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Food in olden times – 1938

Collected by Peggie Regan, Clochar na Trocaire N.S. from John Joe Conneely, Kinvara, Co. Galway

There is a vast difference between the food the people have nowadays and the food the people had in olden days. Long ago the people never heard of a four course dinner or a lunch or they never heard of an hotel or a restaurant.
The people long ago used to eat three meals a day but they could hardly be called meals because, they were very scanty ones and they nearly always consisted of the same food. They used to call the meals breakfast, dinner and supper.
The people of long ago used to get up at daybreak and they used to have nearly a day’s work done before they ate any breakfast. The breakfasts of the people at that time were very poor ones and they only consisted of a few boiled potatoes with salt. In lots of cases the working men who used to work in the gardens used to dig up a few potatoes out of the garden and roast them in a fire which they used to make. This used to serve as a breakfast for the poor people. Before potatoes were ever heard of the people used to eat stir about made from indian-meal.
They used to have their dinner at about four o clock and they used to have potatoes for dinner also. Often times they used to drink a mug of very sour butter milk. Some of the people used to eat boiled “nettles” and “dock leaves”. They used to boil yellow flowers called “braisce” which grow in cabbage gardens and eat them for their dinner.
If the people ever got a herring for dinner the mother used to boil a big pot of potatoes and fry the herring. She used then throw the potatoes into a thing called a “scib” and they used all sit round it on the floor. She used then put the herring on a plate with gravy on “dip” as they used to call it. The mother used then say to the children “dip the praties in the dip and leave the herring to your father”.
For their supper then they used to have potatoes sometimes and boxty bread which was made out of raw potatoes. Other times they used to have oatmeal porridge and milk. They used to drink the milk out of vessels called noggins and there is a man living in “Crushoa” by the name of “Thomas Quinn” who has a few of these noggins still.

The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0049, Page 0337, Duchas © National Folklore Collection, UCD.

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Saint Patrick – 1938

In the middle of Derrybrien graveyard there is a big rock and on it are two holes which are the prints of Saint Patrick’s two knees. One hole is bigger than the other because it is said one of Saint Patrick’s knees was swollen when he knelt there. It is believed that people who do rounds and pray at this rock are cured of swollen feet.

Collected by Philomena Nester
Clochar na Trocaire N.S. Gort Inse Guaire.

The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0050, Page 0031. Dúchas © National Folklore Collection, UCD.

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Hallow E’En – 1938

Collected by Brian MacMahon from Nicholas and Mrs Mac Mahon
Toonagh N.S. Co. Clare
Principal Proinnsias Gordún

First Mammy makes a cake and puts a ring and a sixpence into it. Then whoever gets the ring will be married and whoever gets the sixpence the richest of the family. Then we get a long cord and hang it from the ceiling and fasten an apple and a candle on to the cord to see who would get a bite of the apple.

We get three saucers and we put water in one and earth in the other and salt in the last one. Then we put a handkerchief around someone’s eyes and he would put into one of the saucers. If he put his hand into the saucer of earth he would be first to die; if he put his hand into the saucer of water he would be be first to cross the sea and if he put his hand into the saucer of salt he would be first to be married.
Next we put two beans down on the flag of the fire and name someone to be the husband and wife. We leave the beans there until one of them jumps. If they did not jump the people they stood for would not marry. If one of them jumped the pair would not like one another and whichever of them jumped we would make a show of the person for whom it stood.

Here are some tricks. The First is pinning a cup of water to the wall. First you get a cup of water and a pin and be pretending to another person how to do it. You put the cup on to the wall and put the pin under it. Then let the pin fall and the person goes to pick it up. While he is bending down for it you spill the cup of water on top of him.
Another trick is to place a stick on the ground so that you cannot jump over it. To do this you get a stick and put it up near the wall.
Another still is to kiss a book inside and outside without opening it. Geta book and kiss it inside in the house and go out and kiss it outside.
Putting yourself through the keyhole is another. Write your name on a piece of paper and pass it through the keyhole.
Putting your right hand where your left hand cannot touch it is another. Place it on the left elbow.
The Schools’ Collection, Vol.0613, P.105

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Bird Lore – 1938

The Schools’ Collection

Crows are most common in this district. They never migrate. The crows build their nests on the tops of high trees. The robins build their nests in the holes of walls or in fences. Magpies build their nests on the chimney tops. The wrens build their nests on bushes or in holes of walls. Blackbirds and thrushes build their nests in ivy trees. The crow makes his nest from sticks and hay. The robin makes his nest moss and wool. The magpie makes his nest from earth and sticks. The wren makes his nest from moss and he puts feathers in the inside of it. The only birds that migrate are swallows cuckoos in this district. The swallows come to the district in the month of May and remain in it until August. The cuckoo comes to the district in the month of April and remains until September.
The weather can be judged by the behaviour of birds it is an old belief if the cuckoo sings on trees without leaves that corn will be scarce on that year. If the seagulls fly inland it is the sign of coming storm and rain. If the wild-geese fly inland it is the sign of coming snow. If the swallows fly high fine weather may be expected. For anglers in Spring it is always unlucky to see single magpies but two may be always regarded as a favourable omen and the reason is, that in cold and stormy weather one magpie alone leaves the nest in search of food the other remaining sitting upon the eggs or with the young but if two go out together it is only when the weather is warm and mild and favourable for fishing.

