More Snippets of Just The Way It Was

Irish Folk-lore
(Enjoy these quick glimpses & check back often for updates)

Don’t step on the Crickets

We have heard the Crickets chirping after dark in the summer. They spend most of their time in old stone walls that have plenty of hiding places, some of the old walls have the white thorn tree growing with their roots intertwined with the stones, a perfect home for the critters.

In the winter the weather gets cold and some of the little critters come in the house, they make their winter home by the fire in the kitchen, and some times during the day you will see one scurrying across the floor from one hiding place to another.

When the old kerosene lamp is turned off for the night and all is quiet now it’s the crickets time to sing his song and the chirping begins.

If you were out working the fields all day, the grass and rushes are wet most of the time, so your shoes and socks are soaked. If you were wearing the Wellington your socks are wet with sweat.

So getting ready for bed we would leave our wet shoes and socks Close to the fireplace, the fire would have been raked for the night but the stones around it were still hot, so getting up in the morning we had dry shoes and socks.

So what does all of this to do with crickets?

The old story goes that if you happen to step on a cricket. Accidental of course, the rest of the Cricket family would put holes in your socks, and that’s “Just the way it was”

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Do you know the words?
It’s a poem about the donkey,which I learned in school long ago.
The few lines that I remember are.

Upon the first palm Sunday
Christ rode upon an ass
The people waved their branches
And watched to see him pass.

If you remember it e-mail to


How is your Irish?
The Lords Prayer

Ar nAthair,ata ar neamh, Go naofar d’ainm
Go dtagaidh do riocht
Go ndeantar do thoil ar an talamh mar dheantar
Ar neamh.
Tabhair duinn inniu ar n-aran leathuil agus maith
Duinn ar bhficha mar mhaithimid dar bhfeichiunaith
Agus na lig sinn I geathu, ach saor sinn olc

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The Bringing of the butter

In my days growing up in Ballinaglera most families churned their own milk. This gave them their own supply of butter, and the butter milk was fed to the pig and young calves.

If you were to go in the neighbor’s home when they were churning, you would go up to the churn and take the churn dash and move it up and down for a short period, then turn it over to the husband or wife that were using it. This custom goes back hundreds of years, and we still did it in my youth. Before radio and television we went out to the neighbor’s homes at night (it was called rambling) some nights there would be four or five ramblers there. The conversation was usually, the weather, ghost stories, and the bringing of the butter or taking of the butter.

The old story goes, that some people had the power to take the butter from your churn, when you finished churning your milk there would be no butter there. On the other hand the people with the powers would have a churn full of butter.
So by taking the churn dash and moving it up and down this would break any spell you might have.

The story also goes; the wife was churning when the husband noticed a black Salamander (thousand leggier) walking on the kitchen floor. He hit it with the broom but it got away. Believe it or not, the dark haired woman two town-lands over was limping for a month.

If you happen to go in to a home and they are churning, just take your turn. You know what I mean.


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The Midges

Were you ever footing turf on the mountain on a very calm day when they attacked.
Were you ever lapping hay on that same calm day when you had to run.
If you had a double woodbine and kept blowing that smoke, it would have helped!


Fair Day and Our Little Pig

Our little pig In the late spring was the time to buy our little Bonbh, that is the irish word for a little pig and the irish word for a big pig is Muc. The fair day in Dowra was on the third of the month, if the third was on Sunday it was held on Monday. The morning of the fair my father would put the straddle and mats on the old donkey, then a creel one on each side, we also took a burlap bag and we were off to the fair. I loved the fair days, and today I could ride on the donkey sitting just behind the mats and creels. There was a big field they called the green and that is where the cattle and sheep were bought and sold. Some farmers were there with their litter of young pigs. When my father picked one we put him in the burlap bag and put the bag in one of the creels we had to put a stone in the other creel to balance the load. Back home we had a small byre, it was in the field just below the lower haggard and that would be the home for our little pig. If our new arrival happened to be a boy, well a visit from Terry Gilrane was for sure. We all know what our little pig was missing when Terry left. If that wasn't bad enough we also put two rings in his nose to keep him from digging the rings were on the outer edges of his snout. He was just like a little pet and was very friendly we let him out in the fields during the days and back to his byre at night we put lots of hay and straw in there for his bed. He would move all the hay and straw to one corner and that is where he lay down. Unlike other farm animals the pig would never soil his bed. If you were out in the fields he would come right up to you, he liked to have his belly rubbed and would lie down on the grass in front of you. We all know the sad ending to my little pig story. One frosty morning on my way to school Old Terry was on his way to our house.

