Life in Cork is the icing on the cake

Cork Sugar Craft Association founder Jacqueline Cullinane will take part in the Cork Baking and Chocolate Weekend
Life in Cork is the icing on the cake
Jacqueline Cullinane from Ballincollig, founder of the Cork Sugar Craft Association, who will take part in the Cork Baking and Chocolate Weekend.Pic: Brian Lougheed

Cork Sugar Craft Association founder Jacqueline Cullinane will take part in the Cork Baking and Chocolate Weekend, November 22 to 24.

Tell us about yourself:

I was born in London in 1934, and had a typical British middle class upbringing. I trained as a nurse, General, Pediatrics, Midwifery, including a year in the U.S. Then I married an Irish veterinary surgeon, Mike Cullinane and came to live in Ballygar, Co. Galway.

Seven years and five children later, we went to Wales, but didn’t settle. We came back to Ireland in 1970 and settled in Ballincollig. We had three different houses, and I recently downsized to an apartment in the centre of the village. Mike died in 2006.

Three of my children live in Cork, one in Kerry and one in Belfast — three sons and two daughters. I have seven grandchildren and I am very lucky to see plenty of all my family.

I never used my nursing qualifications after marriage, but had a second career teaching adult education night classes, first in cookery, then cake decoration at Ballincollig Community School. I also designed and made cakes of all kinds at home, especially wedding cakes.

I was also very involved with Ballincollig Country Market, supplying baking and preserves, until it closed some years ago.

In 1970, Ballincollig was a small village, just beginning to develop. My children were probably the first ‘incomers’ and a curiosity, with their Welsh accents, which soon changed.

It has been interesting to see the growth of Ballincollig, which, despite the huge growth in population, still retains the village feel, and has a great sense of community.

Earliest childhood memory?

Being pushed in a pram to the dentist aged two to three with a toothache. and having an extraction — no anaesthetic!

Person most admired?

Mary Robinson, for her great leadership as President, and in the roles she has held after her term of office.

Person who most irritates you?

Anyone who parks selfishly, taking up two spaces!

Who would you like to see as Minister for Finance?

I would like to see a woman in the job, as most are used to managing a budget, and would prioritise disabled people and the most disadvantaged.

Most memorable holiday?

A Christmas cruise in the Carribbean three years ago with my American sister and Canadian brother and his wife.

Favourite TV show?

Nationwide, always such variety, and goes to unexpected and interesting places. The Cork Sugarcraft Association has appeared twice over the years, filmed at our competitions.

Your favourite radio?

Anything on Lyric. The idea that closure or reduction in programmes could be contemplated is dreadful, classical music lovers would be devastated.

Your signature dish?

Chicken and ham pie.

Favourite restaurant?

Market Lane. Lovely variety on their menu and very welcoming space.

Last book read?

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.

Best book read?

A Testament of Youth by Vera Britten.

Last CD bought?

Requiem by Carl Jenkins.

Favourite song?

You Make Me Feel So Young, by Frank Sinatra. Memories of my courting days!

Who would most like to see in concert?

Cork soprano Mary Hegarty. She always gives a brilliant performance. And I always enjoy the concerts given by the Fleischmann choir.

Any pets?

No pet. My last dog died 10 years ago. I missed our Sunday morning walks, but it seemed pointless, on my own. So I had seen the Tidy Towns crew out litter picking and joined them. Best decision I ever made, they are so welcoming to new members, and whatever work one is able to contribute is appreciated. I have made a lot of new friends.

Morning person or night owl?

Morning person, always since my nursing days.

What would you like to see improved in your area?

I would like to have Ballincollig Garda Station open 24 hours.

Your proudest moment?

Winning the National Fish cookery competition in 1973. My family makes me happy, and anything to do with Sugarcraft.

How would you like to be remembered?

I would like to be remembered as the co-founder of the Cork Sugarcraft Association.

What are you up to at present?

At present I am involved with preparations for the Cork Baking and Chocolate weekend on November 23 to 24, and also busy with Tidy Towns, ICA, Westgate choir, book club and art classes. I am also a secular Franciscan, and try to follow the rule of St Francis.

Tell us about Cork Sugar Craft Association?

In 1994, I had been teaching three different Sugarcraft courses at Ballincollig Community School for several years, and people who had done all three were keen to keep progressing, so I thought there really was a need for a sugarcraft group where people could meet, run on the lines of the British Sugarcraft Guilds.

I had heard of the late Sue Cummins, who was teaching sugarcraft at Ashton School, so we arranged to meet and discuss setting something up.

I approached the headmaster of BCS, and the board kindly allowed us the use of the Home Economics room, and counted us as part of adult education, so we did not have to pay, and were covered by the school insurance.

A letter to the Cork Examiner resulted in an enthusiastic response, so we set up the Association. Since then, we have held very successful competitions/exhibitions every two years, bringing judges over from the UK. Entries come from all over Ireland.

During the year we hold workshops and demonstrations, and at Christmas make mini Christmas cakes for the Lions Club hampers.

We have moved several times, and now meet at Canon Packham Hall in Douglas on the last Tuesday of each month. It is open to anyone interested in Sugarcraft, from beginners to experts.

Anything else?

I am very grateful to Age Action, through whom I have done three computer classes at EMC, with wonderful patient tutors, through whom I am now reasonably competant at using the internet. I was even nominated by EMC for a silver surfer award two years ago, and had a great day out at the awards ceremony .

Martina Walsh (left) and Sandra Murphy of the Cork International Hotel getting in some last minute preparations ahead of the Cork Bakiing and Chocolate Weekend.Picture: Brian Lougheed
Martina Walsh (left) and Sandra Murphy of the Cork International Hotel getting in some last minute preparations ahead of the Cork Bakiing and Chocolate Weekend.Picture: Brian Lougheed


The Cork Sugar Craft Association is involved with the Cork Baking and Chocolate Weekend at the Cork International Hotel from November 22 to 24, at the Cork International Hotel.

The unique three-day event will showcase cake making experts and chocolatiers who have won major global honours in the industry, including gold medallists in world-ranked events in the U.S. Throughout the weekend, a large marquee will host chocolate, baking and cookery demonstrations, while visitors can also indulge in various workshops and talks.

This is the second year of the Great Cork Bake Off at The Cork Chocolate and Baking Weekend, where 15 people will be carefully selected as finalists from their ‘Showstopper’ cake and they will be judged by the renowned chef, Paul Kelly, Executive Pastry Chef of the Merrion Hotel and Judge of the Great Irish Bake Off.

There are some very exciting additions to this year’s festival such as Sparkling Afternoon Tea with complimentary admission to the exhibitor area on Saturday, November 23. The afternoon tea will be prepared by the Executive Head Chef, Martin O’ Mahony.

There will also be a special appearance by judge of the Great Irish Bake Off and Executive Head Chef of the Merrion Hotel, Mr Paul Kelly along with one of the world’s best known award winning chocolatiers and patissiers, William Curley.

One of the highlights of the weekend is The Cork Chocolate Dinner which will see a cocoa themed dinner served to guests on Friday, November 22, at 7pm.

Over the weekend, other events include a Q&A with William Curley.

William will be offering hints and tips for baking and decorating your favourite delicacies.

There will also be a talk on “How to make the perfect Christmas Cake’.

There will be a variety of workshops such as Beer and Chocolate Pairing; Wine and Chocolate Pairing; a Cocktail Making Masterclass and Sourdough Made Easy.

There will also be a children’s area with lots of activities to keep younger chocolate lovers entertained.

For tickets or a full line-up see for more.

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