This blog is a personal take on Listowel, Co. Kerry. I am writing for anyone anywhere with a Listowel connection but especially for sons and daughters of Listowel who find themselves far from home. Contact me at email@example.com
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,
atá : An t-Athair agus an Mac agus an Spiorad Naomh!
Tar, a Mhuire, agus
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
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.
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.
They held a great party in Áras Mhuire on Saturday June 18 2016. The occasion was the the 92nd birthday of Edward Crowley. But it wasn't just any old birthday because Edward is the son of James Crowley member of the first Dail and TD for North Kerry from 1918 to 1932 .
In this the centenary year of the 1916 Rising it was decided to make a presentation to Edward whose father was jailed for reading the Proclamation at a meeting in Listowel in 1918.
Jimmy Deenihan made the presentation which took the form of a framed document outlining, in brief the biography of James Crowley. This document was signed by the production team of "1916, The Irish Rebellion" documentary. In the photograph with Jimmy Deenihan and Edward Crowley is Clementine O'Keeffe,daughter of Edward and granddaughter of James Crowley.
(Thank you to Bernard O'Keeffe for the photos and the story)
Relatives and friends of Edward Crowley at his birthday celebration in Áras Mhuire. <<<<<<<<<<<<< A Picture Paints a Thousand Words
I have observed from my little knowledge of people's behaviour on the internet that people prefer to see a picture or video clip than to read a story as text. In fact many people tell me that they only look at the pictures in my blogpost and if the picture catches their eye they might read the accompanying text.
I was not surprised then when I learned that Facebook is planning to go all video. Snapchat has taken over from Twitter as the social medium of choice for the Millenials and by 2020 nobody will wait for a newspaper to get them the news.
You might think that this would spell bad news for advertisers. Not at all. They are way ahead of the game. Advertisers know so much about us now that they can target us with pin point accuracy. Because they know our location from our I.P. address, our profile from 100 profiles we have filled in somewhere and our interests from the sites we visit, as we walk down the street they can flash us the special offers in the shops as we pass. Frightening!
<<<<<<< Statues reinstalled at St. Mary's
St Anne and Mary
This final photo shows the spot on the pillar prepared for the next statue to be affixed. The story is this. These statues (I think they are marble) were inset around the old pulpit. When the pulpit was removed, following Vatican 11, the statues were taken by a parishioner for safe keeping.
Now they are back in St. Mary's and you can see them on the pillars at the top of the church.
Judges are Maura Derrane, the super stylish TV personality and presenter of the RTÉ Today, and James Patrice, presenter and Snapchat Star. This is the second year of the McElligotts Honda sponsorship and the cash prize fund has been increased to €6,000, with prizes for Best Dressed Lady, Best Dressed Couple, Jazziest Headpiece, Most Glamorous Young Racer, and new this year, Most Stylish Selfie!. Photo by MacMonagle Photography
This beautiful 3 year old horse is called Queen's Orbit. <<<<<<<<< You Can't Beat a Good Yarn
John B. Keane was one of the best at telling a good yarn. He was given ample opportunity to spin these tales in his very popular weekly column in The Limerick Leader. Here is a good one that resurfaced recently from the archives of The Leader.
LAST week in Limerick I was
having lunch in a well-known hotel when I notice an animated conversation
developing at a nearby table. I wasn’t sure at first but as time passed I
realised the occupants were talking about me.
An oldish, bespectacled
woman was holding forth to two other women and a man. As she spoke her
listeners, from time to time, would direct glances in my direction. At last I
recognised the woman who was talking and I guessed the gist of the story she
Back in 1947 when I was
working as an assistant to a fowl and egg-buyer I used to call to many
farmhouses for eggs.
One of these was situated
not far from Ballyheigue, near Kerry Head, and to this particular household I
used to call every Thursday around dinnertime. I would have with me an egg box
and when I would enter the kitchen the woman of the house would take the box up
to the room where she would partly fill it with her contribution of eggs.
During one of my calls she
was seated at the table about to have a cut at a plate of bacon and cabbage and
several small new spuds. Dutifully she rose when I entered and, taking the box
went, as usual, to the room where she proceeded to fill the box.
I was left alone in the
kitchen although as I recall there was an ancient sheepdog lying half-asleep
near the range. As I say it was dinnertime and needless to mention I was
starved with the hunger. I edged my way towards the plate just to have a look.
There were the several potatoes still steaming. There was the beautifully
boiled cabbage and there were several small, thin slices of home-cured bacon. I
could not resist. I took one spud, one slice of bacon and a hefty pinch of
cabbage. All was safely swallowed by the time she returned. She looked at the
plate. She looked at me and I looked at the dog.
A month passed and at
dinnertime I called to the house once more. Again, on this occasion, she was
about to commence her dinner. She rose dutifully as before, took the box and
then, after a brief pause, took the plate wherein reposed her dinner. She then
retired to the room.
<<<<<<< Do you go to Cork via Macroom?
If the answer is yes to my first question, my second question is have you ever stopped in Ballyvourney? (for an ice cream perhaps!)
When I stopped last week I looked around me and I saw things of interest.
They have kept the old village pump. It's not functioning and has a few bits missing but it is a reminder of a slower way of life.
I don't know of any other road sign which gives the time it might take you for your journey rather than the distance.
<<<<<<<< Who will Lead Britain out of the EU?
I wanna be the leader
I wanna be the leader
Can I be the leader?
Can I? I can?
Yippee I'm the leader
I'm the leader