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So why doesn't’t the bull look happier

For one thing he has only a once a year play time with the cow, but then again if he has three or four cows a day, well one would think!

We had a few old cows. They were quiet and never made much noise, a few months after the cow had a calf she would come in heat, now this quiet old cow became wild, she would run around the fields, she would jump on the other cattle, and if she got out on the road she would take off.

If you do not want a calf in nine months, the best thing to do would be to put old “Betsy” in the byre for a few days.

Most small farmers in my time did not have their own bull, the Buggy Mc Gorties had a bull, also the Flynn’s down by Dowra had one.

To take old “Betsy” to one of them was easier with two people one in front and one in back. The Flynn’s had an enclosed yard close to the byer where they kept the Bull and it was there we put old Betsy.

Mr. Flynn or his daughter would open the door and the old bull would stroll out with that “get out of my way look on his face” It did not take him long to do what he does best.
Now it is back into the byre for the bull with that same look on his face. Before the end of the day he might have a few more visitors, could life get better.

This old bull might have known what was in the future and that is what kept that mean look on his face. Today most farmers have their cows artificially inseminated they refer to it as calling the A man. I have one question. How do they get the semen from the bull?

Our little dogs name was Diamond he always looked happy and it looked like he had a smile on his face.

Our cat purred as he looked at you with a smile on his face.

That old bull never looked happy!

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Rambling was a great pass time for the men in the winter time, some nights there were three or four men sitting by the fire.
The conversation would range from the weather to a bit of gossiping; some politics and you guessed it GHOST stories.
As a young boy listening to these stories, they were so real and so scary, the adults telling them were so serious and they had that scary look on their faces, they had to be true.

They told of the man coming home late one night and a great big blue light appeared in the field next to him, after some time it moved away and was joined by a lot of smaller lights, then after a while they all disappeared.

Then there was the time he was on his way home when a large black figure appeared in front of him blocking his path.
The question you were supposed to ask the ghost was “IN THE NAME OF GOD MAN WHAT DO YOU WANT’ I have never heard of any answers.

Then there was the strange noises coming from the abandoned house, and lights going on and off it was enough to stop you in your tracks.

Around the country side there was a number of old fairy forts, they were no more than a large clump of trees and from one you could see two or three more on the hills nearby, no one ever cut these trees and they were places to stay away from at night, why take a chance.
There was a large round forth in the field next to Myles Darcy’s house, this kind was called a ring forth,it was just a large circle of raised earth with one lone tree in the center, the hay was never cut in this circle and it was like this for as long as anyone can remember.

When my bedtime came after all these stories I was scared, we had no indoor plumbing and a trip outside was terrifying, there were no lights in the bedroom so a fast trip under the covers was a must.

The years went by fast and I was out rambling myself I did not forget the old stories,the fields and the ditches and hedges all looked spooky at night.

Coming home from Rynn’s store at night, going up the old lane past Loughlins house and on to Mary Healy’s meadow, then over the stile to Mc Grails land there was a old deserted house there, no windows or doors and no roof, I had to walk right near the wall, I would not dare look in the door you never know what would jump out at you, I always was taught making noise would help so I would whistle, I think if someone jumped out of the bushes at me I would faint.
A little further on Patrick’s dog would start barking that as I got closer, I felt a lot safer and I was getting closer to home.

