This selection of Kinvara lore comes from the duchas.ie website. It comprises part of the National Folklore Collection, property of University College Dublin held in trust for the people of Ireland. Content was collected by local children in 1937 and 1938, carefully transcribed under the supervision of their teachers and forwarded with great pride to form part of the Collection.
Collected by Peggie Regan, Kinvara, from John Joe Conneely, Kinvara (aged 36)
What are the five hardest things to find?
A shoe for the foot of the mountain
A towel to wipe the face of the earth
A sheet for the bed of the ocean
A cap to fit the head of Kinsale
A set of teeth for the mouth of the harbour
What occurs once in a minute, twice in a moment and never in a thousand years?
The letter m
What is it we all have, we seldom use it ourselves and yet everybody uses it?
Where was the first nail struck?
On the head
Collected by Irene Shaughnessy, Kinvara.
A fiddler in Galway had a brother a fiddler in Dublin. The fiddler in Dublin had no brother a fiddler in Galway. Why?
The fiddler in Galway was a girl.
As I went out a slippery gap I met my Uncle Dennis. He was more afraid of a cock and a hen than all the men in Ennis. What was he?
As I went up the boreen
I met my Aunty Noreen
Upon my word
She would frighten the crows
What am I on about?
What part of a cow goes in a gap first?
Why is a shoemaker’s shop like hell?
Because bad soles go there.
Collected by Kathleen Fallon, Kinvara from Patrick Fallon, Kinvara (aged 57). Dated 8th March, 1938
There is not a river, stream, hill, field, bush, or road that has not some name or other derived from some incident that occurred there or some person who lived there. The place where we live is called Ballybranagan. How it got its name first was long ago a lot of people lived there in small huts and they all had the name of Branagan. So the people called it the town of Branagan. It is situated about a quarter of a mile from Kinvara.
About two mile and a half from the town of Kinvara there is a place called “Geata Bán”. How it got its name was a white coach was supposed to pass there every night at twelve o’clock.
About two miles from Kinvara there is a place called Poll na gCeann. How it derived its name was during the penal times when the English used to cut off the heads of the priests they used to throw the heads into the big hole and that is how it got the name of Poll na gCeann
A half a mile east of Kinvara there is a place called Dungora. Long ago a king by the name of Guaire used to live there and the people called the place after his castle. That is how it got its name.
About two-miles from Kinvara there is a village called Crushoa. There was a cross on the wall at the entrance of the village. The people heard the English were coming to take the cross so they took it down and hid it in the ground. That is how the village got the name of Crushoa. All the places are situated in the townland of Kinvara, the barony of Kiltartan and the county of Galway.
OUR HOLY WELLS
Collected by Kathleen Fallon, Kinvara, from Patrick Fallon – 5th April, 1938
Ireland is noted for its holy wells. There are a lot of holy wells around this district but the two holy wells that are best known are St. Patrick’s and St. Colman’s.
St. Patrick’s well is situated about three and a half miles from Kinvara. The story of how it got its name is. One day a woman was walking up Corker Hill and she was fainting for the want of a drink of water. She searched for a long time to see if she could find a well to get a drink. At last she gave up the search in despair. She sat down on a rock and started to cry. Suddenly she heard someone walking towards her. Looking up she saw St. Patrick and he asked her why she was crying. The woman told him that she was fainting for want of water and that she could not find any. St. Patrick told her to follow him and he took her into a field where there was a rock. Kneeling down beside the rock he prayed to God that a well would spring up and there did. St. Patrick then blessed the well and that is how the well got its name.
Every St. Patrick’s day people go to visit the well. People who are suffering from pain in their limbs go there to get cured. They wash the affected part with the holy water and then they take home some of the holy water in a bottle so that they can rub their limbs if they feel the pain coming on again.
St Patrick’s well is situated on the side of the Burren Mountains. People leave relics of different things there such as, turnips, prayer books, beads, medals and stones.
