Visit could leave lasting legacy

THE Queen of England spent just 20 minutes strolling through Cork’s landmark English Market on the last day of her historic state visit to Ireland.

But traders have already seen the benefits of her short but memorable visit and are confident it will leave a lasting legacy.

Footfall has increased by about 30% since the May 20 visit — fuelled mostly by curious tourists anxious to retrace the Queen’s steps. Perhaps more importantly, traders say the number of local people rediscovering the market has also increased.

Sheila Fitzpatrick of the Alternative Bread Company said Queen’s Elizabeth’s visit has shown the people of Cork what they have on their doorstep.

“What I think is most interesting and most important to us is there’s a lot of new local people coming in. People who haven’t been to the market for a long time and who were not aware of how much has changed and what we have to offer,” she said.

“So many people have said the place looks fantastic and they didn’t know we had so much variety. It has made us realise we have something special here and we really have to take advantage of it.”

She, like many of the other traders, spoke of the buzz created by the visit.

“It gave us all a bit of a boost. We have had a really tough couple of years, not just with the economic downturn but with flooding and the really severe winter, the visit just generally gave us a great lift, boosted our confidence and made us feel really good about the market,” she said.

On that sunny Friday afternoon, Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, were escorted on a leisurely stroll around the market to see what was on offer. The Queen made a particular point of seeking out local cheeses, pointing the Milleens brand out to Philip.

She was also presented with a commemorative brooch by the Lord Mayor, Cllr Michael O’Connell, after unveiling a plaque to mark the visit, which still remains a huge topic of conversation in and around the market aisles.

Chairman of the traders association and the owner of Tom Durcan’s Meats, Tom Durcan, said: “There’s still a buzz around the place, every costumer at the counter says, ‘oh, you met the Queen’, so I tell them I haven’t washed my hands since. It’s great banter.

“There are piles of English people coming in and taking their picture with the plaque.

“That plaque is probably the most photographed piece of metal in Cork at this stage.”

Mr Durcan feels the visit will continue to have positive consequences for tourism in general.

“I read that the number of enquiries on tourism websites for hotels and the like in Ireland are way up, that’s a fact,” he said.

“It’s a historical thing; Queen Victoria went to Killarney and they’re still reaping the rewards. People are confident about the forthcoming season because of the Queen’s visit to Cork.”

Mary-Rose Daly of Coffee Central believes the visit has brought Ireland to Cork.

“Even the very next day after the visit we had people from Dublin and Kilkenny to see the market where the Queen was,” she said.

“We have people congratulating us and saying the market looked very well. It’s not often you’d hear that. People are looking at the market in a much more positive light now.

“There’s certainly a bigger footfall and a much bigger buzz about the place, you can almost feel it.”

After approximately 1,200 foreign journalists came to Ireland for the royal visit, it should come as no surprise that according to Hotels.com, web searches for Cork in general are up more than 70%, while US searches for the rebel county have doubled.

Jerry Moynihan of Moynihan’s Poultry believes the best is yet to come.

“The market has always been a big draw for tourists but it is going to become a mecca for tourists now.

“We have to be more conscious of the market as a tourist attraction and make the effort with them,” he said.

Mr Moynihan believes the reason the market is such an attraction is the close links to the past.

“We do things the old fashioned way; there are no checkouts, we’re different here,” he said.

“We’re basic, we’re earthy and we’re proud of it.

“To keep it going we have to have good products, get behind our counters early in the morning and give personal attention to each customer.

“It has worked for 223 years and long may it continue. As I say to people: ‘God Save The Market’.”

Renovations made in the run-up to the visit have not only brightened up the market, they’ve put a smile on the faces of loyal costumers.

Finbar Garde and his wife Marion, of Parkview Bed and Breakfast, Wellington Road, have been customers at the market for a long time and Mr Garde said the market has improved immensely in the last month.

“It is fantastic to see the market so nice. The whole place is so clean and we are admiring it. Even with the food, it seems like they have more on offer than before,” he said.

“We buy a lot of our products for the B&B there and we send our guests down all the time because it’s one of the nicest places in Cork.

“We had people from America staying with us last week and we sent them down to see it.

“They thought it was absolutely fabulous and said they have never seen a place like it. I love just going in there and looking around, I can’t praise it any more.”

Eileen Lane of Dublin Hill visits the market most days. “I love just walking through the market, I get my breads and fish there. I think the royal visit gave the place a new life.”

Ms Lane believes it is the quality of the products and service that brings people back.

“There is a really great standard here and the people are great,” she said.

The visit has clearly had very positive effects both in terms of the energy around the market and in interest at home and abroad.

But it has also boosted fledgling online business localmarkets.ie, which sells hampers of market food and produce online.

Businessman Rory McCann teamed up with traders from the English Market as well as two other markets in Cork to support local producers and promote Irish products.

“Localmarkets.ie is bringing business to the English Market and for a lot of the smaller producers it has been a really unexpected way of marketing,” Mr McCann said.

“Our sales are up about 180%, we’ve been sending out maybe three or four hampers a day in the past week.

“We’re in the middle now of signing up more companies to the business so things are really growing.”

Currently, localmarkets.ie provides items from more than 40 different producers including butchers, bakers, chocolatiers and organic farmers.

The website has just changed its options, now letting the costumer chose what they want in their hamper.

“I guess the strangest costumer we’ve had yet was the pilot of the plane who brought the Queen to Cork,” Mr McCann said.

“He bought a hamper for his mum in Yorkshire, which we delivered last week.”

Margaret and Beryl Didcote, sisters-in-law from Cheltenham in Britain, visited the market last week with their husbands.

“It is absolutely fascinating, and so different from what we would see at home,” said Beryl.

“It’s my first visit to Cork and this is really, really special. We knew the Queen had been here too and we felt that if it was good enough for her, it is good enough for us.”

More in this section