If I came home the long way up the road to Conners lane that was a little spooky, I would whistle and the heavy shoes I wore with the nails in the soles made a great racket I always felt safer when I saw the lights in John Gilmartins house.
There was another spooky spot further on from John Frandies byre to Hubert Fords gate ,there were tall trees on both sides of the road and on a dark rainy night I think that I had seen things move on the side of the road, Whistle louder and walk fast that’s all I could do.
If someone was coming the other way and were walking on the grassy side of the road making no noise. What a relief to find out it was another human being .I was getting ready with my IN
A little further on to Patrick’s gate and I felt safe, I could stop whistling now.

It is just a story, but if you find yourself walking in one of these places, it could not hurt to pucker your lips. If this does not work just remember the question.

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The Tinkers

My little story is not about the Tinkers of today. I am not sure if there are any Tinkers left in Ireland. The ones that I am talking about are the old time Tinkers of the late thirties and forties.

They came every so often to Ballinaglera and the road that I remember them on is the Slievenakilla Rd. Just off the Dowra to Drumshambo cut off.

There are a few reasons why they picked this spot to camp on, first it was close to the stores Rynn’s and Mulveys, second there is a wide grassy area from the road to the shough, (you know what the shough is) this wide grassy area gave them enough room to pitch their tents without blocking the road.
They traveled three or four families together, and horses and carts or wagons were their means of transportation.
They pitched their tents in that wide grassy area and there was more that one tent to a family, they had an open tent for the fire to cook in like a lean to
The horses were let loose to graze on the side of the road (no expense there)
The younger horses had to be hobbled to keep them from running away, this was done with a chain it was called the fetters and it was attached to one front leg and one rear leg, it could also be done with a piece of rap and this was called a strampien.
These families always had a lot of children
The men were tin smiths and were good at their trade, they made tin cans and pongers ,a ponger is larger than a big cup and has a handle, the tin can were also large and hold two to three gallons.
The men went around the countryside selling their wares and were helpful if you needed something fixed.
The women and children went around usually begging, they would ask for bread, potatoes, and eggs and without a doubt money.
It happened some times while a few women were at the front door, others were in the hen house getting eggs.
The children did not attend school as they were always traveling the education they received was home schooling.
They cooked their meals on the open fire made from firewood they collected.
Their water supply was from the nearest brook or small stream.
Their nights were noisy ,like a party every night a few pints from Rynn’s or Mulvey’s might have helped
Then one day they were gone leaving some garbage to be cleaned up.

There is a little rhyme about tinkers – it goes:

If ifs and ands
Were pots and pans?
There’d be no need
For Tinkers.

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The Corn Crake

The Corn Crake is a large bird about the size of a pigeon, it is a ground bird that makes its home in the meadows or tall grass and is rarely seen They can run very fast, they are a speckled brown in color and blend in with their surroundings.

You can hear their loud call in the late evening or early morning it can be heard for a long distance.

They make a call that sounds like CRAKE CRAKE it’s a rasping call and loud.

Today they are on the endangered specious list, if one was in you meadow it would be a violation to cut the hay in that field.

Reports are that they are making a slow recovery.

The straddle and mats

When you take the straddle and mats and the pordoges off the old ass
The first thing he will do is to find a dry dusty place where there is no grass, lay down and roll over from side to side several times.

What do you think he is thinking ???
Asses do think !!!!

Ps If you are not old Irish, Asses and Pordoges will give you something to think about.

The meadow lark

The meadow lark is a small bird with a lovely singing voice

It makes its home in the fields and its nest in the tall grass in the meadows.

When it starts singing it flies straight up in the air and it can go almost out of sight before it stops ,it does not sing on its return flight.

Other than the humming bird it is the only one that can go straight up by just flapping its wings.

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The Wren

The wren is a small bird, growing up as a boy I watched them make their Nests in the eaves of the thatched roof of our house.

The thatched roof extends over the walls of the house and it is thick with Many layers of thatch that were added over the years.

It is a safe place for the wren to make his nest, they scratch out a hole in the dry thatch just above the walls that leaves a large overhang to protect the entrance from the weather.

The front of the nest they close in with moss or dry grass and they leave a Small round hole for their entrance

From what I could see they always had a large family , so they were busy Coming and going all day to feed them.

As the young ones got bigger you could see their little heads looking out.

Then on day,all was quiet the family was raised and on their own.

They will be back.

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