St Colman’s well is situated about half a mile from Kinvara. It is situated near an old house called Foys. Sometimes the people go there on Sundays to pray. People suffering from sore eyes go there to get cured.
Collected by Mary Leary from Patrick Leary, 8th March, 1938
Long ago poets were traversing Ireland. They were traversing county Galway as well as every county in Ireland, because in a place called Kileenan in the County Galway was the residence of Raftery the famous Irish poet.
This poet was born in the year 1854 and he lived to the advanced age of 80 years. Then he died. This poet was very famous and although he got very little education owing to his blindness which came on him at the age of eight, he was gifted for his poetry. He had the gift since his birth and it came to him from his ancestors.
As well as composing poetry Raftery also composed numerous songs. The best known of his songs was “Kiliadan” and “Anaghadown”. This is the reason Raftery composed “Anaghadown”. Some villagers were going by boat on the Corrib to a fair which was held in Galway. There were thirty people on board the boat. The boat happened to be rotten, and midway between Galway and their homes the old boat sprang a leak. One of the men took off his coat and put it in the hole so as to keep out the water. He pressed the coat firmly with his heel but alas; he shoved the whole plank out of the boat. Then the occupants of the boat were swimming for their lives. Some of them swam ashore, but there were nineteen of them drowned – eleven men and eight women.
Raftery composed his songs and poetry in Irish. He belonged to a poor family and in order to provide for his parents he went around the county playing on a violin and singing.
The local people of the county looked upon him as wonderful because long ago there were very few poets in the county. One winter’s night Raftery visited some of the houses in the vicinity of Kileenan and he recited for the people. The people loved to listen to him as he recited and sang Irish songs. When the days of summer were long and bright he sat down on a large rock which is situated behind his own dwelling. It was there he wrote about the disaster of “Anac Cuán.”
There were many other songs and poems which Raftery made and which are still sung locally by the people. Never will the history of Raftery be in oblivion by the people of County Galway.
LOCAL MARRIAGE CUSTOMS
Collected by Mary Leary from Patrick Leary.
Marriages usually occur about Shrove week, nearly always on Shrove Tuesday. Lent and Advent are the two times in the year which big wedding feasts cannot be held. On account of that most people celebrate marriage before these periods occur.
There are lucky and unlucky days for marriages. There are unlucky months also. The principal days thought unlucky days for marriages to occur were Mondays and Saturdays. The chief months thought unlucky for marriages are, May, March and October.
Matches are made in my district a few weeks before the marriage occurs. Money is given by the bride’s parents aw dowry. If not, stock is given and.
Long ago when the Penal laws were in force in Ireland marriages took place in the houses. Owing to the Catholic churches being closed the ceremony had to be celebrated there. There were many ancient customs connected with the wedding day.
Horseback was the chief mode of conveyance. On the eve of the marriage the bridegroom went around the vicinity collecting all the farmer’s horses that he could get. He then hired riders and on the morning of the marriage the bridegroom set off on horseback to the church. Behind him came the bride riding on another horse and behind them the others.
On returning from the church after the ceremony the groom rode his horse with the bride sitting behind him. Others who attended often raced against each other.Long ago great feasting was held for three days. Nowadays on the morning of the marriage the bride and bridegroom go away on their honeymoon. When they return a great feast is held again Boys from the vicinity dress up as straw boys and on the night of the feast they go into the house in which it is held and go around gathering money.
THE LORE OF CERTAIN DAYS
Collected by Mary Leary from Patrick Leary, 9th March, 1938
There are lucky days and unlucky days in every year. There are also days in which certain remedies for certain ailments can be applied. A person who has a sore foot can be cured on the 8th of September and on the 15th of August. It is said that ploughing cannot be done on Whit Monday or on Easter Monday.
Friday is called the cross day. It is said that any person who meets a white horse on that day should turn home lest bad luck should fall on him. Any person who meets a red-haired woman on a Monday should turn home. Any person who sees one pigeon by himself on a Friday is to be unlucky for the day.
