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Have you got the bottle?

Story by Seamus Enright

Sunday, 11th February, 2018 7:42am

Have you got the bottle?

Rev Neil Cutcliffe holding a copy of the new book, with co-author Eugene Markey pictured outside of the Cavan Mineral Water company building.

The writers behind new a book, detailing the history of stoneware bottling across Ireland, hope the publication will assist them in tracking down details or indeed examples of up to 50 more not yet fully recorded.

The 144 page full-colour book, complete with over 750 photographs of bottles, with descriptions and location information on a variety of bottles manufactured in Ireland was launched earlier this year.
“It has never been done before in Ireland,” explains author, the Reverend Canon Neil Cutcliffe, joined by book co-editor and local historian Eugene Markey from Canningstown.
More than 10 years of research went in to completing the book, which involved the authors pouring over a library of information and making contact with bottle collectors as far afield as Australia, South Africa, and South America.
The book is comprehensive in its detail except for a list of about 50 known bottles, which still remain a mystery to the keen collectors. “The hope is, by this book, someone might recognise the name of one of these bottles and suddenly realise what they have and make contact,” Rev Cutcliffe suggests hopefully.
Eugene, meanwhile, bemoans missed opportunities, such as a bottle once seen in a window at a Fair Day in Shercock. “That bottle (R McGruddy) has since disappeared. It was from the town of Shercock and, while it’s a small town, it was ahead of many others in Cavan in that it has its own small ginger beer factory.
“There was also another, I myself seen in the American Bar in Virginia some years back. It was on a shelf, I even had it in my hands. I since enquired about it but it too has disappeared. Again, it would be great if we could get information on those,” implores Eugene who, when meeting to speak with The Anglo-Celt, brought with him several examples of local stone bottles.
One among them is a Belturbet Mineral Water bottle, a company formerly run by the Morten family and found by the banks of the River Erne where the Fitzpatrick family now reside.
“It’s a cod of a bottle,” says Eugene, beaming at his own joke, while delicately holding a surviving example of a vessel designed by British soft drink manufacturer and engineer Hiram Codd in 1872.
Specifically for carbonated drinks, the Codd-neck bottle was manufactured to enclose a marble and a rubber washer in the neck, resembling the modern day widget found in Guinness cans. Popular folk etymology believes the term ‘codswallop’ was derived from children smashing the bottles to retrieve the small round glass gasket contained inside, thus also helping to popularise the game of marbles.
It is the Codd bottle that Eugene himself counts among the most prized in his collection, having only had a broken example up until recently. “I was delighted to get my hands on that,” Eugene tells the Celt, noting too how another of the Belturbet Mineral Water bottles, white in colour with black script, is among the famous 50 yet to be found and photographed. Other rarities local to the region are by Samuel Gray of Ballybay; McDonald and Carolan from Kells in Co Meath; McEoin and Daly of Longford; McGirr of Manorhamilton and O’Reilly of Mohill in Co Leitrim; and one by Mulhern of Enniskillen, the most recent sighting of which was reported at a recent auction in Lisnaskea.
Among the other precious containers Eugene brings along, all of which carry collectable value, include a “very rare” John Gough of Clones bottle. Others include a Dunwoody company Lemon Ginger bottle from Ballybay and two two-gallon whiskey flagons, one of which is from Patrick O’Reilly, wine and spirit merchant in Bailieborough and the other from merchant Bernard O’Connor of Arva.
Believe it or not, Eugene explains, the larger flagon jugs, ranging in size from one to eight gallons, are easier to find due to the fact that many were returned to the factory. Smaller bottles, however, were considered disposable, so ended up being dumped, hence the treasure hunting nature of many bottle collectors who will persevere to dig at sites where they feel examples might be discovered.
Of the so-called “stoney” bottles, manufacturers were English pottery company Denby, Price from Bristol, and Lockharts to name but a few. They were, as Eugene surmises, the equivalent to the Quinn Glass, rebranded Encirc, of today.
“We’ve an idea that bottles like these were made in Ireland, possibly in Belleek. The majority however were made in Scotland and Bristol, the latter because of brewing as well as being famous for its world class springs. They were a huge asset for any drinks company to have close by.”
Eugene was just aged seven years when he started collecting bottles, whereas Rev Cutcliffe started when he was about nine, growing up in Downpatrick, collecting examples of empty bottles attained from his milk round. “For many, many years, dairy bottles would have been my only interest. But, at the moment, I now have about 1,243 from just Northern Ireland.
In Cavan meanwhile, Stradone Park, Legaland from Crossdoney and Bailieborough Creamery were the primary dairy companies, which also bottled their own product. “So we’ve only got three examples of Cavan milk bottles,” explains Eugene, with Rev Cutcliffe chirping in that he luckily retains one such bottle.
A copy of the new publication has, as by law, been sent to National Library. A total of 500 copies were printed and, once cover costs have been met, the surplus proceeds will be donated to Alzheimer’s Research UK. The book is available to order for €25 (£20 Sterling) plus postage and packaging by contacting Rev Cutcliffe on or Eugene Markey on 0866094584.

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