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PLATE      TECTONICS

a cultural history of the animal movement in Ireland

Trigger Martin getting stuck into a butcher at Smithfield's meat market , Londonillustration by Cruikshank, circa 1840's

"Free from the slightest suspicion of animal matter" 
   advert for the the Sunshine Dining Rooms, Irelands first vegetarian restaurant, in the Irish Times, 28 August 1891

The historical record shows the existence of vegans in Ireland since at least the mid-1600's. However, it was vegetarianism, not veganism, that was for a long time considered to be the logical end point of a cruelty-free diet and lifestyle. Public ignorance and industry propaganda combined to convince otherwise intelligent people that consuming another mammals milk was somehow beneficial, if not vital, for adult human health.

The first purely vegan restaurants didn't appear in Ireland until the short-lived Sseduced opened in Temple Bar in 2013, 122 years after the first vegetarian restaurant opened it doors and a mere ten minute walk away.

Now Dublin has 13 dedicated vegan eateries*, and most other cities and towns in Ireland have a decent range of quality vegan, or-vegan-friendly, business, too many to mention here.

  * according to Happy Cow here - https://www.happycow.net/europe/ireland/dublin/?filters=vegan

Its fair to say the vegan culinary scene in Ireland has changed beyond all recognition since about 2015 .This was the year when interest in veganism began to shift. Young people, particularly females, started showing a strong interest in the health and environmental benefits of "plant-based eating" and its been on a roll ever since. In fact, Ireland came in tenth place in a poll on the worlds most vegan-friendly countries, and Dublin topped a global list by a 2019 luxury travel company (Hayes and Jarvis) on the best vegan-friendly restaurants.

Ireland's State Food Board, Bord Bia, no less, estimated in their Dietary Lifestyles Report 2018 report ( see here - https://www.bordbia.ie/globalassets/bordbia.ie/industry/marketing-reports/consumer-reports/dietary-lifestyles-report-november2018.pdf?rel=outbound)  that about 4.1% (150,000) of the Irish population associated* with the  vegan diet, 8% with vegetarian and another 10.6 %  with Flexitarian.  These numbers are undoubtedly an  exponential increase from anytime before and they increased dramatically in the 3 years since that report was published. Bord Bia's latest Dietary Report from March 2021  ( https://www.bordbia.ie/globalassets/bordbia2020/industry/insights/new-publications/dietary-lifestyles/bordbia-thinkinghouse_dietary-lifestyle_ire.pdf)  notes the percentage of people associating with the Vegan diet in Ireland increased over threefold to a  whopping 14% by 2020. The amount associating with Vegetarianism and Flexitarianism both almost doubled to 14% and  19% respectively. That's essentially half of Irelands 2020 population trending (or at least aspiring to trend) away from animal products, either completely or partially, and that number will only have since increased. Note the word associating.

 Under the reports separate heading "Adherence to this diet in terms of food consumption/behaviour", the numbers are significantly lower, but still significant. Between Bord Bia's 2018 report and 2021 report, vegan food consumption more than quadrupled from 0.4% to 2% of the Nations total food consumption, for Vegetarians it went from 6% to 8% and for Flexitarians it rose from 10% to 16%. In other words, over one quarter (26%) of Irish people in 2020 had deliberately eliminated or significantly reduced their consumption of animal body parts and  bovine secretions, and another quarter would like to. If these trends continue the near future might  see a dramatic switch in the nations eating habits. 

  * (It's a little unclear what Bord Bia, or the studies participants, mean by "associating" with, but not adhering to, a vegan or vegetarian diet etc. I take it to mean these people aspire to be a vegan but haven't taken the plunge yet).

INSIDE THE RESTAURANTS AT THE HEART OF REVOLUTION - The first Vegetarian restaurant to open its doors in Ireland was probably in Belfast in 1890, established by Antrim man Leonard McCaughy. It gets a brief mention in a report written by the Belfast Vegetarian Society in 1890. The restaurants name is not mentioned and little else is known about it. 

