Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Phone Boxes


Notice anything missing?




Clue: It used to stand in this corner of The Square.
Yes, it's the public phone box. I never spotted when they took it away.
Maybe we should have kept it as an artefact and worked it into the heritage trail. Remember there is a generation growing up for whom the concept of a public telephone is very hard to get your head around.

As far as I know, these are  the only phoneboxes left in Listowel.

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The late, great John B Keane was a Leader columnist for more than 30 years. This column first appeared in our edition of April 29, 1972

JOE QUAID, formerly of Athea, but now resident in Knockadirreen, Duagh, has just completed his autobiography. The book, which he originally called “Hook, Line and Sinker,” tells of his life and times from his childhood in Athea to his present state.
He has re-titled the book as many patient readers of these columns will be well aware. It is now called “Quaid’s County” and it is at present in the hands of the Mercier Press of Cork where it is being studied with a view to publication.
When I rang the Mercier Press for word of their plans regarding the long manuscript last week the only information they were willing to vouchsafe consisted of two words. These were: “original” and “satisfactory”.

Not bad when one considers all the unfavourable things they might have said. The book consists of twenty chapters and is four hundred pages long. Every townland and parish in North Kerry and West Limerick receives mention and there are some amusing stories about Knocknaboul, Knockadirreen, The Black Stick, the Cot Hole, and other historic fishing pools along the Feale River.
There is a whole chapter devoted to poaching around Abbeyfeale cut for obvious reasons, the names of the poachers are fictitious.

Buckshee Laama
THERE is the story of the famous Buckshee Laama of Duagh. The Buckshee Laama is as mysterious an entity as the Loch Ness Monster. Those who have seen the Buckshee Laama in the wooded depths between Duagh and the Knight of Kerry’s Castle at Woodford insist that it is the ugliest creature in creation.
It is of giant proportions, with the body of a shark or blue whale only more leathery and an unprepossessing off-white in colour. It has a head like a horse. Personally speaking, I have never seen it but Joe Quaid maintains that the creature still lurks in the middle of the Feale.
Could it be that the Buckshee Laama is a relation to that other mythical fish of grand proportions: “The One That Got Away?”
If Joe Quaid fails to find a publisher it will be Ireland’s loss not Joe’s because this is a book about the real people of Ireland from the War of Independence to the present time.
Here is all the poverty and frustration of the starving ‘thirties, the tension of the fighting ‘forties and so on ‘till we come to the long hair of today’s young man.
About long hair Joe has this to say: “Give me anything bar black nails and snotty noses.”

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Monday, 4 July 2016

Barbers, official opening of Listowel Castle and some more piseogs


The Rise and Rise of the old-fashioned Barber's shop.

Men and their  Hair

There was a time when men had their hair cut at the barber's and women went to hairdressers. The times changed and we had a very strange phenomenon called Unisex Hairdressers. This term was coined in the 1960s to describe a salon that was not gender specific.
There is a certain man who likes to have his hair cut in a male environment so the traditional barber still did a steady trade.
Then we saw the rise of a man who likes to have his hair cut, styled and dyed and to have his facial hair attended to in a men only environment. So now we have stylish salons to rival any ladies' hairdressers devoted entirely to men.



This is a traditional barber's pole. It projected into the street so that even an illiterate man would know this was the spot for the haircut. The story behind the red and white stripes is that originally the local barber was the person most skilled with knives so he was also the local surgeon.



O"Quigley's in Church Street have incorporated the pole into the shop front.


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Found this!



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Three Generations return to Listowel

The lovely lady on the far right of my photo is Peggy Gannon and I met her with her daughter and granddaughter as they were visiting a family grave in John Paul 11 cemetery.  Peggy will be 90 next birthday but she has lost none of sharp brain power or her good looks and she is still playing Bridge.

Peggy told me that the last time she met me was when she called to my door canvassing for Jimmy Deenihan and I was pregnant. That child is now 30.

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John B. and Piseogs

Piseoga or Pishogues are not to be trifled with. My friend who sent me the article about piseogs from Ireland.net told me that an old man from Rathmore told him that Derrinagree was a deadly spot for piseogs...so deadly that they brought in a missioner to get rid of them. When the visiting missioner visited the church he found a pig's head left on the altar for him.

