Guarding family treasure from the Black and Tans

A culinary act of defiance

Auntie Moll’s pastry was unsurpassed. More a biscuit base than a pastry case, it was usually topped with stewed apple and was reserved for special Sundays.

She got the recipe from a chef at the Royal Hibernian Hotel, on Dawson Street in Dublin, where she worked for some years as a receptionist.

Some time about 1920, Moll moved back to the family farm at Montdaniel, near Fermoy in north Cork, and worked as a secretary to the colonel at the local army barracks.

During the height of Black and Tan activity in the area, two of her brothers went on the run, and the countryside was combed.


And so, one day, while she cooked a fruit cake over the fire, two Tans clattered into the kitchen, guns almost blazing, looking for the men. The smell stopped them in their tracks.

The captain was distracted: “Your cake or your life,” was the gist of his demand.

“You’re not having it,” said Moll. “You’ll have to shoot me first.”

He didn’t shoot her. And she didn’t surrender the cake. But she entrusted the pastry recipe to my mother.

Joyce Hickey

Joyce Hickey

Joyce Hickey is an Irish Times journalist