Next came Dublin's  Sunshine Vegetarian Dining Rooms at 48 Grafton Street in 1891. A review of the restaurant notes good food and the place being "extremely patronised" since opening.(Irish Times, 28 August 1891.)

 Established by the Dublin Vegetarian Society, the venture lasted about a year before closure. Little else is known about the restaurant except it offered "luncheons, dinners, special afternoon teas in delightfully pleasant  rooms" (The Irish Times, 28 August 1891).

This humble beginning was merely an aperitif for what was to shortly come.

 

In 1899, the College Vegetarian Restaurant was opened by Leonard McCaughy and quickly proved to be popular amongst Dublin's small but growing vegetarian population. Intellectuals, playwrights and poets mixed with Indian students, suffragettes and revolutionaries over plates of vegetarian food. McCaughy actually had a chain of four vegetarian restaurants including in Belfast, Leeds and Glasgow. The Glasgow branch, situated on 6 Jamaca Street, is now a McDonalds.

The Dublin restaurant was a meeting place for Sinn Fein and the IRA prior to the 1916 rising and provided  revolutionary-minded Indian nationals residing in Dublin a place to meet with Irish nationalists and discuss ridding both countries of the British Empire. Not to be outdone by the Irish Farm Produce café in the drama stakes, the Irish Times (11 May 1912) reported that one of the restaurants chefs, a Mr  Leon  Cromblin, was discovered in the cellar of the premises with his throat badly cut and a razor by his side in an apparent suicide attempt. Its not known if he survived.

Offering "soups, savouries and sweets in great variety at popular prices", the Restaurant remained in business for a respectable 23 years, closing in  January 1922.

 

 

 

 

A mere ten minutes walk away at Located at 21 Henry Street was the Irish Farm Produce vegetarian restaurant , run by feminist, Republican and  vegetarian, Jenny Wise Power. Also established in 1899  it was another another nexus of radicalism and food-centred politics. Powers broad political interests attracted a range of rebels and revolutionaries under one roof and the place quickly became a de facto rebel vegetarian canteen, meeting ground and arms dump. Future President Arthur Griffith  met other revolutionaries there every day in the year prior to the Rising. Indeed , it is this very establishment where 6 of the 7 signatories on the Irish Declaration of Independence, the leaders of the upcoming Rising, put pen to paper, in 1916.

Both of these buildings, filled as they were with undesirable revolutionary types, had undercover cops, known as G-Men, permanently stationed across the street, patiently noting down who was frequenting them. One G-mans notes write of Thomas McDonagh, one of the leaders of the Rising and a lecturer in UCD, being seen entering the Restaurant with another Sinn Fein activist, carrying a "heavy bag" containing guns.

In other words , these restaurants were the complete opposite to an average McDonalds, where all the wankers are on the inside, while the radicals are standing outside, handing out "What's wrong with McDonalds" leaflets.

The restaurant is even name checked in one of English literatures finest works no-one ever reads, Ulysses. This fact only recently came to light because no-one had read that far into the book until now.

 

POWER TO THE PEOPLE - The Irish Home Produce Café expanded its operations in 1916, opening up two bakeries  in Leeson Street and Camden Street. A barely visible sign from this premises still exists painted on the gable end wall of  Camden street. The words "Home made bread" remain, painted above a circular symbol, one of the 'made in Ireland' symbols used by the Irish Farm produce company.

During the Rising over Easter of 1916, Henry Street experienced looting and arson committed by both British soldiers and rebels but the Restaurant survived and in fact was busy providing food to the rebels holed up round the corner in Dublin's General Post Office. Throughout the week of the Rising, vegetarian fayre was carried to the rebels through holes made in the internal walls of buildings along the street to avoid British bullets.

Following the failed Uprising, the restaurant continued as the favourite haunt for the nations revolutionaries and was subject to raids by hostile, often drunk, Black and Tans, the British States counter-revolutionary punishment squads. The restaurant would be smashed up as they searched for guns but was always soon back in business.

