Lady Madonna

Christ Church Dublin

I saw this picture in the Church of Ireland Cathedral – Christ Church, Dublin and was fascinated by it. I also regret that I failed to take any notice of who painted it or what the subject matter was supposed to be. I was doing my tourist thing.

I was going to ask an Art Expert at a popular Irish blog – but they appear to have retired for the time being. – Does anyone have any ideas?


Roscommon Jail, Micro Mall, and Innovative Hangwoman Betty.

Jail in 1950's

Jail as Shopping Centre

I’m featuring historic Roscommon Jail on the Blog. Once Justice Central in Roscommon, this grand building had 32 cells for prisoners. Awaiting punishment by flogging and hanging.

In 1982 the owner destroyed the cells and a lot of the historic content and by 1998 the jail had been turned into a Shopping Centre – A Micro Mall. A fitting end for a building so steeped in history? And only in Ireland – with a little help from the taxpayer.

The jail was the work place of one of the most famous executioners of her time “Lady Betty” who started her work there in 1780. At the time the judicial system was such that it regarded prison as a waste of taxpayers’ money. Criminals were dealt with by Hanging and Flogging.

This was done in front of the jail and was a form of public entertainment. Nowadays, Ireland has the state broadcaster RTÉ for entertainment, a system whereby the television audience pay to be the victims.

Lady Betty is thought to have been from Kerry originally and lived as a single mother on the edge of Roscommon.  Occasionally doing a spot of Bed and Breakfast. She educated her son who later left the country for America.

One night a handsome gentleman turned up at Betty’s door. Asking for shelter. She gave him shelter. And when he had gone to sleep she murdered him.  On going through his documents she discovered she had murdered her own son. Yes – sounds like a bit of an Irish story. She fled in hysterics and was captured and sentenced to be hanged.

Hanging day was to be a big affair, as plenty of prisoners had been saved for the occasion. Then disaster struck. The hangman was ill. The show was going nowhere. Ceasing the employment opportunity like a boss. Betty told the confused sheriff that she would hang the prisoners.  Which she did much to everyone’s satisfaction.

So there you go a story with a happy ending. Betty got to live in the jail rent free, with meals. In return for this she flogged and hanged the prisoners for free.  She also introduced a number of innovations. When someone popular was to be hanged and there was a possibility that the crowd could turn nasty, she threw the prisoners out of a window. She later refined this technique to a long drop system  at the front of the jail. Then this was a time of innovation.  It is said she did charcoal sketches of her victims on the prison wall, as a means of self improvement.

I think the window she led her charges out of, is now part of a very nice Italian Café, which I can recommend.  And is also unusual in Roscommon because of its low prices and high standards.

Who’s the Queen of the Kitchen TV?

A recent remark by the colonial commentator Firepower, on the subject of America’s Gastronomical pin-up Giada de Laurentis,  prompted me to consider the World of Gastro Glamour.










The UK, in my humble opinion, has the ultimate Siren of the Kitchen – Nigella Lawson.








Here in Ireland we have the Girl Next Door charms of Rachel Allen.









Sadly, though we now live in a so called “Global Village” – I’m not aware of any other Kitchen beauties, though I’m sure they exist.


Butternut Squash and Red Pepper Soup

I  was thinking of trying a more complex post – but I decided instead to play it safe and stick with a recipe.

The ingredients are basically the ones you see above plus water or stock and maybe some cream (soured cream/ greek yoghurt) and a few chives or herbs to garnish.

This recipe is very easy and the ingredients are not particularly perishable – so it is ideal for over the Christmas holidays and it tastes delicious, for a minimum of effort.

Butternut squashes have been on our supermarket shelves for a few years now. A North American vegetable they are related to the melon and have a very sweet taste. You will need to peel and de-seed your butternut squash and chop it up into 2 inch cubes. It’s a bugger to peel and you will need a sharp peeler. Do not try peeling it with a knife.

Finely chop the Onion and sweat in a frying pan in a little oil. De-seed and chop a red pepper and add this to the frying onion. And then combine the three vegetables in a suitable sauce pan and add some water/stock to cover the vegetables. Add some salt and pepper bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour.

Use a soup maker or liquidiser to blitz the soup. You can at this stage, pass the soup through a mesh, to remove any fibourous bits – though it’s an embellishment. I also have to say that it will benefit from a good stock. I first made it with a Turkey Stock.

Correct the seasoning and serve – It will do as a main course for 2/3 people or as a starter for 4/5

Minimalist Kit – Orange Cider/Wine




I got an e mail response to my post on Mead. Was it possible to make an alcoholic beverage from Orange Juice. I could find vague references to the manufacture of an Orange  based alcoholic beverage using Navel Oranges.

Of course Orange Juice has now changed beyond recognition, from what it was say 20 years ago. Presumably with the help of American Agriculturalists.

Another request on the Mead posting was from Firepower. He was asking about a minimalist apparatus for experimenting (see picture above). The balloon valve has a pin hole in it.

Recipies I found for Orange wine, basically did not prove the point one way or another. I used my Cider recipe. I used 2 litres of pasteurised OJ and 2 X 1/4 cups sugar. That’s 2 X40 grams approx. I’m also using my old mate, champagne yeast. The picture above is the result after about 24 hours.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have used the OJ with the bits in. I am open to suggestions as to the name of this “new” alcoholic beverage.


I feel the need. The need for mead.

I read recently that some disgusting Irish politician called Rosin Shortfall (or something) was suggesting increasing the price of alcohol in off licences nationwide. On the grounds that this will reduce the incidence of Irish alcoholism.

Ms. Shortfall who has the appearance of the James Bond baddie Rosa Klebb (in From Russia with Love) is pandering to suggestions put forward by the Vintners Association (The Union of Irish Pub Owners) that have long been concerned about the low prices of alcoholic beverages in supermarkets, compared to the astronomical prices that their members charge in their Public Houses.

So Christmas is coming, as are alcohol price increases. I’m trying a recipe for Mead. It’s my own recipe and I’m experimenting. My ingredients are 2 pounds (908 grams) of Honey from Aldi and 1 litre of pasteurised grape juice. Made up to 5 litres with water. I’m using champagne yeast and I calculate my final ABV to be around the 9% mark..

27th Nov 2011 – I saw that I posted this Mead item on 11th Nov That’s Nov 11th, for our American readers. The brew is now almost ready for bottling and has been filtered once.So a good two weeks to get a result so.

It’s gone from looking like milky tea through to a straw colour and is currently a clear yellow shade that can only be described as – bright piss. When I tasted the brew on syphoning it was not surprisingly a bit like honey – only not sweet. – I will add a better description should one spring to mind.

11th December 2011 – I opened a bottle yesterday. And am posting the picture here. We are talking about a nice clear bright yellow brew. It was also not particularly tasty. Not having the bitterness of beer or for that matter the acidity and flavour of cider. Nevertheless I managed to drink it and found it agreeable. Were herbs or spices used to add additional flavours in the medieval/viking brews – I wonder?


First Post added to El Sido Blog

A moment of excitement, as Roscommon joins the digital age. And the first page was added to the El Sido Blog. Ignoring the “Hello World!” comment which will be analysed in depth, at a later date.

A quietly confident El Sido said that whilst he didn’t expect children and old people to be dancing in the Streets at the news. It was nevertheless the case. that this fresh opening of Roscommon to the “World Wide Web” Was a forerunner for the county’s digital future and had the capacity to generate many “High End” jobs going forward. “These are the sort of jobs we will require if we are to compete against foreigns going forward” He added.