Irish coffee origin row boils over
By Owen Ryan
THERE may be a plaque honouring Joe Sheridan at Shannon Airport for inventing the Irish coffee but in Ballybofey, it’s being claimed that a Donegal man actually came up with the drink.
After reading comments by Clare County Councillor Pat McMahon, in which he claimed that Shannon was synonymous with the drink around the world, editor of the Finn Valley Voice, Celine McGlynn, wrote to Clare county manager Tom Coughlan to complain.
“As the newspaper representing the part of Ireland where Irish Coffee was invented, we are requesting that you formally withdraw the motion proposed by Councillor McMahon and passed by your council in March.
“Councillor McMahon’s motion perpetrates the myth that Irish Coffee was invented in Shannon or Foynes by Joe Sheridan. It was in fact invented by Mr Joe Jackson of Jackson’s Hotel, Ballybofey.
“There is overwhelming evidence that Mr Jackson began serving Irish coffee soon after he purchased the hotel in 1946. It had been fully described in a Scottish magazine a year before Mr Sheridan began his activities and a framed copy of the article hung in Jackson’s lobby for many years.”
When contacted by The Clare Champion Ms McLean said that Mr Jackson had been inspired to create the drink by his experiences in World War II.
“He was a merchant seaman and in the war he had some leave in the Mediterranean and had an alcoholic drink that had cream and sugar in it.
“Later on, his ship was torpedoed off Newfoundland and he was dragged half dead from the sea. His rescuers revived him with rum and hot coffee. He had the idea in his head after that and he bought the hotel here in 1946.”
She said that a Scottish magazine had run an article about the new drink and a copy of it had hung in the hotel until renovations were carried out recently.
However, Councillor McMahon said he is still of the view that the drink originated in the Mid-West. “The motion was only about quality of service at Shannon but I knew two people who worked in Shannon all their lives and they knew Mr Sheridan very well and they always swore blind that it was him and both of those people knew him very well.”
Michael Collins is retired now but worked in the bar at Shannon Airport for over 40 years. He said Mr Sheridan was definitely the inventor of the Irish coffee and that he first served it as far back as 1942. “Brendan O’Regan was the catering controller at Foynes and he put an ad in the Clare Champion and the Limerick Leader looking for a chef in Foynes. Joe Sheridan contacted him and he said ‘I’m the man for the job’ and he got it. People would be coming in off the flying boats and they’d be very cold. One time he gave a cup of coffee to a woman but she said it wasn’t very nice.
He put in a drop of whiskey and then she said it was a little bitter so he put in sugar and the next thing he put on cream on it.”
Mr Collins said that disputes over the origins of the drink is nothing new and that some Americans believe it originated in San Francisco, as it was popularised there by Stanton Delaplane, who discovered it in Shannon.
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