 

As the failed 1916 Rising gave way to the victorious War of Independence in 1922, Jennie Wyse Power found herself and her restaurant the target of anti- Treaty IRA rebels. She had taken a pro-Treaty stance and fallen out with former comrades as a result. A Civil war ensued, pitting the newly-formed Free State/Old IRA army against anti-Treaty IRA rebels. This new IRA (not to be confused with the new New IRA) frequently attacked the property of those they now opposed. The Camden Street bakery was partially burned in 1922 when two bombs were thrown through its windows. In 1923 two young men entered and sat down at a table one afternoon, posing as  regular customers. As tea was being served, they suddenly jumped up and took firebombs out of their coats, shouting their intent  to burn the place down. The attempt failed to do much damage however. Nevertheless it seems the restaurant closed around this time, as Power became more involved in Free State politics, becoming a Senator in the new Irish Parliament. She died in 1941.

The Irish Farm Produce cafe remains one of Irelands, maybe Europe's, most exciting establishments to have had lunch. Filled as it was with rebels storing guns and bombs, Indian students plotting revolution with famous Irish playwrights and poets, regular raids by inebriated, shell-shocked British squaddies, arson attacks by IRA rebels, open-mic nights, free deliveries to local revolutionary strongholds and "the best food in the easiest digestible form at an affordable cost" , there was never a dull moment. The place constantly teetered on the verge of exploding, both literally and metaphorically. And to think Anthony Bourdain thought he was a hard nut for snorting coke from pig carcasses in a fridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOME PEOPLE GOT HOPES AND DREAMS/SOME PEOPLE GOT WAYS AND MEANS - Both Ireland and India experienced a similar historical trajectory since at least the 1850's on - both counties, though vastly different in size, had undergone Empire-induced famine and revolution and both strived for Home Rule, or more, by the turn of the 1900's. The Duel In the Crown and the Breadbasket of the Empire contained a growing middle class of natives who were vital for the smooth running of the System and by default knew also how to subvert the system.

So it was that when future Prime Minister of India V.V. Giri and a dozen more law students arrived in Dublin  in 1913, they entered a world of extreme poverty, strikes, lock-outs and boiling, imminent revolution. Giri and his compatriots studied for the Bar at Kings Inns and the recently established UCD, both hotbeds of Revolutionary Nationalism. They dined at one of the two Vegetarian restaurants in the City mentioned previously. Giri quickly developed his taste for revolution and anti-colonial struggle. He soon helped form the quaintly-named Anarchical Society with a fellow Indian student and made strong links with the Irish agitators he met over vegetarian lunches.

IN fact one of Giri's Lecturers at UCD was none other than Thomas McDonagh, soon to be executed by the British following the failed Rising, and Giri was particularly impressed by raging Socialist James Connolly. The two became close friends and Giri was deeply influenced by Connolly's attitude and tactics. Giri and fellow Indian students often attended Irish Citizen Army meetings, further developing their own plans for British withdrawal from India.

When Giri fled Dublin on orders from  the Police, he set up an Indian Transport and General Workers Union and organised one of the biggest strikes in India's history, complete with  a lockout of the workers but in this case the workers won the strike. He even set up a pacifist version of the Irish Volunteers called the Indian Volunteers. "I resolved to give a graphic account of these struggles to inspire our own people" he wrote later.

Many years later, when he became the fourth President of India, he noted "When I am not an Indian, I am an Irishman".

"Could I borrow a pen please Ms Power, I just need to sign this proclamation quickly"
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 - Jenny Wyse Power, proprietor of the Home Farm Produce Café and all round vegetarian revolutionary.

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 left - a plaque commemorating the Irish Home Farm Produce Cafe, site of the signing of the Declaration of Independence days prior to the 1916 Rising and informal HQ of the revolutionary Republican movement, both Irish and Indian.

left - rare photo of a gang of counter-revolutionary Government G-Men/Spycops. They didn't like being photographed. Here they are  burying one of their own , Detective Constable Harry Wells, shot by the IRA outside the Camden St. branch of the Irish Farm Produce Company in April 1920. These guys were permanently stationed outside places like the Home Produce Café in the lead up to the Rising, noting who went in and out.