On the Monday of the first week in April potatoes are sewn. If they are sewn later they are supposed to rot. When rain occurs on a Friday, on the following Sunday it is supposed to rain. Long ago a great storm occurred on the 5th of January also but it is not as terrific as the storm of long ago.
Rain usually occurs on the eve of Saint Swithin and it is said that it if rained on Saint Swithin’s day that rain would continue for forty days and forty nights afterwards.
The month of March is called the old cow. At the beginning March it is said that the old cow takes her place. The old cow remains from the first of March to the eleventh of April. During that time we have very harsh weather.
It is believed that on May-day or on Whit Monday any person who gets wounded is supposed to have bad luck for the remainder of the year. There are many other local customs which the Irish people have. On the eve of the feast of Saint John the people of the vicinity collect money to buy turf and they make bonfires in honour of Saint John.
SAINT PATRICK AND SAINT COLMAN
Saint Colman is the patron saint of Gort and Kilmacduagh. He was born in Kiltartan. His mother’s name was Rinagh and his father’s name was Duagh. Before he was born it was prophesied that Colman was to be the greatest man of his race. King Colman was king of Connaught at that time. He was a cousin of Duagh. When he heard the prophecy he was jealous. He told his soldiers to tie a stone round Rinagh’s neck and throw her into the river. They did that, but she was not drowned. She was saved by a miracle. A few days after that Colman was born, but there was no one to baptize the child. One day as Rinagh was praying two monks came along. One was blind, the other was lame. She asked them to baptize the child, but they had no water. On of them caught the child’s hand and touched the ground. Water sprang up and they baptized the child. The monks asked Rinagh to give them the child. We hear no more about Colman until he is a priest. He went to the Arran Islands and he built a church there. After some time he went over to the Burren mountains and built a hut there. King Guaire was king of Connaught at that time. St. Colman built seven churches in Kilmacduagh. The ruins are still to be seen.
Collected by Mary O’Leary, Kinvara, from Patrick O’Leary (aged 70)
In penal times there were certain laws put on the Irish by the English called Penal laws. They were very cruel laws and the Irish people were put down as much as could be. Kinvara came under the rigour of the Penal laws as well as every town and city in Ireland, because in a place called “Poll na gCeann a mass rock is visible.
This is a huge rock from which service was paid to God and on which Mass was offered. While mass was going on, boys from the neighbourhood had to keep watch on their enemies the English.
Several paths are to be seen leading to the rock on which the people walked when they came to Mass. There is also a stile to be seen quite close to the rock. It was over this stile the priests used leap when they were coming to say mass or returning.
There is a cave to be seen beside the mass rock. It was there that the priest used hide when the watchers gave the command that the English were approaching. The people who attended mass used run to hiding places for safety.
Many priests were beheaded and when this was done their heads were thrown into a large hold which is now called “Poll na gCeann” or hole of the heads. Many priests succeeded in escaping from the English, but those who escaped were watched closely and beheaded afterwards. Several priests were betrayed by certain people for the sake of receiving money from the English.
Never will the cruelty of the Penal laws be in oblivion by the Irish.
Irene O’Shaughnessy also mentions a mass rock. This was the mass rock at Crushoa. She says ‘the rock was often sprinkled by the blood of a priest and there are red stains to be seen on it till this day.’ She got the information from Mairead O’Shaughnessy (aged 38)
THE BLACK AND TANS
Collected by Mary O’Leary from Patrick O’Leary (aged 79)
There is nothing as terrific as a house burning. It is dreaded by everybody. There is scarcely a town in Ireland without its share of ruins of burned houses.
The draper’s shop was burned by the Black and Tans about the year 1921 when Ireland was infested with them. ‘The burning occurred at about eleven o’clock on a dark stormy winter’s night. The Black and Tans entered the shop in a wild fury and went to the kitchen where a range was. They spilled petrol in the fire, which immediately burst into flames.
