A very pleasant weekend in Cork included a picturesque stop by the Port of Cork and a trip to the recently flooded Lewis Glucksman gallery in UCC, re-opened on Friday by President Mary McAleese. The current exhibition, Thingamajigs, is subtitled “the secret life of objects” and contains various items from local, private and public collections in Cork. The objects were everyday, but are no longer, and include the above exotic confectionary tins from Hadji Bey et Cie which, I have since learned, was a Cork institution and purveyor of fine confectionary.
The back story to Hadji Bey is fascinating, having been set up in the 1900s by Harutun Batmazian, an Armenian immigrant who fled the pogroms in the Ottoman Empire and exhibited at the Cork International Exhibition of 1902-3. He set up his sweet shop on MacCurtain Street in what is now the Metropole Hotel and lived at St. Patrick’s Terrace. By the time of the 1911 census he appears to have been thriving in Cork with a household including three children. Ireland was, at this time, part of the United Kingdom and Mr. Batmazian shows up in the British national archives as having been naturalised in 1915.
Sadly, it seems the business died out a few decades later when his son retired, but the Hadji Bey brand was set for a relaunch by Urney Chocolates last year. I have yet to see it anywhere, but the packaging is based on the the above original examples.
Pandora Bell, another recently established Irish confectioner, is based in Limerick and seems to have done well over the Christmas season. Despite Ireland’s economic woes, entrepreneurship is not dead and we may even be seeing the beginning of a new tradition of small indigenous producers in Ireland.