V V Giri, 4th President of India and patron of Dublins revolutionary vegetarian cafe scene in the early 20th Century.

"When I am not an Indian I am an Irishman" 

V V Giri, President of India, 1969

"Vegetarian food is the coming diet" advert for the College Restaurant,Irish Times, 2 February 1900
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"Home made Bread" sign from circa 1916 when this building in Camden st. was part of Jenny Wyse Powers vegetarian business empire. The building was firebombed by the IRA during the Civil War.

The closure of both of Dublin's, and Irelands, vegetarian restaurants in 1922 represent the end of an era, as other political issues came to the fore with the withdrawal of the British from Ireland and the establishment of the Free State. This new State was not just broke, it was in massive debt to the very Landlords who had just left. This land owning Protestant Ascendency had only agreed to hand back the land to the native Irish on condition they receive a massive payout, crippling the new economy from the get-go. A long era of economic stagnation and emigration of the youth began, stifling the chances of a vibrant vegetarian culture.

It would be another 50 years before Dublin had another vegetarian restaurant. Good Karma on Strand St opened its doors in 1972 and closed them again sometime in 1973, shut down by the Eastern Health Board for a minor violation of regulations, apparently. At least one reviewer in the Irish Times reckoned it offered a "wholesome change from the stagnancy of Dublin's eating" (Elgy Gillespie, The Irish Times, 11 September 1972).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More vegetarian/wholefood eating establishments appeared in the city in the late 1970's, including Munchies, Golden Dawn and the Supernatural Tearooms. Golden Dawn was particularly well known and was a favourite of actor Gabriel Byrne and various music and media personalities until it was rebranded Blazing Saddles by its owners Joe Fitzmaurice and family in 1982.It is still operating today as a take away vegetarian delicatessen in Drury Street. The Fitzmaurices are considered trailbalzers in Ireland wholefood vegetarian community and have at least three cookbooks out .

Here is a link to a great  1978 RTE piece on the restaurant-

https://euscreen.eu/item.html?id=EUS_51ABC1A83B98403C9C3609253AF80393

 

The vegetarian culinary scene in Ireland at this time seems to have been tied up with macrobiotic ideas as well, reflecting the hippie lifestyle of many, maybe most, of Irelands contemporary vegetarians/vegans.

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The WELL FED CAFE began in 1983, also on Crow street, and was an award-winning worker-run cooperative specialising in cheap, nutritious vegetarian/vegan fayre. Lasting ten years, it gained iconic status amongst Dublins anarcho punk and student communities. 

Cornucopia Wholefood and Vegetarian Restaurant, the granddaddy of Dublin veggie restaurants, began trading on Wicklow Street in January 1986 and has been there ever since. It was established by Neil McCafferty (1952-1993) and Deirdre McCafferty, who is still the proprietor of the restaurant.

The Hare Krisna's got stuck into the action in the late 1980's when they opened up a vegetarian restaurant , again on Crowe street but this was short lived. They went at it again ten years later, opening up Govinda’s restaurant at 4 Aungier Street in 1998. It is still in operation, as are two more Govindas elsewhere in the city. Those guys must be praising the right gods cos they're sure doing well. Do you know why they have that thin strand of hair - the sikha - on the back of their shaved heads? So Lord Krisna can easily pluck them up into heaven on the day of judgement. I kid you not. A Hare Krisna told me that when I was at Glastonbury Festival one year. He wanted me to mind his pet mouse until the festival was over.

above - MEET AND TWO VEG - diners enjoying the feast at the Golden Dawn restaurant, Dublin,  circa 1978

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"There were numerous Garda raids, and the restaurant didn’t last long."John S Doyle writing in the Irish Independent in 2005 remembers Good Karma, Irelands first modern-day vegetarian restaurant.