Now from The Limerick Leader a piseog story nearer to home from the pen of John B. Keane.

Pishogue scare
AT THE time of writing there is a big pishogue scare in the district of Lisselton and the townlands adjacent to it. Lisselton lies at the foot of fabled Cnocanore, where the Fianna of old hunted and played.
It is only four miles from beautiful Ballybunion and five miles from lovely Listowel. From time to time there are pishogue scares in most townlands in North Kerry but the present Lisselton one seems to be the biggest of all because many people are affected.
One man has a sore hand. The milk of another is back by a score of gallons every day. For no good reason, a milch cow in prime condition died belonging to another. Then there is the man who had a quality greyhound of great promise.
The dog has shown a complete reversal of form and is now considered worthless. In case the reader might think that these stories of woe are mere invention journey to Lisselton and find out for yourself.

There are strong goings on all over the district and a number of people are living in fear in case the evil hand of pishoguery is pointed in their direction.
Some locals claim there is no power in pishogues while others swear that infinite damage can be done. At present, it is all very mysterious but have no doubt about it there is evil work in the fields and fairy forts of this quiet countryside.
A Lisselton man to whom I spoke last week told me that in his opinion the district is on the verge of many calamities. Apparently if one believes pishogues can do harm then harm befalls the believer. It is the opposite with non-believers. Those who scoff at the so-called power of the evildoer seem to escape unscathed.

At present one of the methods used for the spread of pishoguery is the laying of eggs along the headlands of the field of those against whom the pishoguer has a grudge.
It could be too that the pishoguer is jealous. The eggs are laid in a ring and the number put down is thirteen. The desired effect is that the hens of the victimised person will stop laying.
Sometimes eggs are found under cocks of hay but this could be the work of a rogue hen who decides to lay out.
One can only be certain that a pishogue is being worked when the eggs are round in a ring of thirteen. Only white eggs are used.

In all instances of which I’ve heard and some cases which I have personally seen, there has never been a brown or speckled egg used. One of the most malicious forms of pishoguery and one which is being currently practiced in Lisselton is the scattering of milk within the bewitched circle of fairy forts. Lisselton abounds in fairy forts, some of them quite famous.
This practice of milk-spreading is an abominable practice in country districts where the economy is built around the milch cow. The spreading by the pishoguer of fresh milk is supposed to dry up the cows of those he envies. Some people swear that the pishoguer very often has the desired effect. Others have been known to sell off their stock of milch cows.
Let us hope the Lisselton scare peters out and that there is no further harm attempted. Most of the people in that happy district refuse to take it seriously but no one denies that it is happening and deep down there is the fear that oneself will be next.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Piseoga, Miss Hayes and a 1903 Kerry team


Milk and Piseoga



My reminiscences of milking brought back many memories (not all happy) for people.

Traditionally Irish people got much of their nourishment from dairy products, so milk, butter, eggs and cheese were staples in their diet. Farmers realised the importance of protecting these goods from thieves, both human and of the fairy kind.


Below is an extract from The Farmer: Irish Folk Custom and Belief
 (Nósanna agus Piseoga na nGael) by Seán Ó Súilleabháin 
This was sent to me by a kind blog follower.  He found it on Ireland.net


"... Almost all of the customs and beliefs in this field were concerned with the physical welfare of the cows and the warding off of diseases and other evils which might affect them harmfully. The cow-house or byre was built on a site which would not prevent the passage of fairies or encroach on their territory (mainly, the “fairy fort”). Crosses made of straw and other materials on St. Brigid’s Eve were hung in the cow-house or fixed to the doors and windows. It was hoped to protect the cows themselves by tying red ribbons to their tails or around their necks ; rings made of rowan were similarly applied for the same purpose. Cattle were driven across the dying flames of bonfires on May Eve and St. John’s Eve, or between two of these fires. So too they were forced to swim in a lake or river at certain times to avert illness and bad luck.


