A Shrovetide Tradition

Longford-

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Rev. John Graham, 1819;

‘For a fortnight before Shrove Tuesday, the great day of weddings, it is the practice for persons in disguise to run through the streets of Ballymahon, from seven to nine or ten o’clock in the evenings, announcing intended marriages, or giving pretty broad hints for matchmaking, in these words, “Hullo, the Bride – the Bride, A.B to C.D.”&c. ; these jokes sometimes prove true ones.’

William Shaw Mason, A Statistical Account or Parochial Survey of Ireland iii

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St. Ita’s Day

Limerick – 15 January:-

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Saint Ita

Mananann Mac Lir, Parish of Killeedy, 1895;

‘”St Ita’s Day” falls on the 15th of January, on which day a large gathering – “Pattern,” ie “Patron” is held at Killeedy [Ita’s Church], a rural district about six miles south-west of Newcastle West, and about an equal number north-west of Dromcolloher.

The Catholic clergy of the deanery have developed a most praiseworthy method of having this “patron day” properly observed. On each 15th of January they also assemble here, and at the little rural chapel of Raheena a solelm high mass is celebrated, and a suitable sermon on the life and distinguishing characteristics of the saint is preached. No manual work is done on St Ita’s Day in the Parish of Killeedy, and female children born in January in this parish are usually christened Ita, in honour of this saint – “The Mary of Munster,” as she is sometimes called.

“Rounds” are paid to St Ita’s Well, and an oblong hole in the ground near is called “St Ita’s Bed,” where if childbearing women roll themselves they will not suffer the pains of childbirth. Needless to add, no decent woman would do this in public, but I am told several come here privately on bye-days for that purpose, or take home a handful of the earth from the “Bed,” for the purpose of rubbing it around their bodies in the name of the Holy Trinity.

Near “St Ita’s Well” is a stone, which is said to bear the impress of the hoof of St Ita’s favourite ass. This beast was used for the purpose of bringing new milk to her convent here, from a farm she had four miles farther west, whither the donkey repaired every day, and without a guide. Someone who was acting as caretaker for the saint there milked the cows, when the milk was then placed in the two empty pails, which hung like panniers, one on each side of the faithful beast. On one occasion some robbers, who made a raid on this dairy farm, found the donkey with the two pails full of milk, and just ready to start on its return journey. Enraged at not finding any treasure as they expected, they overturned two milk-pails, allowing the contents to flow down the hill side. But the anger of God was immediately evidenced at that act, for that milk, which was intended for the support of St Ita and her household (nuns), as also to be distributed among the needy and poor, was now turned into blood, and that place was called (Irish Name), ie., “Plenty (or abundance) of blood”, and which event gives the name Turnafulla to the townland and parish of that name to-day.

Or another occasion this donkey stood on a strong thorn, which then entered the sole of frog of its hoof, laming it very much. St Ita pulled out the thorn, which she then thrust into the ground, at the same time “commanding” it not to lame her donkey evermore. This grew into a large tree, and a peculiarity of that whitethorn was that all it thorns were pointed downwards. The tree, I was assured, was flourishing until, in recent times, someone with the idea of effecting improvements dug the surface around it, when “St Ita’s thorn” withered and died off, and is no longer an object of veneration there.

St Ita is the special patroness of pregnant women (why? There is no tradition) and it is principally such who visit and pay “rounds” at her holy well. Besides Killeedy (“Ita’s Church,”) we have also Moveedy “My Mide, or Ita.”’

Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society.

 

The Fair at Greencastle

Down, 12 January –

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Michael G. Crawford;

‘It was sometimes called ‘Ram Fair’ on account of a custom that prevailed for a great while of enthroning a great ram, high on the top of old Green Castle’s walls, when he presided over the greatest sheep fair in South Down, where thousands of his bleeting subjects from the surrounding mountains were penned in flocks beneath him, and jolly crows and people at the Fair came to pay homage crying out ‘The King of the Benns’ for ever, and never did the Golden Ram of old receive greater homage from his worshipers, than did the Mourne Ram, from the jolly crowds that came to the Carnival at Greencastle.

The fair at Greencastle was revived by Arthur Bagnal, under patent granted by James the First in 1613, when it was held on 12th January and 12th August.’

Legendary Stories of the Carlingford Lough District. 1913

Feeding Cattle between Old & New Christmas Day

Wicklow-

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Brady’s Farm – Nathaniel Hill, 1897

William & Mary Ann Hanbridge;

‘It was unlucky to give the stalled cattle food between Old Christmas Day and New Christmas Day, so the mangers in the sheds were made large enough to take the full supply of food for the twelve days. The mangers in some farms are still very large, but the superstition which began with the change in the Calendar* has died out.’

Memories of West Wicklow 1813 – 1939.

* The Georgian Calendar replaced the Julian Calendar in 1752, ten day were taken off the length of the  year.