Sunday, July 30, 2017

Folk Cures of North Galway




Folk Cures of North Galway
By
Rónán Gearóid Ó Domhnaill

Between 1937 and 1939 the Folklore Commission began a unique and invaluable project to collect different aspects of Irish folklore. In order to do this they requested the help of primary school teachers throughout the Irish Free State. More than 50,000 school children from 5,000 schools took part in what became known as the Schools’ Project which is now being made available for public consumption on the internet.
In neat handwriting in both English and Irish, national school pupils, after consulting their relatives and neighbours, wrote about folktales and legends, riddles and proverbs, games and pastimes, superstitions and cures of their local area. They form a portal to another era and much of what they wrote down has long since being forgotten and highlight a time when people lived very closely with the land.  Today we go to the health food shop and buy overpriced goods to maintain our health but people a hundred years ago knew how to find these things in nature. Nettles were boiled and eaten during the month of March to purify the blood. Burdock or cradán as it was also known was boiled and drunk to do this as well. Wild carrot was used for kidney trouble. Chicken weed heated very hot was applied to swellings and sores. Bleeding was stopped with cobwebs and fine feathers.
One of the ledgers I consulted was compiled by school teacher Eibhlín Halliday of Knockroe, Dunmore, County Galway and the folk cures described in it interested me the most.  She had a keen interest in folklore and it is clear from the ledger that she had been collecting them for years and many of the cures were told to her by her grandparents. Reference is made to ‘long ago’ and writing in 1937 this would be going back to the first half of the 19th century. People were a lot more superstitious in the early 20th century and the ledger contains a description of a woman in Carrnagur who had the evil eye and still born children were believed to have been taken by the faeries.  We learn about the ailments people suffered from at the time. The most deadly one was consumption, otherwise known as TB, which was a major affliction in the country until Noel Browne tackled the problem in the 1950s. People suffering from consumption were encouraged to drink donkey’s milk. A child suffering from the whooping cough was placed under a donkey’s stomach. Another cure involved boiling a mouse in milk and having the child drink the milk. The soup from a boiled hedgehog was also believed to be a cure. Alternatively the advice of man on a white or grey horse was sought and followed. Those suffering from boils let a snail crawl onto the afflicted area. Turpentine was placed on loaf sugar and given to children suffering from worms. A toothache could be cured by boiling a frog and drinking the liquid. People with ankle sprains placed their leg under a waterfall and this eased the pain as indeed did goose lard rubbed on the afflicted area. There were healing men who would utter incantations as they performed their healing. Eibhhlín Halliday’s grandmother had turf mould in her eye and went to healer in Claddagh, Tuam. He placed a glass of water on a table and bade her sit close to it. He then muttered an incantation and the turf mould appeared in the glass and she was cured immediately.
Towards the end of the Great War Europe was ravaged by the Spanish flu.  Although not terribly well remembered, more than 20,000 Irish people died until it subsided in 1919. People carried garlic around with them which was believed would ward off the fatal flu. Though not mentioned in the project, another cure for the Spanish flu was whiskey.
In Kilkerrin, school teacher Caitlín, Bean Uí Chuimín described a cure for warts. The afflicted person wrote their name on a rag with a burnt tick and burnt the rag secretly.  It was believed that the warts would disappear as the rag burnt. A cure for a sore throat was believed to be found by heating salt and putting it on cloth tied around the neck or putting boiled potatoes in sock and tying it around the neck. Ring worm could be cured with a mixture of sulphur and unsalted butter. A herb known as buachaillí an tighe could cure sore eyes. A fox's tongue was used to remove thorns. A sprain could be cured by wrapping a snáithe leónta, a type of woollen string and accompanied by prayers wrapped around the afflicted area for nine days.  Those suffering from headaches would have their head measured three times on three different occasions as they believed that their head might have actually split. Warts could be washed before sunrise in the water found in a particular bullaun stone blessed by St Patrick. A bullaun stone was a hole in a rock, and its water was believed to have curative properties. Drinking water from a holy well before sunrise was believed to have general curative properties though some such a well in Boyounagh graveyard were believed to specifically cure warts. Boiled nettle juice was believed to cure measles.
Faith healers such as a seventh son of a seventh son were more common and could cure by merely touching the afflicted area. Some people believed that they only had curative powers if something was placed into their hand immediately after birth before being placed on their mother’s breast. A worm placed in his hand would ensure he could cure scurvy while a herb would give them the power to cure cancer.
The cures are to the modern world bizarre but would have been tried and trusted and passed down several generations. The power of belief is the most important cure. My own grandmother used to make an ointment which was known to cure burns, the ingredients of which were known only to the women of the family. At her funeral last year, I was impressed by the amount of people who proclaimed how the ointment had cured them of their affliction.
All of the above cures were taken from different ledgers of the schools project which is available to view free of charge on the dúchas website at www.duchas.ie.  More ledgers can be viewed at the folklore collection, stored at the UCD library in Dublin. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Ringfort


