Colm O'Regan: 'Curiously, there are no museums dedicated solely to what happens if the potato crop does not fail'

"I love small museums. Because you can finish them. There is no anxiety about all the bits you don’t have time to see."
Colm O'Regan: 'Curiously, there are no museums dedicated solely to what happens if the potato crop does not fail'

Pic: Roger Kenny

I’m not saying we had a classic Irish holiday, but I am saying we went to a black pudding museum. The Clonakilty Black Pudding Museum to be precise. Normally in these circumstances, to avoid endorsing a product, I should say that “other black pudding museums are available”. 

However, I’ve searched online and apart from one reference to a Black Pudding Museum in Bury in the Guardian Letter’s Page, there doesn’t appear to be any more. The Clon one gives you tea and a fry at the end. Although because of restrictions, you can’t eat it in their café (until July 5th). 

So we sat on the low wall near the road outside, scoffing away. But no bother to us. Eating a fry on the side of the Cork-Skibbereen road is what made this country great. Like we were cycling 40 miles to see Christy Ring play and had ‘shtopped to have the Breakfasht’.

Having previously been to the Butter Museum I am now on the look out for the Toast Museum and Fried Egg Museums in order to complete the Grand Slam Of Full Irish Breakfast Museums. (To save time, I’m assuming rashers and sausages are included with the puddin’). Apparently there is a Folláin Jam Museum in Ballyvourney, so the condiments are sorted at least.

I love small museums. Because you can finish them. There is no anxiety about all the bits you don’t have time to see. There is no guilt because you have a pain in your lower back staring up at an Egyptian amphora, conscious that this is only the first glass cases of hundreds from that period alone.

I love the Prado in Madrid. But having spent two hours looking at giant battles, with your flight leaving later that day, you worry that maybe you haven’t got enough time to get to see a lizard-giraffe being poked in the hole by a demon in Hieronymous Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’.

Big museums are The Internet. Small museums are The Paper. You come away thinking about something new you know, rather than all the things you don’t.

I wonder how they all are, after the lockdown. Especially the quirky ones. The ones that describe the fine-line between a museum and a fella told by his family to “get that shite of the house because we can’t find the bathroom.”

There are nearly 300 places listed on Wikipedia under the category of ‘Museums In The Republic of Ireland’. There are all the big ones. Or ones in Big Houses. Where you wander from room to room and are warned not to sit on the elegant little couches because their delicate 17th century construction isn’t expecting your big high-fructose diet 21st century arse to crush them.

There’s plenty on the famine. And rightly so. But curiously, there are no museums dedicated solely to what happens if the potato crop does not fail. This is something that needs to be addressed. As I have reminded people time and time again, the World Potato Congress is coming to Ireland this time next year.

How can we show our faces when someone from the Idaho Potato museum arrives and asks to see our one? It would be a hit. You could have fun exhibits for kids to demonstrate why a potato can be hard as a rock one minute but as soon as you go out to answer the phone, the Bleddy thing’s gone to mush. Imagine eating a floury boiled new spud in the café of a museum! Although you’d want a whole team of docents watching that pot.

That’s for another day but in the meantime, this summer, after you’ve checked into your accommodation why not idly ask: “Any good museums around here?”

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