I CANT BELEIVE IT'S NOT BUDDHA - Hare Krisna's -  great food , shame about the music

CRANKS, from the UK, opened up a Dublin branch in Westmoreland Street in 1989 and operated for a few years before leaving a solitary sit-down vegetarian restaurant in the City throughout the 1990's, Juice. Popular throughout its many years of service, Juice closed down in 2011. Other vegetarian restaurants in Dublin from the 1980's include Bananas, Harvest, Second Nature and Rays but little is available online about them.

 "Somehow you felt you were part of a social and gastronomic experiment."Restaurant reviewer Paolo Tullio on Good Karma, Ireland's first modern day vegetarian restuarant.

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above - Corks long standing HQ of hope and tower of taste, in blue, the Quay Co-op. Employing over 60 people and now with branches in Carrigaline and Ballincollig, the Quay Co -op has been a cornerstone of alternative politics and food in Cork for over 40 years. The Co-op is also now directly working with Dublin's Food Co-op,  a vegetarian/vegan food buying co-operative and shop in operation since the mid-1980's and with over 2000 members.

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Outside of Dublin, options for quality vegetarian dining were usually sparse and, shall we say, unimaginative, hostile even.

Thankfully my home town  had, and still has, the Quay Co-op, on Sullivan's Quay in  central Cork City,  a three story behemoth including a large health food store and multi-level dining rooms, open both day and night. In operation since 1982, the Co-op has been a haven for Corks artists, outcasts and gastronomic misfits. Good vegan and vegetarian food to eat and buy, an affordable restaurant alongside a radical bookshop and meeting room, the Co-op has been at the centre of Irelands social progress over the years. Alongside the Warzone Collective's 'Giro's Cafe' in central Belfast, it most resembles the revolutionary spirit of the vegetarian restaurants of 1920's Dublin. Its interesting to note  the original campaigns associated with the Quay Co-op - gay rights, access to abortion, rights to divorce and contraception,  have all been won.

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above - Giro's cafe, central Belfast.

Giros was the vegetarian/vegan cafe operated by the anarcho punk collective Warzone.

Opening in 1984, Giros provided a space for people on both sides of the conflict to meet, unique for Belfast in the 1980's..

Located in the city centre, the cafe was surrounded by streets lined with sandbags and British soldiers. Central Belfast was a cultural desert at the time due to bombings and sectarian divisions. CCTV was everywhere and army helicopters often hovered in the skies above. 

Frequented largely by Belfast's significant punk and art student communities, Giro's grew and expanded until the Warzone Collective folded in 2003.

Giro's reopened in 2009 and continued its cafe and gig operations until folding again in 2018. The Warzone Collective still exists and maybe Giros part 3 will emerge some day.

 " People sometimes crossed to the other side of the street to

 

avoid it when passing the building on Sullivan’s Quay"   Liz Dunphy on the Quay Co-op's early days, Irish Examiner  17 SEP, 2021  

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the standard issue Crisp Sangwitch - a pre-2015 Irish vegan food staple. Recipe works equally well with chips.

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sosmix - surprisingly tasty for something thats starts off as powder
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vegan treats in the 1970's - chewing gum , 
Sugar free carob drops
, an early vegan alternative to Mar Bars and about as exciting as sugar free carob drops.

  TWO'S COMPANY / ONE'S A CROWD - The worlds first Vegetarian Society was formed in, you guessed it, England, in 1847. In 1888 the Society split when  the London Branch of the Vegetarian Society fell out with the rest of the movement. The London branch wanted to include raw food ideas into the philosophy and formed their own breakaway faction when this was deemed too radical. There now existed the London Vegetarian Society, of whom Gandhi was a member, and the rest of the organisation who became known as the Manchester Vegetarian Society. Both released regular publications and organised meetings to spread the message but would not re-amalgamate until 1969, forming the current-day Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, Ireland in 1847 did not have a Vegetarian Society. In fact, Ireland in 1847 saw Society in general in freefall. That year - Black '47 - was the third consecutive year in a row that the potato crop had succumbed to blight and millions starved. Ireland was a post-apocalyptic scene of smashed houses and mass grave pits, of dead and dying families lying in freezing, barren fields, of cartloads of fresh food being marched out of the Country by the soldiers of Empire and of fleets of coffin ships carrying the half dead and half crazed millions away from a living nightmare of the Empires making.