Holy water was, of course, often sprinkled on livestock and scores of charms (apocryphal folk-prayers) were recited to avert or cure the many diseases from which they might suffer whether through natural causes or, as the folk often suspected through the evil eye of an unfriendly neighbour. The fairies too were blamed for causing animals to be “elf-shot”. This was due to the fact that ailing cows, with pierced hides might be found grazing near a place where small stone arrow-heads from ancient times were often found lying about; the fairies were immediately blamed for having cast these weapons at the cows in an attempt to take them off into fairyland. One of the many remedies for “elf-shot” was to give the stricken animal a drink of water in which the “fairy arrows” had been boiled.
As soon as a cow had calved, she was ceremoniously blessed with holy water, while the following prayer was recited three times:

Go mbeannaí Dia dhuit, a bhó!
Go mbeannaíthear faoi dhó do do laogh!
Go mbeannaí an triúr atá i bhflaitheas Dé,
Mar atá : An t-Athair agus an Mac agus an Spiorad Naomh!
Tar, a Mhuire, agus suidh;
 tar, a Bhríd, agus bligh;
Tar, a Naomh Mícheál Ard-aingeal, agus beannaigh an mart.
In ainm an Athar ages an Mhic ague an Spiorad Naofa, Amen, a Dhia.”
(God’s blessing on thee, O cow!
twice blest be thee, O calf!
May the Three who are in Heaven bless you: 
the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!
Come, Mary, and sit; come, Brigid, and start milking;
come, Blessed Michael, the Archangel, and bless the beef
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen, O God.)

Although it was commonly accepted that the fairies who lived in the forts might need milk and take it from cows on the farm, this was not resented, as people wished to live in amity with their otherworld neighbours. Precautionary measures were directed more against evil-minded neighbours, who were liable to endeavour to steal one’s milk or butter “profit” (‘sochar an bhainne’) by magic means. Newly-calved cows stood in need of special protection, as their supply of milk was assured. Crushed flowers, such as marsh marigold, were rubbed to their udders, which were also singed with the flame of a blessed candle. The first steam of milk drawn from such a cow was allowed to fall on the ground ”for those who might need it” (the fairies, presumably), and then a cross was marked on the cow shank with some of her milk.
A charred sod of turf from the Midsummer bonfire was placed in the milk-house as protection. The greatest care was taken not to lose one’s milk-luck through negligence, as witness the following traditional taboos : don’t give away any milk on New Year’s Day, on May Day, on any Monday or on a Friday; don’t lend a milk-vessel; don’t take to fetch water from the well a vessel which is milk-stained; when such a vessel has been washed, do not throw the cleansing water into a river or stream ; don’t give milk to a neighbour unless salt has been put into it; don’t allow milk out of the house, if anybody is ill there.
It was a traditional custom never to drink milk on Good Friday; even the baby in the cradle, it is said had to cry three times on that day before milk was fed to it.

Farmers were constantly afraid in days gone by that their milk and butter “profit” could be stolen from them by evil minded hags, who either bailed a neighbour’s well or dragged a cloth over the dew of his fields on May Morn saying “Come all to me!” People sat up all night on May Eve to guard their wells and fields against such spells. It was believed in Ireland, as well as in many other countries that such human hags had the power of changing themselves into hares and sucking the milk from the udders of cows. These hares could be shot, so it was thought, only with a “silver bullet” (a pellet made from a florin which had a cross-device on one face).

In the old days, there were no creameries in rural areas and farmers churned their milk at home. The churn was deemed to be especially vulnerable to those who were thought to be disposed to steal the butter “profit”. Every effort was therefore made to guard it against such enemies: a live cinder was placed under the churn (many churns had charred bottoms in olden times), as well as an ass or horseshoe; in other districts, nails of iron would be driven into the timber of the churn to protect it, or else a withy of rowan-tree was bound around it. The tongs were kept in the fire during the period of churning, and water or fire-ashes were not allowed out of the house until the operation had ended. So too, the fire was guarded: if anybody came to a house while churning was in progress and tried (by “reddening” his pipe or otherwise) to take live fire out of the house, he was prevented from doing so, and forced to take a “brash” (hand) at the churning before leaving-thus the churn and its butter were kept intact from harm. 

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Does anyone in Lisytowel Remember Aileen Hayes?


I met her at the Cork Summer show with her husband, Charles and her friend Liam Hayes. Aileen is soon off to Florida for her holidays. She taught English and Spanish in Presentation Secondary School, Listowel for a few years in the eighties.


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A Kerry Team, All Ireland Champions, 1903