The West's Awake by Cormac MacConnell
There's nothing like a box of Cadbury's Roses
Posted on Wednesday, February 10, 2010 at 11:14 PM
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Many of you are Irish-born or the offspring of those born in Ireland. A high percentage of ye, therefore, would not be reading this, or would not be here at all, were it not for England's great gift to the world, the Cadbury family.
That is a historic fact as I will quickly explain, using just one small story drawn from my own experience.
I grew up behind the tall wooden counter of a small country shop. It raised us and it fed us as well in the years just after World War II.
My father Sandy sold all the groceries and hardware a country family would need at the time, and he also sold confectionery. He suffered from bad arthritis so his children were shop assistants from the time they were tall enough to be seen above the counter when we stood on a biscuit tin. That is where we learned the trade from about the age of eight years.
The country people were all shy and quiet, but no young man was as shyly quiet as the boy called Charlie who would arrive without fail every Wednesday and Sunday evening about eight o'clock. He had fair hair built up in a high quiff over his forehead, and would have been about 32 when I served him first.
Trade would be quiet at that hour of the night, so you could do your homework on the counter in between shoppers. Charlie was so shy you'd know he was delighted there was only a cub behind the counter rather than the father.
In all the times I served him he only ever bought three items, generally just two. One was a large Player pack of cigarettes. The second was a quarter (pound) of Cadbury's Roses chocolates. Occasionally he would buy a flash lamp battery for the bicycle leaning against the wall outside.
The Roses chocolates were for the girl he had been courting for years. She lived about six miles away from our shop, up near the top of the mountain.
These were hard times. As the people would say, these were times for flour before flowers.
We did not sell too many quarters of the brightly wrapped chocolate Roses because they were twice the price of the boiled sweets like brandy balls or bullseyes in the big jars alongside them. A quarter of Roses was a serious declaration of matrimonial intent.
I heard the joking older men that used be bantering with Sandy in the shop in the late nights once estimating that Charlie had carried a quarter-ton of Roses up the mountain down his courting years. The couple had been going out for years.
The cruel reality was that Charlie had to wait for his elderly mother to pass away before bringing another woman about the place.
Anyway, the courtship lasted 11 years before the marriage. They had five children, three boys and two girls.
They were a lovely family, all shy like their parents, and last I heard some years ago two of the boys and one of the girls were settled and married in America. Presumably they have families growing up now. Maybe one of them is reading this.
If so they should know that bouquets of Roses in little brown bags enriched and sustained that long, long courtship. And that was a common enough situation back then.
You might hear remarks like, "Jackie is getting serious about her, he's buying the Roses.” So ye can see where I'm coming from.
It comes to mind because your huge Kraft firm (which I associate with highly processed cheese mainly) has just gobbled up Cadbury, and I wonder if the Roses will continue to bloom for much longer.
More than that, though -- and I do not have a sweet tooth -- I fervently hope that the bar of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate survives and thrives for the rest of my life. It is very special to myself and, no doubt to tens of thousands of other Irishmen of my generation.
I should also mention in fairness that Cadbury has a couple of factories in Ireland, employing about 900 workers in Dublin and Kerry, and I hope their jobs will be secure following this takeover.
Kraft is a giant multinational. The Cadbury family was originally Quakers and paternalistic and caring employers. In their early days they sold tea and cocoa, and it is claimed this is because they wanted to offer the plain people a tasty alternative to alcohol!
Back to the bars of Dairy Milk. In Europe the chocoholics (mostly female) go stone mad for Belgian and Swiss chocolates. To my taste these are not a patch on the rich wholesomeness of Dairy Milk.
There is something very special about the little blue-clad bar. When you were a young reporter who could be sent anywhere on a story any working day you always brought an overnight bag when coming to work in the mornings.
You also stowed in your overcoat pocket an ample supply of loose change to feed the nearest telephone kiosk when reporting back -- no cell phones then -- and an equally vital requirement was one or two bars of Dairy Milk.
How good those tasted when you were starving on an offshore island at the end of the day, or trying to find a telephone kiosk at the bottom of a Mayo mountain to send over your story.
I've eaten Dairy Milk off the west coast with shark-hunters, coming down Croagh Patrick, last week at the All-Ireland greyhound coursing finals in Clonmel, in riot-ripped Derry of the recent past, aboard hookers on Galway Bay, at football and hurling matches everywhere between here and hell, outside Ballinasloe at the Horse Fair, at Puck Fair, at Fleadhanna in Listowel and elsewhere.
Anywhere that hunger struck when I was on the job I always could put my hand in my pocket for my sustaining bar of Cadbury. Long before it reaches my belly, it always has already warmed the cockles of my heart.
Do ye have Cadbury over there already? I don't know whether you have or not, but I do know I have tasted a few Hershey bars in my time, and they were not in the same division at all.
If this takeover means that Dairy Milk bars will soon be available to your overcoat pockets or handbags that is all good. And they are certain to taste especially sweet for those whose parents' courtships were ripened and sustained here at home by those special little bags of a different kind of Roses!