The above picture shows a ringfort, of which there are several thousand on the island. It may also have been used as a cillín or cemetery for unbaptised children. They survived through the ages as they were regarded as sacred places and dwellings if the sí or faerie. The example shown here is in North Kerry and commands a view of six counties. 

Kenmare Stone Circle

Kenmare Stone circle with a rag tree. I am unsure however if a rag tree is an established tradition or something recently created by or for tourists? It is one of few stone circles located so close to a town. Admission to the site is two euros.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Farce of Irish


Irish is the original language of Ireland, a language that sets us apart from the English, but it is also a language that we can neither seem to completely embrace nor completely discard.   Irish is an official language of the EU but it is clearly not a working language in Ireland.

The farce of Irish comes to the fore when you try to do your business in the ‘country’s first official language’. My most recent experience with Irish as a farce was with the NCT, the authority responsible for maintaining road safety of motor vehicles. When booking the appointment online, you can choose between Irish and English, both official languages in Ireland. The NCT inspector will duly inspect your car but when it comes to printing out the report, often cannot hide their disdain when they realise the document they printed out is in Irish, a foreign language in places like Dublin. This is not a problem if you pass, but if you fail, you have to come back and show the inspector the report in Irish. They cannot read their own document and cannot access it in English. You can ring their customer service team and receive blasts of hot air. You can also contact the Irish language commissioner’s office, a watchdog on such breaches of the official language act, which though well meaning, will do the same.
Tourists like to see signs in Irish, even though the Irish written on the sign often makes no sense and whoever translated it obviously used google translate. Dublin airport has produced some dismal examples of this.  Signage in Irish is more often than not for decorative purposes only and serves no purpose for Irish speakers. Even in Galway city, the so-called the bilingual capital. I remember dining in a restaurant in the Bohemian Latin Quarter. The menu was bilingual but when I ordered in Irish, it quickly became clear that the Irish on it was just for show.

The Celtic culture of this land is being pushed to the fringes of society and Irish speakers are becoming strangers in their own country and even mocked for cultivating it. 
I believe a bilingual society is a more open society and it is lamentable that Ireland's attempt is nothing more than farce.



Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The grave of Arthur Griffith


Arthur Griffith (1872-1922 ) was one of the founders of the Irish state and a founding member of Sinn Féin. He is buried at Glasnevin.

Graves of Glasnevin

Glasnevin is vast and it would takes several days to go through all the graves of which there are more than a million. The cemetery is run by a private company which has both advantages and disadvantages. A tour of the cemetery is well worth it and the guides are enthusiastic about what they do. The pictures below are a minute taste of the magnificent gravestones on offer there. More to follow.
If I recall correctly, this above headstone dates from 1860, meaning the stone was carved by hand. Its unusual to see a cherub from this time. 



Famine Memorial at Glasnevin, Dublin



Famine Memorial at Glasnevin, Dublin unveiled very recently by President Michael D Higgins. It was only in the 1990s that famine memorials started appearing in Ireland. The famine was for generations a mark of shame. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Easter Rising Casualty, Galway.


I wrote about the death of constable Whelan in Gone the Way of Truth. He was Galway's first casualty of Easter 1916. He encountered armed rebels in the Carnmore area and was ordered by his superior to talk to to them as he knew many of them. It cost him his life. When I photographed it for the book, it was in an unkempt state but has recently been restored. Great to see the city looking after objects of historical interest of which there are many in Bohermore cemetery.

Galway Sea mine Victims


In 1917,  a sea mine washed ashore at Lochán Beag near Spidéal, county Galway. It may have been German or British, we don't know for sure but when it struck a rock, it cost the lives of 17 locals, the remains of whom are buried at Bohermore cemetery in Galway. It was recently the subject of a play by the theatre company Fibín. See also Gone the Way of Truth page 123.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

How to write Irish names properly

People might have noticed that some Irish surnames are written with an apostrophe and some are not, take for example O'Donnell and Ó Domhnaill. The apostrophe does not belong in Irish here and it is lamentable that Irish people do not know this. The 'ó' means 'descendant of' . Irish people greet the the Irish version with aversion and try to translate it as they cannot accept that other Irish people want their name in the original Irish.
Mac means 'the son of' an dis sometimes anglicized as "Mc" which loses all meaning. Several thousand Irish dropped the 'o' and  'mac' from their names when they went to America so their names would appear less Irish. the old families are believed to have a banshee attached to them. An old poem went as follows:


Per O' atque Mac, veros cognoscis Hibernos;
His duobus demptis, nullus Hibernus adest.