The blaze immediately reached the roof overhead and then followed from the roof to the ceiling and then the goods caught fire. The occupants of the shop tried to rush to safety and luckily enough they succeeded. Their attempts to rescue the contents of the shop were all in vain. All the goods that were in the shop were burned to ashes. Men from the neighbourhood did their best to quench the flames but it was impossible for them to overcome them.
Water was brought in large quantities but the more water was thrown on the flames the wider they spread. Higher and higher they rose until the whole town was illuminated by their lights. The flames could be seen for miles and miles outside the town. Many lives were in danger in the conflagration.
A near by public house was beginning to take fire when the occupants luckily felt it taking root. They sprang a once for water and neighbours helped them to extinguish the flames. No lives were lost in the burning. The ruins of the burned shop are to be seen in Kinvara to the present day.
Never will the terrific burning of the draper’s shop be in oblivion by the people of Kinvara.
Collected by Peggy O’Regan from Mrs O’Regan (aged 43)
In the year 1910 during the reign of King George the fifth there were very troubled times in Ireland and the people and country were both very miserable. There was fighting and murdering and burnings going on in the country from morning until night.When the Government saw that the English were not very successful in Ireland they collected the scum of England and sent them to Ireland to wreck and plunder the country. Those people were called Black and Tans and they were very fierce looking people. Some of them were masked and they were cruel and treacherous. The following incident was recalled to me by my mother;
On a calm and peaceful night in the year 1920 Kinvara town was the scene of horror and dread. The raids of artillery could be heard awakening the peaceful inhabitants from their slumber, as the lorries of Black and Tans tore through the streets to a little village nearby named Crushoa.
The house of my grandmother was the first to suffer the onslaught of those cruel barbarians. My grandmother was first aware of their presence by the rattle of glass as they burst the windows in with their rifles. Her first thought was to arouse the still slumbering inmates, the few who remained as the boys whom the Black and Tans were seeking for were in hiding because their lives were in danger. My helpless grandfather was carried to safety in the trembling arms of my two uncles. As they returned from the spot where they had left the still trembling and horrified old man, the home of their birth place could be seen ablaze and my grandmother could be seen rushing from the scene of disaster through the fields.
Those Black and Tans collected every article of furniture they laid their hands on and piled them in a heap in the middle of the kitchen. They then threw petrol on the pile and set fire to it. When they saw the furniture ablaze they left the house thinking that every thing would be destroyed. My two uncles with what strength remained in them strived to save any articles of wealth which still remained in the debris. After some time of heroic effort they saved some of the furniture and all the stock which lay in the outhouses.
As the sun rose in the heavens this scene of tyranny came to an end in conversation but not in memory. The following year my old grandfather and grandmother were laid to rest in the peaceful churchyard of Doorus, where they now await the resurrection.
Collected by Patsy Noone, Kilcolgan, from Tommy McDonald, Kilcolgan.
The local landlords were the St. Georges of Tyrone, The Redingtons of Kilcornan, the Blakes of Clough, Ballymore, the Morgans of Monksfield and the Dolphins of Tarerrae. The landlords of my parish were the Redingtons of Kilcornan and the St. Georges of Tyrone. They were very rich people and had large estates. The Redingtons were very good-living Catholics. They gave food, clothes and money to the poor. They owned more than half of Clarinbridge and Roveagh. They build the Charity Convent of Clarinbridge, the parish church of Roveagh. Their rents were not too high and they had money on the poor. Their beautiful house is still in good repair.
The St. Georges on the other hand were very bad Protestants and they were very bad to their tenants. Here is how they treated one of them;
There was an old woman living in one of their houses. One month during the winter she failed to pay her rent. Without time the poor woman was thrown out of her home on to the road and they ploughed up her potatoes in the frost. As she had no money and nowhere to go, she had to live in the eye of Kilcolgan bridge and when the tide used to come in the people had to lift out her bed and the few thinks she had left on to the road until it went out again, and then lift them in again. But the poor woman soon died.
