Fish on Friday
I was down on Courtown beach one day as the spring tide had ebbed way out and had displayed a vast expanse of beach for walking. I had great peace to absorb the sounds of the gentle splashing of the ebbing waves and the sound of the seagulls.
Out at sea I detect a lone fishing boat with the attendant sea gulls giving the fishermen an escort as they cruise along parallel to the shore while dropping their nets as they go.
As I stepped over a stream, a younger couple commented that many a much younger person would not be able to jump so well. While taking it as a compliment I am amazed that people will look at you and pass such an age discriminatory comment.
I rambled on to my destination at Dodd’s rocks and met a couple, whom I knew. They were both delighted with the welcome bit of fine weather and that it was Friday, mentioning that it was fish day and that they were going to have baked cod and chips for dinner.
I was intrigued by this statement while being aware of the Friday fast rule during Lent. I was reared near the sea, and a freshwater trout river and we had ready access to a lot of fresh fish which we ate quite regularly and were not confined to the Friday dietary restriction. I still love fish and eat it regularly. Today’s choices are way ahead of Ling and smoked haddock that a lot of people had to endure in those restricted days so long ago.
Anyway, I asked my friend about his Friday dietary habits, and he said it was a throw back to his upbringing and religion as the family always had fish on a Friday. This couple are in their mid-seventies and they are still affected by their childhood experiences .
On another occasion after that fishy encounter, I was walking along with a regular walker on a Thursday who said that she was going shopping for fish for Friday. I asked her if there was a reason for Friday fish and her explanation was so interesting.
Her husband and herself spent most of their business lives in London. She had no religion herself but her husband, who is Irish, said that he could only eat fish on a Friday when he was younger and living in Ireland because of his religion. They decided that they would like to continue the custom. He is now 84 and they still eat fish on a Friday.
I remember it well myself with meat banned on Céadaoin an Luaithrigh or Ash Wednesday and Aoine an Chéasta or Good Friday because they were days of fast and abstinence. Anyone of a certain age will also remember that during Lent we had dinner and two lighter meals or collations the sum of which could not be bigger than the main meal.
Sweets and chocolates were bad news as many people gave them up for lent and then had a big chocolate burst out on Domhnach Cásca or Easter Sunday.
Many a publican was driven to despair as so many people gave up the demon drink for Lent.
In my more youthful days, I was a member of Arklow Parish Drama Group and I remember, with fondness performing in “Many Young Men of Twenty”. There are some great lines in it, and I just loved the song dealing with the Friday custom giving advice about living in London.
“We’ll do all the things you say we’ll work night and day.
And send our poor old father home his fiver
And we declare, we hereby swear, we’ll never ate black puddin on a Friday”.
I remember singing that great song with gusto at the end of each performance and now,50 years later, when I eat the bit of Clonakilty or Kenmare or Dunnes Stores Simply Better black pudding that song returns to haunt me. Thank you so much John B for so many joyous utterances that keep our memory banks so full, happy, and contented.