Which has been translates as

"By Mac and O' you'll always know
True Irishmen, they say:
But, if they lack the O' or Mac,

No Irishmen are they

Monday, June 26, 2017

Séamas Gralton

A plaque in Carrick-on-Shannon, county Leitrim commemorating Séamas Gralton, a man who did not quite fit in with the new Ireland. His story was recently made into a film by Ken Loach called "Jimmy's Hall" (2014). As sad and bizarre tale. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Listowel Castle, County Kerry


Listowel Castle was built in the 15th century. It was restored in 2005 and is in the care of the OPW.  

T

Roger Casement Monument


The Roger Casement monument at Ballyheigue, county Kerry, unveiled by Dick Spring in 1986.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

British army grave near Ennis, county Clare.


Tarbert Bridewell Museum, County Kerry

I recently visited Tarbert, county Kerry and stopped off at the local museum. It is a great little place and I feel they do a good job, providing plenty of information and great reenacted scenes. The staff there are great and really enjoy what they do. Below are a few photos. Well worth the visit.




 






Ratoo Round Tower


Ratoo Round Tower, Ballyduff, county Kerry. The tower is currently being restored and cannot be accessed. Inside the ruined church beside it, I came across this interesting stone mason's mark from the 17th century.  The site is located about 1km from the main road, down a small country lane.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Ireland's Shame

The Georgian doorway in Dublin city, only fifty meters from the Dáil, where homeless man Jonathan Corrie died in December of 2014. the human cost of méféinism.




The grave of Santa Claus


Jerpoint, county Kilkenny contains the grave of St Nicolas Of Myra, otherwise known as Santa Claus. The saint died in the 3rd century and when his grave was threatened by Muslim occupation of Myra during the crusades, it was taken to Italy. To further ensure its safety, it was brought to County Kilkenny as Ireland was then at the edge of the world and relatively free of conflict at the time. It soon became one of many places of pilgrimage in Ireland.

Plaque on Church wall, Mallow, County Cork.


The inscription reads as follows:On 5th May 1799 the United Irishmen of Mallow and sympathizers in the Royal Meath Militia proposed to take over the town by razing St Anne's Church while the militia officers and congregation were attending divine service therein. The event was aborted when Fr Thomas Barry P.P.  and others discovered the plans and acquainted the local military authorities of them.For their parts in the affair Fr.Barry was given a government pension for life. Corporal Peter Reily of the militia was hanged at The Gallows Green, Cork on 16th May, 1799 and the United Irish Leader Walter Baker(an Anglican) was hanged near here on 17th May, 1799. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Roscommon Jail



The above building was built as a jail in Roscommon town in the early half of the 19th century. It was from here that Lady Betty operated as a hang woman. Her tale is a good one and I wrote about her in Fadó Tales of Lesser Known Irish history. However, she may have never existed, but it makes for a good yarn to tell the tourists.The building was later a mental asylum and is today a shopping centre.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Irish Civil War monument Dublin



The following monument was erected outside the old graveyard in Killester, Dublin. It commemorates an IRA man, shot by Free State troops during the Civil War.
I found more information on the murder on the irishmedals.org site:


On the 22nd of September 1922 the body of Anti-Treaty Volunteer Michael Neville, a native of Lisdoonvarna County Clare, was found in a disused graveyard in Killester County Dublin. He was a member of the Dublin City Brigade and had been killed while in the custody of the Criminal Investigation Department (C.I.D.) of the Civic Guard in Oriel House. The C.I.D. were better known as the Oriel House Gang. Three men entered Mooney’s Public House Eden Quay Dublin and abducted the barman Michael Nevill aged 23. Mooney’s body was found the next day in a disused graveyard in Killester . Witnesses told the inquest that three men had entered the public house and ‘arrested’ Nevill, witnesses for the Civic Guard told the inquest that no one connected with the Civic Guard had anything to do with the shooting and Nevill was not arrested by them. Doctor G. Meldon told the inquest he found a number of bullet wounds on the victim including lacerations to the lungs, liver and brain and the victim also had a fractured skull, death was due to shock and haemorrhage.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Webley Bull Dog revolver



Introduced in 1872, it was popular among undercover agents as it's extremely short barrel (only 2.5 inches) made it easy to conceal. It is said that the IRA found one on Thomas Morris (see Gone the Way of Truth, page 208) before they executed him in Kinvara in 1921.

