irish Nationalism. The liberation of his country became his life’s ambition. His funeral remains one of the pivotal moments in Irish history and was an occasion that would be hugely instrumental in shaping the future of our nation.”

O’Donovan Rossa was born in West Cork in September 1831. In the 1850s he moved to Skibbereen, became a shopkeeper and founded the Phoenix National and Literary Society, a republican front-organisation aimed at wrestling Ireland’s freedom from Britain, by force, if necessary. His Phoenix Society soon merged with the newly established IRB in 1858.
Predictably, Rossa’s anti-British activities saw him arrested in 1865. Charged with high treason, he was sentenced to penal servitude for life in England. But, after enduring five-plus years of tortuous confinement, he was deported to the United States on condition he never return to Ireland.

Now ensconced in New York City, he joined forces with friend John Devoy and actively supported Clan na Gael while continuing to fundraise for Ireland’s cause. Despite years of personal disagreement and turmoil, he earned the name ‘Fenian Flame,’ a man who’d dedicate his life to Irish independence.

In June 1915, death claimed him at eighty-three while still residing in his adopted city. When word arrived in Dublin of his death, Tom Clarke, later one of the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation and then-leader of the IRB, wrote to Devoy. He instructed him to ship Rossa’s body back home, as he quickly realised Rossa could fulfil one last undertaking for his beloved country. Promptly going to work, the IRB began organising a public funeral scheduled for 1 August.
Concurrently, Clarke started casting about for someone to deliver a powerful eulogy. Despite some misgivings, he chose Pádraig Pearse. After discussing his intentions with the Irish schoolmaster, Clarke directed Pearse to “Make it hot as hell!”, and that’s exactly what the burgeoning author and revolutionary did.

Thus, on 1 August, Pádraig Henry Pearse stepped up before O’Donovan Rossa’s grave and delivered what many believe to be Ireland’s Gettysburg Address.
Among his carefully chosen words, Pearse said, “We stand at Rossa’s grave not in sadness but rather in exaltation of spirit that it has been given to us to come thus into so close a communion with that brave and splendid Gael.”
Later, he stated…
[Speaking of Glasnevin] ”This is a place of peace, sacred to the dead, where men should speak with all charity and with all restraint but I hold a Christian thing, as O’Donovan Rossa held it, to hate evil, to hate untruth, to hate oppression; and, hating them, to strive to overthrow them. Our foes are strong and wise and wary; but, strong and wise and wary as they are, they cannot undo the miracles of God who ripens in the hearts of young men the seed sown by the young men of a former generation.”
Then, in conclusion, he asserted…
”Life springs from death; and from the graves of patriot men and women spring living nations. The Defenders of this Realm have worked well in secret and in the open. They think that they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have foreseen everything, think that they have provided against everything; but the fools, the fools, the fools! — they have left us our Fenian dead, and, while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.” [The original handwritten script is on display at the Pearse Museum, St. Enda’s, Rathfarnham, Dublin]
But before I end this letter, I thought I’d include a personal remembrance. Back in the early 1990s, while attending the Michael Collins Annual Commemoration at BealnaBlath in West Cork, I met an old farmer. As we talked, the name O’Donovan Rossa came up. He said, “Let me tell you a story about him. Back in those days, it was customary for the expectant woman to have the baby in her family home. So Rossa’s mother, then living in Reeanascreena and knowing her time was near, began walking to her parent’s farm in Roscarbery. Unfortunately, she missed-timed the birth. Alone and squatting down by the side of the road, little baby Rossa was born. Having delivered, she gathered up the child in her arms and continued her walk. To this day the villages of Reeanascreena and Roscarbery both claim O’Donovan Rossa as theirs.”