Collected by Eileen Dolan, Carnanthomas, and Ballymanagh N.S. Co. Galway, from Peter Fahy Roo, Craughwell. From

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The Old Mills

By Thoor Ballylee
Photo: EO'D
Thoor Ballylee Photo: EO’D

The Old Mills
Kiltartan N.S.
The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0047, Page 0111
National Folklore Collection, UCD. c.1938
The Gort river which goes underground at “Poll Tuaithbheall” in Castletown worked four mills in and around Gort, one at Cannahown (1/2 mile to the South of the town, now derelict, one in Gort (Hynes’s, still working) one at Kinineha 1/2 mile to the N.East of the town (now derelict) and a fourth at Ballinamanton 1/4 mile farther on (derelict)
Of rootcrops the principal kinds sown are turnips, mangolds, parsnips and beet. Turnips and mangolds are given as food to cattle and sheep. During the hard dry weather in spring and early summer sheep, and especially ewes, are fed on mangolds. Parsnips are grown only in small quantities for table use. Beet is sent away by Rail to the Beet Factory in Tuam. A Beet Train for Tuam leaves the Gort Station every night about 10.30pm, for about eight weeks before Christmas.
The land is suitable for potatoes also. Any surplus potatoes are disposed of in the Gort marked every Saturday.

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Lore of olden days – 1937/38

Photo: EO'D
Photo: EO’D

Collected by Kathleen Fallon,Clochar na Trocaire, Kinvara from Patrick Fallon, Carpenter, aged 57
There is not a district in Ireland that has not certain days and dates for different things. On Friday people who wash clothes are supposed to be unlucky for the rest of the day. Friday is cross day round the district of Kinvara. To keep crosses away from them during the day the people when they rise, make the sign of the cross on the door three times.
The farmers say that Friday is a very lucky day to sow seed and if they have not time to sow them on Friday they throw a handful of seed on the ground. It is said that if a person cries on his birthday he will be crying for the year. People say that it is very unlucky for ships to leave the harbour on may day for the sea is rough on that day and storms usually occur on that day.
The farmers have a superstition that it they have not their potatoes sown on the first week of April they will rot, if they are sown after the first week (sic.). People say that Tuesday and Friday are very lucky days for changing to a new house. People say that it a person moves into a new house on Saturday that he will not remain there long.
People say it is very unlucky to go near water during Whit week. When rain occurs on a Friday is is noted that the following Sunday is always wet. It is said that a person suffering from sore feet can be cured on the eight of September and on the fifteenth of August. If fain falls on St. Swithen’s day is is said that the rain will fall for forty days and forty night.

The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0049, Page 0147

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The Horseman – Ballinderreen 1938

Collected 1937/1938
Ballinderreen, Co. Galway. Teacher: Treasa Bean Uí Bheirn
Collected by Rose Niland from Martin Kelly, Tyrone, Co. Galway
About fifty years ago a horse-man used to pass the Ballinderreen road towards Kilcolgan every night. A certain woman used to look out after it so she lost the sight of one of her eyes. My grandfather and a few companions were coming from a dance from James St. Georges about two o’clock one night and as they were coming back at Glynn’s they heard a galloping horseman coming towards them. They said it must be some man going to the Loughrea horse fair. So when the horseman was within five or six yards of them they moved in one side of the road to let it pass. They heard something like a breeze of wind passing between them and the wall but they saw nothing. Just a few yards behind them they heard the horse galloping again. They knew then that it was no living person that was in it but the fairy horseman that used to pass the way every night.

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Cloonasee – 1938

From Margaret Kavanagh aged 10

Cloonasee brambles

There was a man in our village Cloonasee once and he was blind. One day a woman came in and said that she would cure him if he gave her a bundle of straw: he said he would. She took a cup off the dresser and went out and began to pluck the leaves off the daisies and came in and put two spoons of water in it. She told the man to rub it to his eyes and he got cured.
“If you refused me for the straw you would never get back your sight,” she said

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The Local Forge – 1938

Collected by Kathleen Fallon from Patrick Fallon, Kinvara

Photo: Kresten Hartvig Klit Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Kresten Hartvig Klit
Wikimedia Commons

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.

Excerpt 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.

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Churning – 1938

Collected by Kathleen Fallon, Kinvara from Mrs Fahy Kinvara

Photo: Rodw Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Rodw
Wikimedia Commons

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.