Graves of Irish Writers



"The End" by Ray Bateson. A very small but extremely well researched book. A handy size means it can be easily be carried about. Unfortunately, as it is self-published, it is not readily available in shops. A must for anyone interested in the final resting places if Irish writers.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Old Gravestone, North County Dublin



I stumbled across this gravestone recently. The winged children's heads are known as cherubs and are common on 18th century graves. This example was found in the old churchyard at Lusk, County Dublin.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Clochran Graveyard, North County Dublin



Not very far from Dublin airport is an old graveyard known as Clochran. Although the earliest burial there is from 1732, the site was used as  a burial ground long before this. It is a mixed graveyard i.e both Catholics and Protestants are interred there.  The above gravestone dated from 1813. The hand chiseled inscriptions were done to last.

The Galway Market



The Galway market is a special and intimate place. It does not try to be something that is not and the prices of the quality goods are reasonable. It has been a firm fixture for Saturday morning in Galway for several generations.The above plaque is a poem by Máire Holmes in homage to the market.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Cop Killing Dublin



A plaque in Temple Bar, amidst the tourist pubs and paddywhackery remind the visitor of  the slaying of two Dublin Metropolitan policemen.More to follow when I have researched the circumstances behind it.

Barrack Obama's link to Ireland



Every American president seems to have Irish roots and if they don't, they will be created. The above drawing is of Falmouth Kearney (1831-78) of Moneygall, county Offaly,  a very distant relative of Barrack Obama. I am open to correction but I would question how much Obama cherishes his Irish heritage. The Obama plaza was however a brilliant and highly successful business idea.

RIC Barracks Cahirciveen



The old Royal Irish Constabulary barracks in Caherciveen, county Kerry, now a museum.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Men of the Roads

Men of the Roads
By
Rónán Gearóid Ó Domhnaill

Men of the roads who walked country roads at their leisure, were a common sight in this country and existed very much in living memory but Irish society has changed so much since that it might as well have been a different age. There was long tradition of people rambling this country. For centuries the bards and poets travelled the land regaling the nobility and later, when they lost their status, the peasantry. In the aftermath of the Great Famine, thousands took to the roads in a desperate attempt to survive. For much of the 20th century, the tramp was fondly regarded in popular culture and figures such as Charlie Chaplin were popular.  The man of the road lived outside of society and was his own boss.  He was unconcerned by such things as mortgages, taxes or laws. His only concern was to keep out of the workhouse or poor house, where strict rules and lack of freedom would threaten his way of life. Very often they came from normal middle class families but at some stage in their lives decided to drop out.  One of the most famous Irish writers of the 20th century, Pádraig Ó Conaire from Galway left his wife and family to become a man of the roads and gain inspiration for his writings. When he died in Dublin in 1928, all he had on him was an apple and his pipe. Men of the roads knew where they were welcome and where they were not. While some houses never let them stay, others would never turn them away and it the woman of the house who decided whether or not they could stay. If there was no welcome there or if they was an angry dog which might injure their fellow travellers, a sign, decipherable only to those in the know, was left for the next man of the road. In times gone by when people did travel very far, a traveller turning up at a farm had news of what was happening in faraway villages, summed up in the Irish proverb bíonn an siúlach scéalach, the traveller has tales to tell. John B Keane portrayed this quite well in his famous 1959 play Sive, where two travellers, Pats Bocock and his son Carthalawn, proclaim the local news. Many of them were regarded as eccentric and some of them had black skin because they used to rub engine oil on themselves to keep warm. The Fureys had a great song called Old Joe, written by Allan Taylor, the text of which I have provided at the end of this article. It deals with an old man who tramped around South West England, but his description would match many a man of the roads here and I am sure many readers will know of such men. I remember one man who used to come to my grandparents’ farm in North East Galway in the eighties. Like many men of the roads he had left a normal life behind for a solitary life of wandering the roads and was quiet content with his own company and spoke very little. He must have walked the roads of Connaught for thirty years and followed a definite circuit of over a hundred miles. He slept in the cart house where he stored his few possessions, though on severely cold winter nights he would sleep on the kitchen floor. He was always gone before the family stirred and never ate with them. Nor indeed would he ever accept a lift if you met him on the road. He had been coming to the locality for as long as anyone could remember and grown on people to the extent that his appearance was welcomed by many. By the nineties more cars were coming on the roads and unlit country roads had become dangerous. One night a car ran him down and though he survived, it put a stop to his days of rambling the county. By this time however, social attitudes had changed and the man of the roads was no longer looked upon with the same fondness and they began to fade from the landscape and became little more than a memory.