God bless,



100+ things to do to ‪#‎LiveMoreLifeBeMoreIrish‬ this weekend and this month, from your Ohio Irish American News:

100+ things to do to #LiveMoreLifeBeMoreIrish this weekend and this month, from your Ohio Irish American News​:

Out & About Ohio September 2015

Famine Memorial Mass
19th – Outdoor Mass at the Greater Cleveland Famine Memorial (across from Flat Iron Café), 5:00 p.m. All are welcome to remember those who gave so much, for us.

Safety Forces Appreciation Music Rally & Clam Bake
12th – Sea of Blue​ / NEO Fallen Hero Fund Present Jacobs Pavilion​ at Nautica, 6:00 p.m. w/ Manic Episode, Brigid’s Cross​, Erin Viancourt, Entandre, Angel P. Only $5 admission; win a Harley Davidson, Door Prizes, Cash Prizes, Vendors & More.


Brooklyn – The Hooley House – Brooklyn​!
4th – The New Barleycorn​, 11th – Carlos Jones, 18th – The Players Club, 25th – Collage. 10310 Cascade Crossing, Brooklyn 216-362-7700.

Cincinnati – Irish Heritage Center of Greater Cincinnati​
3rd – Blue Rock Boys, 15th – We Banjo 3! 17th – Mick & Friends, 18th – Irish Filmmaker Maurice Fitzpatrick shows his documentary of Brian Friel’s “Translations”. Teas/Library /Genealogy Detective/ all three by appointment. Irish Heritage Center 3905 Eastern Avenue 513.533.0100.

ALL under Cleveland;
The Harp​
2nd- Lonesome Stars, 4th – Irish Session 8pm, 5th – The Porter Sharks​, 9th – Chris & Tom, 11th – Brent Kirby​, 12th – Chris Allen​, 16th – Lonesome Stars, 18th – The Old Pitch, 19th – Fior Gael, 23rd – Chris & Tom, 25th – Kristine Jackson​, 26th – Bill Fox & Rob Bliss, 30th – Lonesome Stars. 4408 Detroit Road, 44113
Live music entertainment every Sunday: 6th – Holleran’s Traditional Irish Session, 13th – Fifth Annual Oyster Fest – Live Entertainment all day including The Boys From The Boys from the County Hell​, 27th – Chris Allen. Traditional Irish Session 1st Sunday of ea/month, Happy Hour Monday-Friday 4 to 7. 1306 West 65th Street Cleveland 44102 216-281-6500

13th - 5th Annual Oyster Fest @ Stone Mad
13th – 5th Annual Oyster Fest @ Stone Mad

Flat Iron Cafe​
4th – Chad Hoffman, 11th – No Strangers Here, 18th Irish Songs – Donal O’Shaughnessy​, 25th – Cats On Holiday 1114 Center St. Cleveland 44113-2406 216.696.6968.
Treehouse Bar​
6th – Angry Young Men, 13th – Matt Miller; 20th – OKTOBERFEST w/ The Chardon Polka Band (4pm show on the patio); 27th – Kristine Jackson. 820 College Avenue, Cleveland, 44113
PJ McIntyre’s​
2nd – Monthly Pub Quiz, w/ Mike D, 4th – Burning River Sound, 5th – Burning River Sound, 12th – Charlie in the Box, 17th – One Shot Paddy w Gary Garry Gormley​, 18th – New Barleycorn, 19th – Marys Lane​ /2 Way to St. Patrick’s Day Party / 8 Year Anniversary Party w/ comp food, drink specials, 25th – Westies, 26th Carlos Jones.
Don’t forget T-Shirt Tues: wear any PJs T-Shirt get 15% off bill! Whiskey Wed: ½ off every whiskey in the house. Thurs – Craft Beer $2.50. PJ McIntyre’s is a Local 10 Union establishment. Home of the Celtic Supporter’s Club and the GAA. Book all your parties & Events in our Bridgie Ned’s Irish Parlor Party Room. 17119 Lorain Road, 44111. 216-941-9311.
Flannery’s Pub​
4th – Austin “Walking” Austin Walkin’ Cane​, 5th – The Swap Meet, 11th & 12th – The New Barleycorn, 18th – Kristine Jackson, 19th – Derek Davis, 25th – The Bar Flies, 26th – Brent Kirby. 323 East Prospect, Cleveland 44115 216.781.7782
Music Box Supper Club​
Summertime on the Riverfront concert series every Thursday through Sunday 3:00 – 6:00 pm, including Irish Music Sundays, features free live music, rain or shine with an outdoor oyster bar and great craft beer specials. Free admission, bands perform outside on riverfront deck, weather permitting. 6th – FINAL Irish Sunday w/ The Portersharks. Labor Day Weekend blowout! 1148 Main Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44113.


