Ireland is exceptionally rich in its traditions and one of the finest is Clonakilty Blackpudding.
In the small farmhouses of rural Ireland the modest income of the household was subsidised by the making of blackpudding. It was sold to the butchers of the nearby market towns along with eggs, butter and other farm produce.
One such farmhouse was that of Johanna O'Brien at Sam's Cross near Clonakilty. Her blackpudding was sold to Philip Harrington, whose butcher’s shop was at 16, Sovereign Street (now Pearse Street) in Clonakilty. When Johanna eventually retired from the onerous task of making the very popular blackpudding, she passed her precious recipe onto Mr. Harrington. To this day the recipe for Clonakilty Blackpudding has not changed from Johanna O’Brien’s recipe back in the 1800’s.
Pictured left: Johanna O'Brien with her Blackpudding recipe, and Sovereign St, Clonakilty.
Guardians of the Secret Recipe
In the 1880s, Philip Harrington continued to make the blackpudding. The blackpudding was also sent overseas to emigrants who longed for the taste of home. The precious recipe was faithfully handed down to Philip’s family. For almost a century the blackpudding was made by Paddy Allman, Dan Harrington and Con O’Callaghan.
The 1960’s saw the transfer of the business and staff to Patrick McSweeny, who in 1976 sold the shop and unknown asset of the secret recipe to his nephew Edward Twomey.
Pictured top: Philip Harrington, Dan Harrington, Paddy Allman, Patrick McSweeney, Con O'Callaghan, and Edward Twomey.
The Butcher Shop
At the time Edward took over in 1976, he had no interest in making blackpudding and as with other butchers found it more of a chore than anything else. Edward was far more interested in the meat side of the business, and even attempted to stop production of the blackpudding at one stage. However the customers did not agree and when Edward realised the demand, he had no choice but to continue making the blackpudding again.
It was clear how popular blackpudding was. People travelled from all over Munster to buy blackpudding from the butcher shop. Pensioners using their free bus passes would travel on the early bus to Clonakilty from Cork City and beyond to stock up on their blackpudding before getting the return bus in the afternoon. These valuable customers effectively spread the word of the blackpudding. Week by week Clonakilty blackpudding became more and more popular, as word of it spread. Realising the demand, Edward began to understand the value of keeping the recipe a secret. For this very reason, Edward and his wife Colette, were the only people to mix the spice.
The customer base extended outside the local area, but before the blackpudding was sold beyond the butcher shop it was labelled. Even though this was a necessary step for the company, it was important to the Twomey’s to keep close to their values and beliefs. Hence, a local sign writer was asked to design the label for Clonakilty blackpudding which was traditional, and incorporated the heritage of the product.
Tomás Tuipéar, a local sign writer and designer with an interest in local history, considered various different concepts. Tomás was asked to design a label that incorporated all that stood for the blackpudding; tradition, quality, pride in locality and Harrington name and so the Clonakilty blackpudding logo was created.
Realising the potential of the product a van was put on the road delivering from shop to shop throughout the entire Munster region. At this stage the new business had out-grown the butcher shop, and so production moved to Twomey’s farm on the edge of Clonakilty. The company name chosen was Carbery Meats, Carbery being the barony name of the area. A drawing of the farm was included on the Carbery Meats logo.
Clonakilty Blackpudding Co.
The Carbery Meats van mainly carried Clonakilty Blackpudding, but also sold a selection of meats. This slow start enabled the small business, to develop. It soon became clear that Clonakilty Blackpudding was the big seller from the van, so Carbery Meats eventually became the Clonakilty Blackpudding Co. To complement the Clonakilty Blackpudding, Clonakilty Whitepudding and Clonakilty Ispíní sausages were created.
How the brand developed
There was never a set plan. Edward and Colette Twomey wished to make Clonakilty Blackpudding available to all who wanted it from their local shop. Edward’s personality and belief in the product were the PR tools, and what got the pudding the recognition it deserved. T-shirts, hats, bags and aprons made with the logo were produced; the taste of the Blackpudding and word of mouth did the rest. Because the product spoke for itself, articles were written and it was mentioned by press and media personnel.
Not only for Breakfast
At the time there was a trend in the market for traditional home made foods, with no artificial colours or preservatives, ’like our grandmother used to make’. Clonakilty Blackpudding was a premium product which would complement any menu. Some head chefs adopted Clonakilty Blackpudding on their menus as a gourmet starter or to complement a main course.
