Sunday, March 1, 2009

The not-so-good and not-so-great, number 5

Malcolm's pot-boiling mini-thread continues with:

Black Velvet

According to a well-nourished legend, the drink was created at Brooks's Club in London's Mayfair:
... on the day that Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, died, the wine steward announced with die solemnity that even the champagne would be in morning, and added a touch of Guinness.
Since it involves degrading two decent drinks, there is no sense in wasting quality fizz. Hence the illustration.

Apparently the original Iron Chancellor drank it by the bucketful: hence, in Germany it is known as a Bismarck. There, though, the additive is more likely to be a dunkel beer. The unwary need to be careful with dunkel beers, as Malcolm, on a recent visit to Germany, found: some of the brews (also, for good reason known as Kinderbier) are weak to alcohol-free. Not a nice discovery.

The Black North

Malcolm is currently in the County Armagh. He has learned from years of experience to button his lip on fractious topics, which even include the name of the place. Any of the following can cause offence to one of other community:
  • Ulster (which has properly nine counties),
  • the Province (ditto),
  • North of Ireland (the northernmost point on the Irish mainland is Malin Head, which is in Donegal, which is in the "South": loyalists havew therefore decided that the northernmost point is Rathlin Island, which is in the North);
  • the Six Counties (this is numerically correct, as is "the twenty-six counties": since these seem to be the preferred term for Sinn Féin, it has to be used with care and consideration);
  • the occupied Six Counties (as the previous, but even more so);
  • British occupied Ireland (as above, but now you're really cruisin' for a bruisin');
  • "Norn Iron", the jokey phonetic version which seems to have originated from the football team;
  • The Black North.
This last was the preferred term (and apparently still is) used by Dubliners. Once upon a time, the only reason Dublin people ventured north was in search of contraceptives, then banned in the Republic (and so a target of the customs officials). When that difficulty was solved by the liberalisation of being in the EEC, there was no motivation to head through bandit country (for which see below).

Now, of course, with the differential caused by the Republic's excessive VAT rate, and the relative weakness of sterling, Newry and the other border towns are a desirable place of resort.

So, why is the North "black"? And why in Ireland is the term "black bastard" totally non-racist?

Malcolm has heard various suggestions:
  • Belfast and the Lagan valley were industrialised to an extent not seen further south. That was the version that Malcolm assumed for many years.
  • It somehow refers back to the Black Oath. Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, was Charles I's Lord Deputy in Ireland in the 1630s. After 1638, Strafford enforced on the Ulster-Scots planters a "Black Oath", requiring them to swear loyalty to the King, and renounce the Scottish covenanters. That sounds unlikely; but memories are long in Ireland.
  • The "Black Men" in Northern Ireland (and elsewhere) are members of the Royal Black Preceptory or The Imperial Grand Black Chapter Of The British Commonwealth. They is seen as the elite of Orangeism; with annual parades on Black Saturday (the last Saturday in August, which marks the end of the parade season).

Here, at least, one pays one's money and takes one's choice.

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1 comment:

yourcousin said...

Why would someone ruin a perfectly good beer by adding champagne to it? I'll never understand the ruling classes.

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