May Eve & May Day Customs from County Meath



A H Singleton, 1904;

‘On May Eve the threshold must be stewn with “May-flowers” (marsh-marigolds). On last May Eve, only a few days ago, I saw our cook coming in with a great bunch of May-flowers, which she told me she intended on strewing on the thresholds of all the entrance doors of the house, as, being May Eve, the fairies would have great power, and the May-flowers are a potent charm to prevent them entering the house. “Besides,” she said, “whoever comes across the threshold, particularly that of the kitchen, must step on the flowers, and bring good luck and plenty of butter into the house.”

One should always try to be the first to draw water at a well or spring on May morning. It brings good luck to the house, and plenty of butter all year.

No one (who keeps cows) likes to be the first in the neighbourhood to light his fire on May morning, as the witches (not the fairies) take the first smoke that appears to work spells where-with to take the butter off the milk for the whole year.

It is very unlucky to take fire out of a house on May morning. If a passer-by wants a light for his pipe, he must not carry away the sod of turf. If he does, he must bring back another to replace it.’

The Folklore Journal.

May Day, Pipes and Football in Kilkenny & Waterford

Kilkenny & Waterford

Unknown Artist

William Wilde;

‘In the counties of Kilkenny and Waterford, it was customary for the neighbours to go from house to house, light their pipes at the mornings fire, smoke a blast, and pass out, extinguishing them as they crossed the threshold.

We learn that, about seventy years ago, it was customary for the people in the same locality to assemble from different baronies and parishes, in order to try their strength and agility by kicking towards their respective houses a sort of monster foot-ball, prepared with thread or wool, and seven feet in circumference. To whichever side it is carried the luck of the other is believed to be transferred.

Irish Popular Superstitions

May Day Preparations


Dublin, 1831

William Wilde, 1850;

‘The preparations for the May Day sports and ceremonial in Dublin, commenced about the middle of April , and even earlier, and a rivalry, which often led to the most fearful riots was incited, particularly between the “Liberty boys” upon the south, and the “Ormond boys” upon the north side of the river: and even among themselves, as to which street or district would exhibit the best dressed and handsomest May Bush, or could boast the largest and highest bonfire.

Upon one of the popular outbreaks resulting in the abduction of a May bush, was written the song, in old Dublin slang, of –

“De nite afore de fust of Magay,”

so spiritily described in that graphic record of the past, “Sketches of Ireland Sixty Years Ago.” For weeks before, a parcel of idle scamps, male and female, devoted themselves to the task of “Collecting for the May:” and parties decorated with ribbons, and carrying green boughs, and sometimes accompanied by itinerant musicians, went from house to house soliciting contributions of ribbons, hankerchiefs and gaudy silk – materials then manufactured, and consequently more common in the Liberty than now- to adorn the May bush. Turf, coals, old bones, particularly slugs and cows’ horns from the tan-yards, and horse’ heads from the knackers, logs of wood, &c., were also collected, to which some of the merchants generally added a few pitch tar-barrels. Money was solicited to “moisten the clay” of the revellers; for, whether from liking, or from fear, or considering it unlucky, few ventured to refuse to contribute “something toste de May bush.”

The ignitable materials were formed in depots, in backyards, and the cellars of old houses, long before the approaching festival; and several sorties were made by opposing factions to gain possession of these hoards, and lives have been lost in the skirmishes which ensued.’

Irish Popular Superstitions