Apples, Four A Penny - 2nd Aug. 1947


Apples, Four A Penny: Text Version

2nd August 1947


From what I hear and see I am inclined to think that this year's apple crop is a poor one when compared with that of last year. It is rarely that two apple crops follow each other in succession. Some time ago I heard of a man who had decided to cut down his orchard –- which he thought at time of planting would be a gold mine -– because, he said, when he had apples so had everybody else; and when they had none neither had he. The man who took this view of things deserved to have none. He should have known, of course, that to get rich quickly on apples he should rent a shop in some large town or city, and sell them to the youngsters there at two a shilling or so. Your purse would never grow fat enough on "Apples, four a penny."


Raiding apple orchards was a kind of national pastime in many places some years ago. The popularity of the "sport" has somewhat died out since orchards got more plentiful. Indeed, it was considered no mean feat to have scaled the high wall –- which usually surrounded the orchards then -– and to have dared the terrors of the owner's dog and shot in order to get a fat pocketful of apples. Sometimes the legs of the pants were tied to the mouths of the boots, and all available space was packed with apples. It was a wonderfully practical way of doing business, except when an emergency arose and a speedy get-away was imperative. Then the trouser-leg sacks were like fetters on the wearer. Of course these raids did not constitute stealing; it was simply a case of "rawking" an orchard.


Some of our place names have been derived from orchards. Oola means a place of apples; and Oulart, where the Wexford pikemen fought and fell in '98, is a corruption of ubhall-ghort, an Irish word meaning orchard. Armagh is the apple garden of Ireland. I remember noticing a great profusion of orchards around Fermoy and Lismore and on towards Youghal. The Wexford County Manager is carrying out a very interesting experiment in part of his county. He is having the roadsides planted with apple trees, which in a few years' time will droop with the weight of fruit. Anyone who comes the way will be entitled to pluck an apple, or two, or three. If apples were as plentiful as blackberries I suppose there would be no "rawking," no broken branches, no damaged trees, and no curses hurled at the heads of wreckers and pilferers.


Newton saw an apple fall in his orchard, and in his mind was set going a chain of thought that resulted in the discovery of the force of gravitation. And swinging from science to legend we remember an incident in "The Fate of the Children of Turenn," one of the "Three Sorrows of Storytelling." The sons of Turenn, Brian, Ur and Urchar had to pay an eric to Lugh Lamh Fhada, the bright-faced Ildana, for the of his father, whom they had slain. The eric consisted of items that it was almost impossible to obtain. Part of it was the apples from the Garden of Hibernia. The garden was well guarded, but the brothers assumed the shape of hawks, and, avoiding the many spears and arrows hurled at them, swooped down and bore away the fruit.


About the apple there is more to tell -– William Tell. You know the story, how the Swiss patriot and renowned archer refused to salute the conqueror's head-dress that was placed on a pillar in the market square. The alien soldiers saw this insult to their master, and arrested Tell. He was brought before the Governor, together with his little son, who had been walking with him. The Governor said he had heard he was a deadly marksman. Therefore, he would not release him except he shot an arrow through an apple placed on his son's head. Tell agreed. He selected two arrows, and placing one on his great crossbow, drew, and shot with unerring aim -– the arrow splitting the apple on the child's head. All marvelled. Then the Governor asked why he had taken two arrows. "If I had injured my son," came the reply, "the other would not have missed your black heart."


previousPrevious - That American Parcel - 9th Aug. 1947
Next - The Kerries Are Coming - 28th June 1947next