A family that’s been tackling fish for over 150 years

Lar5

Posted on: 9th March, 2015

Category: Food & Wine

Contributor: Mary O'Brien

As far back as 1821 fish has been sold on a Friday morning at Harrington’s Corner, at the bottom of McCurtain Hill in Clonakilty. Lar McCarthy of ‘Atlantic Catch’ carries on that family tradition today, trading fish at the very corner where his mother, grandfather and great grandmother all stood before him.

Although he always expressed a keen interest, Lar only entered the fish industry in 2012. “I can remember sitting in my grandfather’s van at this very spot as a five-year-old boy,” he recalls, “and also helping my mother Rose tidy up many times after trading on a Friday.”

“My mother often tells me stories about her father going by horse and cart to Kinsale to buy fish fresh off the boats,” says Lar. “He’d Lar McCarthyload up the cart in Kinsale and travel all the way down to Castletownbere, selling fish house-to-house along the way and sleeping in farmers’ sheds at night. Wet bags placed over the fish kept it cool during the long day. He would then buy more fish off the boats in Castletownbere and work his way back to Clonakilty. Those were difficult times but he was an amazing man to do all this and provide for his family,” says Lar proudly.

Today life is easier, with Atlantic Catch enjoying the advantages of different types of refrigeration, walk-in chillers, refrigerated vans, ice machines and so on. In fact, this is how the company has the best quality fish available. “I’m very serious when it comes to temperature control,” explains Lar. “The key in providing top quality fresh fish is keeping the fish between certain temperatures at all times.”

Recently a customer asked Lar if he’d consider opening a fish shop. “I wouldn’t rule it out but I would never leave this corner here in Clonakilty either, as the tradition means so much to me and my family.”

Atlantic Catch has two mobile refrigerated vans covering West Cork bringing the freshest of fish right to your door. Lar is often asked how this type of trading works so well. “It’s a matter of punctuality — always arriving at the right time and supplying a superior product. We go to great lengths in preparing our fish properly, from filleting it to trimming off all the excess and removing all the bones (especially important if you’re feeding the fish to a child).

The majority of fish sold by Atlantic Catch is collected fresh off the boats in Union Hall. “We pick the best of it then bring it back to our professional filleting unit, where it’s all prepared.”

Atlantic Catch also has a line of cooked seafood products, including fish cakes, seafood pastas and seafood chowders.

There are three people employed by Atlantic Catch and Lar’s feet are set firmly on the ground when it comes to talk of expansion. “Our main aim for the future is building up the Atlantic Catch brand, developing more customers on our routes and continuing to service Clonakilty at our traditional stall.”

Local designer and signwriter Tomas Tuipear designed the ‘Atlantic Catch’ logo, illustrating the old fish market in Clonakilty in the centre and helping keep the tradition alive as the business moves forward to create its own story.

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Dr John Borgonovo is a lecturer in the School of History at UCC. His publications include Spies, Informers, and the 'Anti-Sinn Féin' Society: The Intelligence War in Cork City, 1920-1921; The Dynamics of War and Revolution: Cork City, 1916-1918; Exercising a close vigilance over their daughters: Cork women, American sailors, and Catholic vigilantes, 1917-18; Something in the Nature of a Massacre: The Bandon Valley Killings Revisited (with Andy Bielenberg). His latest publication (with co-authors John Crowley, Donal Ó Drisceoil and Mike Murphy) is the highly acclaimed and magnificient Atlas of the Irish Revolution. In July of this year, he organised a very successful conference on Winning the Western Approaches - Unrestricted Submarine Warfare and the US Navy in Ireland 1917-1918.
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In May 2016, Kerry man Tom Crean, along with Ernest Shackleton and four other crew members, landed the James Caird lifeboat on the rocky isle of South Georgia. The navigation of that small boat, across 1500 km through icy winds and towering seas, is regarded as the greatest ever feat of navigation. They then trekked across the forbidding and inhospitable mountains and glaciers of South Georgia to seek help for the rest of their crew, who were left behind on Elephant Island after their ship, the Endurance, was crushed by the Antarctic ice.

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