The Faithful Departed
One chef in particular, the late Michael Clifford (originally from Clonakilty) had a passion for Clonakilty Blackpudding; he loved the unique taste and consistent quality. He saw it had potential; Clonakilty Blackpudding was not like other blackpuddings, it had a different texture and taste and was a indeed an unique product. At that time growth was achieved from a passionate belief in the Blackpudding, and that has not changed to this day.
Pictured left: The Old Butcher Shop.
Developing the Clonakilty Range
One thing that will remain untouched is the Clonakilty Blackpudding Secret Recipe. However, we are always looking for ways to improve our products, and enhance our product range with new authentic Clonakilty creations in keeping with our beliefs and interests in food.
In 1986, Colette Twomey with the help of the food facility at University College Cork created a whitepudding to complement the now successful Clonakilty Blackpudding. Clonakilty Whitepudding recipe is an original Twomey creation and enjoyed instant success from its introduction. 2011 saw the launch of a gluten-free version of the Whitepudding, of which the taste is indistinguishable from that of the original Clonakilty Whitepudding.
In 1986, the Twomey family introduced a traditional sausage called Ispíní. These were initially sold from the counter in the butcher shop, and as a result of their popularity they were packaged and sold, available in shops all over Ireland. Today our range of sausages has greatly evolved to satisfy all customers’ tastes. There are now five different varieties of the Clonakilty sausage available, and there’s no taste quite like it. The varieties are Clonakilty Ispíní, Clonakilty Cocktail Sausages, Clonakilty Butcher Style Sausages, Clonakilty Traditional Sausages, and Clonakilty Gluten-free Sausages.
The rashers were the last step to completing the Clonakilty Breakfast. In 2003, two variants of Clonakilty Rashers were launched - Dry Cured and Oak Smoked. Later in 2007, the Mild Cure thicker cut rasher was introduced, later followed by a thick cut Smoked rasher in 2009. Following on from tradition, these are also made from 100% Irish pork and contain no added water.
In 2010, the Clonakilty bacon joint was launched, and is available in three variations Boiling Bacon Joint, Roasting Bacon Joint and Smoked Roasting Joint. The Clonakilty Bacon Joints are prime cuts of 100% Irish pork which have been cured and smoked authentically to give a beautiful flavour and a succulent texture.
In 1989 at the Butcher’s Association National Awards both Clonakilty Blackpudding and Clonakilty Whitepudding won first prize in their respective categories which in turn gave them national recognition. The Clonakilty Blackpudding Co. have been winning awards ever since.
Shows and Exhibitions
In the 1980’s, Edward and Colette Twomey wanted to share the taste of Clonakilty Blackpudding and so a road show began over the next number of years. Edward and Colette displayed at the Cork show, Bord Bía Cookery nights and the RDS to name but a few. These shows were of benefit as it was a tasting event for consumers, and it helped to increase the awareness around the Clonakilty products. As a result it was a huge success for them, as once the Clonakilty pudding was tasted people were hooked! People longed for the taste of blackpudding like their grandma used to make. People wanted to know where to get the products; this in turn enabled the product to be stocked in more small independent stores, as demand dictated. Subsequently, there were more routes added to the vans, and the company grew naturally and steadily.
One of the things that Clonakilty Blackpudding brought with it to the large market place was a taste of the “good old days”. Through remaining true to its roots and its traditions it differentiated itself from other blackpuddings. Clonakilty Blackpudding brought the importance of using local produce to the forefront. Through being uncompromising with the quality of the raw ingredients, the quality of the Clonakilty products were recognised by both customers and awards alike.
Once Munster was captivated by the famous pudding, the rest of Ireland was next. A very successful Spring show in the RDS was a great opportunity for this, as consumers started to ask for Clonakilty Blackpudding and Whitepudding at their local supermarket.
In turn Superquinn and Quinnsworth made contact, seeking supply of the much sought after products. Next to call was Dunnes Stores! And so it continued. And the rest is history.
The Present Day
In 2005 Edward Twomey passed away, having realised his dream. Edward & Colette Twomey strove to bring the traditions of the past, to the present day, and to faithfully guard these traditions long into the future.
Video on how Clonakilty Black Pudding is made! Shot on location in our butchers in Clonakilty.
The future of the Clonakilty Blackpudding Co., will continue build on the values of its team and owner Colette Twomey and belief in the product. This will be done through consistent effort on quality, not forgetting our traditions or roots and remaining loyal to local suppliers.
Today, the secret of the Clonakilty Blackpudding spice mix is known only to Colette Twomey and remains a closely guarded secret.