Amid the cluck and buzz of her everyday life, The Anlgo Celt met spoke with Monica McCormick, who, for much of the past two decades, has made Kilnaleck her home, and it’s from there Monica launched her unique brand of natural beeswax creams and balms.
Monica’s little country business is a cottage industry in the truest sense.
Her picturesque home, still known locally as ‘Ned ‘Tormey’s cottage’ even though she’s lived there with her husband Eugene for over 20 years, is located down a winding country laneway on the outskirts Kilnaleck.
Former furniture restorers with a shop in Dublin, she explains:
“We wanted to get out of Dublin. We wanted something different and we liked Cavan. We’d been down here on drives. We’d no connection to the county other than Eugene’s father being from down this way but we liked the people. I put an advert in The Anglo-Celt looking for a cottage. The rest is history.
“This one was our favourite [cottage]. It was quite run down when we got it but over the years, the work we’ve put into it… we’ve made it our home.”
Fermanagh-native, Monica began experimenting with natural products such as beeswax as a result of her husband, Eugene suffering from asthma.
“Honey made from local pollen where the person is living, the more local the better is the best cure,” so Monica was informed.
A trip to Gormanstown to a apiary-keeping course, another advert in ‘The Anglo Celt for bee-houses, some bee-stings and several pots of honey later, low-and-behold Eugene’s asthma is as good as gone.
From that little foray into the curative properties of honey and beeswax Monica discovered many other uses, among them the opportunity to create creams and balms.
“Beeswax contains Vitamin A which is an active key element in human cell development,” she explains. “Beeswax locks in moisture, softens and protects skin, has anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and hypo-allergenic properties. It takes the bees six to eight pounds of honey, or for them to fly 150,000 miles to produce one pound of wax, so it’s valuable stuff.
“I began by making them for friends and family, they seemed to like them so I started making them for neighbours too and the reaction was amazing. As a matter of fact, some of my neighbours are my best customers, and it’s all grown from there,” says Monica.
From this knowledge her business was born, christened Céir the Irish word for beeswax her range includes creams combined using natural oils, lip balms, almond and coconut oils, gardener hand creams, soothing Sandalwood aftershave balms as well as baby balm for sensitive skin.
Monica has carved out a niche for herself, ‘selling her specialist products locally at farmers markets in Belturbet and at McCarron’s in Cavan, as well as in selected health food shops around the country. She also sells her products at the occasional craft fair and from her cottage shop as well as her online store www.ceir.ie.
“I enjoy doing it more than anything. else,” says Monica who also sells duck and hen eggs and makes home-made dips, relishes and potato boxty, all using ingredients that grow in her very own garden.
“I’d encourage anybody to get involved. Get out there and learn a new skill and put it to good use,” she enthuses. “There is so much out there people can learn and do from the very basics and I suppose there’s never been a better time than the way things are now.
“I knew nothing about bees when I first started. Foolishly we just got the beehives, put them in the car and drove home. It was only then I started learning about bee-keeping. For me it all started as an idea, which became a hobby that just so happens to also be a business now. I’m very proud of that fact and I’m very pleased to be able to do all this from home. But what it just goes to show is a little bit of learning, a little bit of determination and interest and you can do anything, that’s my way of thinking.”