Old Joe
Chorus:
 And if nobody wants to talk to him
 Well that's okay
 'Cause he's not too keen on talking anyway

Old Joe is a man who just wanders around
 He says he moves much better when he's on his own
 He walks the lonely roads from town to town
 He pushes his home around in a broken cart
 And he wears his ragged clothes and he plays the part

Old Joe is the man who'll fix the door
 When the hinges break and it catches the floor
 Then he'll spend the night in the barn on a bed of straw
 In the morning he'll be gone when you try to find him
 Some flowers by the door is all he leaves behind him

And when it's winter time and the wind blows cold
 And the sheep are settled in the fold
 People wonder where the old man goes
 'Cause he disappears for two or three months or more
 But he'll be back on the road in spring just like before

When I was a boy he was an old man then
 And the old folks knew him when they were young
 And now I'm grown and he's still around
 I wonder if he's one of many that look the same
 Or maybe he's just a small part of the game

Friday, February 3, 2017

Gone the Way of Truth review

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gone-Way-Truth-Historic-Graves/dp/1845889045/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486146353&sr=8-1&keywords=Gone+the+way+of+truth


The history of people and events are recorded and to be remembered in Graveyards and Cemeteries. 22 July 2016
By Jerry Guild Published on Amazon.com
What a surprise it was when I first saw this book.My Son-in Law gave it to me early in June .He got it at Charlie Byrne's Bookshop at the Cornstore,Middle St.Galway.He knows I am a profilic reader,especially of Irish books,and often visits this store,which is one of my fvavorite bookstores,anywhere.It has a huge assortment of books,both new and used IOn his recent visit to his family home in Galway,he visited this store and met Ronan Gearoid O Domhnaill who was promoting this book at the store,and got a copy for me signed by Ronan. I have always been fascinated by Graveyards and Cemetaries.I first got interested in them in the '50's while in the army.While out on convoys,it was necessary to find a place to stop and have our meals.Churchyards were an ideal place to stop as there was lots of space,particularly on weekdays,and usually a graveyard nearby,particularly in the country.Our stop was for a noon rest of 1 hour,and I took advantage by strolling in the graveyard.
On one of my visits to Galway,I was staying on Renmore not far from the Barracks and the walkway across the marsh to downtown Galway,and passing by an old graveyard.One rainy morning ,I took advantage of a bit of a lull in activities,and decided to walk across the bridge and visit the graveyard.It was the Fort Hill Graveyard,,and what an interesting experience it was exploring it.While I was there,a man walked in and proceeded to walk to the back and visit a grave.Later I struck up a conversation with him.If my memory is correct,he told me his name was Jimmie Duggan..He told me he was visiting his family's plot,and he was also part of a group who were involved with restoration of the graveyard.He spent over an hour with me,and explained the history of the graveyard,the destruction of the priory ,built in 1508, dedicated to St Augustine and later demolished, ,how 300 survivors of shipwrecks of sailors from the Spanish Armada,were murdered and burried there,the story behind the huge Celtic Cross there,that was the largest,single piece one of its type,and had been made for a World's Fair in America,and brought back to Galway after.One of the things that caught my eye was the iron bars and locks on the end of the above ground tombs (see page 76) and he explained that there was no remains in the above ground structure ,but there was stairs that led down to 6 places where remains would be placed.I visited that graveyard again a few years ago and also met another man who was also involved in looking after the graveyard.I can't remember his name,but possibly it was Tony McDonagh mentioned on page 66.
I hope I haven't bored you with personal experiences,but if you have interests in history,this book will convince you that there is a lot to be seen and learnedin graveyards and cemeteries.Although I have talked about only Fort Hill,the book also covers many more graveyards in and around Galway and gives details of the many famous people and events remembered there.If you aer ever in Galawa,make a visit ti Fort Hill,even for a n hour,it is barely a 5 minute walk from Eyre Square,and you'll be impressed.
.The book includes a excellent Bibliography but unfortunately no index,so one might want to make notes as you read through it.
The title of the book "Gone The Way Of Truth",comes from an inscription on page 24.I don't really understand that phrase and would be interested if other readers or even the author could explain its significance.