  YOU WAIT ALL CENTURY FOR A VEGETARIAN SOCIETY AND THEN THREE COME AT ONCE - The first Vegetarian Society in Ireland was stated in Belfast around 1878. They established as a branch of the Manchester Vegetarian Society and folded less than two years later. A decade later Dublin activists established the Dublin Vegetarian Society in 1890, again as a branch of the Manchester (i.e. British) Vegetarian society as  Ireland North and South was part of the British Empire at this time. The Society managed to establish the aforementioned Sunshine Vegetarian Restaurant , the first of its kind outside of Belfast.

Also in 1890, the London Vegetarian Society helped establish another Vegetarian Society in Belfast. There  also existed an Irish  Vegetarian Union group, bringing to three the amount of Vegetarian Societies in the country at the turn of the 20th century. All three Societies were essentially independent and each hosted public meetings, food tasting and distributed literature. Information on their histories is short but it seems the movement overall was small and considered an eccentricity by the general populace. All these organisations appear to have died out during World War One. The mid twentieth century were a low point for animal concerns in Ireland. Global war, a stagnant economy and tensions with Northern Ireland and the UK dominated public and political discourse. However despite this the Dublin Vegetarian Society was formed in 1949 and lasted into the 1960's. This group was tiny, with a few dozen members. The group maintained contact with the International Vegetarian movement, sending delegates to their conferences, but otherwise appear to have had negligible impact on Irish eating habits.

 The late 1970s  saw a re-emergence of civil initiatives promoting vegetarianism. In 1978 Tolkien enthusiast and Esperanto speaker Christopher Fettes revamped the Vegetarian Society of Ireland and it continued the outreach work of its predecessors (in English, not Esperanto or Elvish).

This Society seems to be dormant, if not extinguished, in 2022 at time of writing. Their website references stuff 'coming up'  in 2018 and they haven't published their quarterly magazine since 2014. Their latest drop on YouTube was on World Vegetarian Day in 2018 when they held a public meeting and had three guests on their Panel, all of whom are vegan. Has the Irish Vegetarian movement been outpaced by the surging vegan movement perhaps?

  Recorded evidence of veganism in Ireland dates back to the late 1600's. A wealthy and eccentric farmer named Robert "Linen" Cook from Cappaquinn, Co. Wexford. Cook made a fortune selling wool before his conversion to veganism but by the early 1690's he rejected all products of animal origin. "For many years before he died, neither ate fish, flesh, milk, butter, nor drank any kind of fermented liquor, nor wore woollen clothes, or any other produce of an animal, but linen." wrote historian Charles Smith in 1774, hence the nickname "Linen Cook". The guy practically invented Straight Edge, some 300 years before the release of Minor Threats seminal "Out of Step" LP. Ian McKay eat your heart out.

Influenced by Pythagoras and the Bible, Cooks farm only had white-skinned animals and presumably these animals were fed and cared for but not exploited. On one occasion, a fox was caught by his servants as it attempted to grab a few chickens on the farm. Cook lectured the fox on the Fifth Commandment (Thou shalt not kill) and sent him on his way.

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 Cook lived in Bristol for a few years and built a mound of rocks on top of a rock in Bristol harbour in honour of his first wife who hailed from there. This mound is known nowadays as Cooks Folly. Cook himself lived to the mighty age of 80. This was when life expectancy was somewhere between 30 and 40.