The parish priest at that time prophesied that in time to come their beautiful home would become the home of the jackdaws and this prophesy has come to pass, for soon after the house went on fire and the proud family lost a lot of their riches in it. They then lost what was left of it in later years.
Collected by Crissey Ryan from Patrick O’ Leary, Kinvara
In the year 1931 there was a terrible storm in Kinvara. It was a very calm day but out in the bay a change came on. It was getting rough. The storm began about half-past five in the evening. The people of the town did not expect it even though there were signs. Birds were seen flying over the tide and through the woods. They were screaming wildly and that foretells the coming of bad weather.
There were no lives lost in the storm. All the houses that were near the sea were flooded with water because there was a horrible high tide. In some houses the people had to go out through the windows because they could not go out the doors on account of the very big tide. In one house there was an old woman. Some men had to bring her out the window and bring her to another house. The shops that were near the sea had sacks of flour, beans, oats and other things and they were all destroyed, the storm being furious and the people in great dread. Umbrellas were turned inside out with the strength of the storm. The little boats were dashed ashore. There is nothing as fierce as a terrible storm.
Collected by Kathleen Fallon from Patrick Fallon, Kinvara
17th May, 1938
There is not a town or a village in Ireland that has not a forge. Forges are not as numerous now as they were long ago. Hardly any person uses a horse now except country people. Long ago horses were used for every kind of work such as travelling and ploughing. With all the horses travelling long ago work was very plentiful for the smith.
There are three forges in the town of Kinvara. One is situated on the south side of Kinvara and is owned by a man named Burke. The second is situated on the north side and the man who runs it is named Griffin. The third forge is owned by a man named Connolly. It is situated in the middle of the town of Kinvara.
Burke’s forge is situated on the roadside. It is like a shed from the outside. It has one window in the front and a large door. The roof is made of galvanise. There is one fireplace in the forge. The bellows are oval shaped and there are two wooden handles on them to blow. They are made of leather. The bellows are not made locally.
When the Smith is making a horse shoe he puts a piece of iron in the file. When the iron is red he takes it out with a tongs, then he hammers it until it is the shape he wants it. It is said that whenever the sparks from the iron fly towards a person that there is money coming to that person.
The Smith makes all kinds of farm implements such as ploughs, harrows, spades, shovels and axes. When the Smith is shoeing a horse he shoes the horse outside also. When he is putting a rim round the wheel of a cart he puts it on outside the forge.
Collected by Kathleen Fallon, Kinvara from Mrs Fahy Kinvara
10th of May, 1938
There is scarcely a country house that has not a churn in it. Some of the churns are small and some of them are tall. The tall churns are very wide at the bottom and they get narrower as they go up. The small churns are round on both sides.
In whatever house there is a churn there is always butter made there. Butter is made in country houses twice a week and in Summer three times a week. Sometimes the people make up the butter in bars of two and three pounds. Then they sell it in the town.
We have no churn but a neighbour of ours has. It is about three feet and she makes butter twice a week. Before she makes the butter she gathers all the new milk she has to spare and then she leaves it aside in basins to sit. When the cream is thick she takes it off and then she gives the milk to the calves or makes cakes with it. Then she washes the churn with boiling water. Then she puts in the cream and churns it. It a stranger happens to go into a house where they are churning he gives a hand to help. People say that if people do not help to churn that evil will fall on the churning.
In olden times churns were worked by the foot but now-a-days they are worked by the hand. In summer cold water is poured into the churn to harden the butter. The buttermilk is used for making cakes and people also drink it when it is fresh. In the town there is never any churning done, all the new milk is sent to creameries.
Excerpts from the National Folklore Collection, property of University College Dublin held in trust for the people of Ireland. Content was collected by children in 1937 and 1938, carefully transcribed under the supervision of their teachers and forwarded with great pride to form part of the Collection.