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It's kneads must for Armagh's Quarantine Baker Clarke Halliday


Quarantine Baker Clarke Halliday

Quarantine Baker Clarke Halliday

A selection of the goodies he has been making in Lurgan

A selection of the goodies he has been making in Lurgan

A selection of the goodies he has been making in Lurgan

A selection of the goodies he has been making in Lurgan

Quarantine Baker Clarke Halliday

A Co Armagh baker is slaving for hours over a hot stove in his home to raise spirits ­­- and NHS funds - during lockdown.

The Quarantine Baker, aka Lurgan man Clarke Halliday, has set up a stall at his front door selling freshly baked goods including loaves, farls, pancakes and cookies.

Clarke (36) learned his trade as a teenager in his uncle's shop The Bread Basket in Lurgan.

Although he went on to study Hospitality Management at university and has spent most of his career in this field, little did he know his early baking skills would serve him so well during the Covid-19 crisis.

As soon as the pandemic hit, he knew he wanted to do something to help. But as his girlfriend Holly Davidson (19) is in the vulnerable category, he was restricted to do something from home.

Drawing on the skills he learnt as a boy, he started the Quarantine Bakery from his home in the town's Carrick Drive which, in three weeks, has raised over £3,000.

Clarke said: "I've been watching the virus since as far back as December as my mum and sister work for the health service.

"My mum Esther Halliday was a midwife her entire career and has recently stepped down to an auxiliary role looking after mums and babies, while my sister Naomi McKinty is a ward sister in the Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

"Initially I signed up for the community catering support service but my girlfriend is high risk so we are both isolating and stuck at home.

"I really wanted to do something to give back and realised that I could also help brighten things for the community by baking fresh bread.

"Elderly people in the estate have been able to just walk round the corner to get a loaf and it gives them a chance to get out and chat to others which is amazing.

"To see an elderly person walk away with a warm loaf and a smile on their face is what it is all about for me."

Clarke starts baking at 5am every morning as he can only fit five loaves in his oven at a time. While they are baking, he is making dozens of soda and wheaten farls on the griddle.

Local firms have backed his efforts by donating baking equipment, and all of his ingredients are being supplied free from Finlay Foods and LacPatrick Dairies. He also operates a pre-order delivery service for people who cannot get out, which keeps him busy most days until 7pm.

Every penny raised is going to buy personal protective equipment (PPE) for the NHS.

Clarke explained: "I have teamed up with a local man, Jason Taylor of Geoprint, who has a 3D print workshop at his home and he wanted to use it to make visors for nurses.

"It costs £500 for 300 visors and so I'm raising the money through baking.

"So far we have given 300 visors to Craigavon hospital and this week another 300 are going to the Nightingale hospital at Belfast City.

"We know from talking to locals that PPE is in short supply for nursing homes so we are now planning to provide them with gloves, aprons and hand sanitiser."

Clarke has registered his temporary fundraising business with HMRC and has been in contact with environmental health to ensure that he is meeting all health and safety standards.

He added: "I've had people kindly offering to bake for me but I have had to say no, as I know from my experience in restaurants and hospitality that strict procedures have to be followed."

Now struggling to keep up with orders, he is delighted to be able to contribute during the current crisis, adding: "The feel-good factor of being able to give something back is amazing and I am grateful for all the support in my local community."

People can support Clarke or pre-order his fresh baked breads through The Quarantine Baker page on Facebook.

Belfast Telegraph