Avon Lake
Ahern Ahern Catering & Banquet Center​
Ahern Banquet Center is booking weddings and special events. Call Tony Ahern / Lucy Balser @ 440-933-9500. 726 Avon Belden Rd, Avon Lake 44012.

Irish American Club East Side, Inc​
11th – Mary Agnes Kennedy​, 26th – Fall Fest w/ Gary Gormley, Portersharks, Marys Lane, Loch Erie, No Strangers Here. IACES 22770 Lake Shore Blvd. Euclid, 44123. 216.731.4003

Logan’s Logan’s Irish Pub​
Trad Sessiún 3rd Wednesday. 414 South Main Street, Findlay 45840 419.420.3602

Plank Road Tavern​
Open Sessiún Every Thursday 7 – 10. $3 Guinness and Jamieson. 16719 Detroit Avenue, 44107

Medina / Montrose
Sully’s Irish Pub​
4th – High Strung Irish, 5th – One Shot Paddy, 11th – Marys Lane, 12th – Mossy Moran​, 18th – The Island Doctor, 19th – The New Barleycorn, 25th – Ray Flanagan & the Associates, 26th – Octoberfest w/ the Polka Pirates. 117 West Liberty Medina, 44256
Hooley House Hooley House – Montrose​
11th – Pieces of Eight, 18th – Top Dog. 145 Montrose West Avenue Copley, Oh 44321 (234) 466-0060

Hooley House – Mentor​
4th – Almost Famous, 11th – Abby Normal, 18th – Jukebox Heroes, 25th – Cocktail Johnny. Every Tuesday – Open Mic w Nick Zuber​, Every Wednesday – Trivia Night. 7861 Reynolds Rd Mentor (440) 942-6611.

Olmsted Twp
West Side Irish American Club​
9/20 – Annual Clambake, 10/9 – Ladies Reverse Raffle, 10/25 – Pig Roast
11/8 – Fall Card Tournament, 12/11 – Willoughby Brothers​ Christmas Dinner/Concert. Great live music and food in The Pub every Friday. WSIA Club 8559 Jennings Rd. 44138 440-235-5868.

Hooligans Irish Pub, Put-in-Bay​
5th – The 815’s, 26th – ½ Way to St Patrick’s Day w/traditional music, bagpipes, & more! Live entertainment every Sunday 10:30am-1:30pm, Wednesday 4-6: Iseult O’Connor on fiddle & guitar. Sundays open early w/ Irish Breakfast. Whiskey Wednesdays w food & drink specials all day. 421 Co Rd 215, Put-In-Bay, OH 43456 (419) 285-8000.

Valley City
Gandalf’s Pub​
5th – Shady Drive, 12th – Ed Feighan, 26th – 1st Annual Clambake! w/ music by Charles Geil & His Ghost Band. Great food, atmosphere, staff and now open, our Patio! 6757 Center Road Valley City, 44280

The Hooley House – Westlake​
4th – Bluestone Union, 11th – BIG IN JAPAN​, 18th – School Girl Crush, 25th – Sunset Strip. 24940 Sperry Dr Westlake 44145.
(440) 835-2890

Shamrock Club Events
Happy Hour every Friday from 5-7pm! 60 W. Castle Rd. Columbus 43207 614-491-4449
Tara Hall​
Traditional Irish music w General Guinness Band & Friends 2nd Friday 8:00 – 11:00pm. No Cover. Tara Hall 274 E. Innis Ave. Columbus, 43207 614.444.5949.