The history of veganism in Ireland in the mid-20th Century can best be told through the lives of the few brave and enlightened individuals who devoted their lives to furthering the cause against an indifferent and often bemused populace. Up until quite recently no formal vegan organisations existed here and after Robert Cooks death in 1726 the record on vegans in Ireland is silent until the sterling Ms Moira Henry in the 1930's. 

Described by the Irish Press in 1949 as "the only Vegan in Ireland", Moira was elected Secretary of the newly formed Dublin Vegetarian Society in 1947.This organisation had 33 members , though the Society reckoned there were "about 104" vegetarians in the Republic (source An Irishman’s Diary, 5 March 1951).By 1955 their numbers had increased to 55. 

early vegan attempts at "pest control"
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" A Vegan is a super-Vegetarian"

Irish Press 26/02/49, by way of explanation in case you were wondering
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above left- Moira Henrys obituary in The Irish Times, 10 March 1997 and right - Moira  (pointed out) as one of the delegates at the 11th IVU World Vegetarian Congress 1947. Stonehouse, England. Credit – http://www.ivu.org

" An irreplaceable person, for whom the world was too distressing a place" Moira Henrys obituary, 1997

above - an article on Moira Henry and the vegan scene in Ireland, Irish Press 26/02/49

TOWARD A BENEVORIAN WORLD - There were many attempts to invent a term for people who deliberately avoid animal 'products' before "Vegan" was settled on in 1944 by Donald Watson. Alternatives proposed include DAIRYBAN, BENEVORE, PYTHAGAORAN, GRAHAMITE (After Rev. Sylvester Graham, a US vegan from the 19th century), VITAN, BEAUMANGEUR, SANIVORE, NEO-VEGETARIAN and my personal favourite - as suggested by the Irish Press in 1949- SUPER-VEGETARIAN.

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"Yes! It's porridge for dinner again!" artists impression of a typical Sanivorian family practising the Grahamite diet, circa 1944 . Note the crisp sangwitches in the centre . A classic Beaumangeurian staple of the period     

left - early pioneer of the Pythagorist Benevorean diet, Mr Donald Watson, inventor of the term 'vegan' and a passionate Dairybanner.

Another noteworthy vegan personality is Jack McClelland (1922-1979), Irelands, perhaps the Worlds, first vegan Ultra athlete. Champion swimmer, professional-level footballer, weight lifter and wrestler (the 'Belfast Bulldog'), Jack was a leading activist with the UK Vegan Society and the Ulster Vegetarian Society throughout the 1940's and 50's. He also owned a chain of health food stores in Ireland, enabling the Country's embryonic vegan movement to survive and thrive.

McClelland was best known as a long-distance swimmer and famously swam the distance from Rathlin Island to the mainland (6K of rough cold open water see it here - https://digitalfilmarchive.net/media/super-8-stories-extra-footage-the-669) as well as Dingle Bay (20k see here - https://digitalfilmarchive.net/media/jack-mcclelland-swims-dingle-bay-4707) and, in 1963,  Galway Bay (30k). In fact, more people turned out to see Jack swim Galway Bay than turned out for John F Kennedys visit a few weeks earlier. He also swam the English Channel in 1956 and swam the 9 miles between Tory Island and the Irish mainland in 1968 ( https://www.rte.ie/archives/2018/0709/977409-sound-swimmer-jack-mcclelland/). This streatch of water was described thus : "Strong fresh Atlantic water rushing into the Sound twice a day at a top speed of four or five knots makes the crossing between Tory Island and the mainland incredibly challenging for swimmers." Bear in mind Jack refused to put on the traditional goose fat that open water swimmers usually apply to keep out the freezing cold. The seas that surround Ireland are so cold that, in winter at least , just running in-and-out for a quick dip  is considered totally hardcore. I feel cold just writing about it.

 

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Jack McClelland

not Jack McClelland - note the goose fat. Wot a wimp.
Jack receiving his trophy for swimming from Tory Island to Donegal. It took him six and a half hours. I'd  have been expecting a bigger trophy if I were him.