Traditional Social Dance for Adults: All are welcome to learn and have fun
Tuesdays 8-10 pm, set dancing lessons, St. Clarence Church, North Olmsted
Wednesdays 7-9 pm, set dancing lessons, Irish American Club – East Side
Thursdays, September 3, 10, 24, 7-9 pm, West Side Irish American Club
Ceili Mor! Sunday, 10/11, 4 – 8 pm, music by The Kilroys, $10, kids free.
For information, contact

Ongoing Traditional Irish Sessiúns – Bring your instruments and play along!
• Akron Hibernian’s Ceili Band Sessions, Wednesdays 7:30 pm. Mark Heffernan Div 2 Hall 2000 Brown St, Akron 330-724-2083. Beginner to intermediate
• Bardic Circle @The Shamrock Club of Columbus Beginner – friendly, intermediate level Irish session meeting every other Thursdays 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm
• Plank Road – Every Thursday 7 – 10. All ages and experience welcome. 16719 Detroit Road, Lakewood, 44107
• The Harp – 1st Friday of every month, 9pm
• Logan’s Irish Pub – 3rd Wednesday of the month, 414 S. Main St., Findlay, 7:30 pm
• Oberlin’s Traditional Irish Session – 2nd Monday of the month 7 – 9 Slow Train Café, 55 East College St., Oberlin. Informal all experience welcome:
• Tara Hall -Traditional Irish music w General Guinness Band & Friends 2nd Friday 8:00 – 11:00pm. 274 E. Innis Ave. Columbus, 43207 614.444.5949.

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Big Bang! A Story from this month’s issue of the Ohio Irish American News

Editor’s Corner:

Talk about ending summer with a bang! Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival then the Midwest GAA Championships left me feeling immersed, both in the ancient feeling that being Irish graces upon us all, and in a new feeling of vibrancy and sustainability for the events I love with all my heart. Cleanup is as urgent; I was sorry to have to Miss Dublin Irish Fest, but heard it was a blast.


The big bang was festifying and the Fields of Glory, in all its glory, under stern but legacy’s approving eyes. This generation leaves judgments checked at the door, not care about your sex or sexual preference, your race or your religion, your health or your hipness; they all hold the same position in my heart – irrelevant. What is relevant, is what you accomplish – it is the only criteria that matters.

Within, there is a bit of history with Mike Finn’s Illuminations: The Battle of Yellow Ford and Anne Waters’ 100th Commemoration, a bit of sports with Fields of Glory and the coming Gaelic sports U.S. National Championship, plus David McDonnell’s Our Irish Man on the Street’s World Cup Preview; a bit of humor and mental health with Dick Lardie’s Living with Lardie, Maureen Ginley’s Growing up Irish and Sue Mangan’s committing to living as a child in Blowin In’; mental tests in Linda Burke’s Pubs Around Ireland Puzzle and Irish language Cleveland’s monthly Speaking Irish lesson; and mental madness as Festival Focus features 3 big fests to come this month in Pittsburgh, Muskegon and Kansas City – all festivals going and growing strong.

Terry Kenneally’s Off the Shelf book review and September Out & About Ohio’s music and cultural celebrations are highlighted throughout this issue.  I write an Inner View on what it is like to put on a festival and Francis McGarry writes on Cleveland Immigration.

Vibrancy is Mecca. Not only is there new energy and direction in the festival and the sports, notice the new strength in the paper? XX pages is following the consecutive streak started in January of ’14, of each issue being or tying a record sized issue for us.  Your commitment to the OhIAN, with active support speaking thousand fold over the very much appreciated words alone, by advertising with us, has allowed us to grow so significantly in the last 21 months.  Thank you; words are not enough, but Thank you.



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