All Fools Day, & Sending the Fool Farther

Cork-

Residential_Street_with_open_top_tram_in_Ballintemple_Cork_(16266759807)
Ballintemple, Cork, Photographer undiscovered

Manannán Mac Lir, 1896; ‘The first of this month is universally known as “All Fools Day,” but why the name or whence the custom of “fooling” people originated I have not been able to ascertain.

Up till recent times the custom prevailed of “raising a laugh” at some simple-minded person’s expense by giving him a letter, which he was told was of an urgent nature, addressed to some personal friend of the sender’s. When delivered, the enclosed note merely bore the legend, “send the fool farther,” which advice was religiously adhered to, for the address merely put missive into another envelope and having addressed it to another friend some few miles further on and having told the guileless messenger that it was a most important matter which was confided to his care, set him again on his fool’s errand….’

Journal  of the Cork Archaeological and Historical Society

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Borrowing Days – How March Borrowed Three Days from April

Donegal-

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Rosa Bonheur 1822 -1899

G. H. Kinahan;

‘This year, 1885, we have had very severe weather the first days of April, and to account for this one of the natives state they are borrowed from March, and are called “Borrowing Days.”

In all mountainous districts here as elsewhere in Ireland March is the severest month for cattle: “an old cow on the 31st March began to curse and swear at April, tossing her tail in the air, and saying to the devil, I pitch you – you are gone and April has come, and now I will have grass. March, however, was too much for her, and he borrowed three days from April, during which time he made such bad weather the old cow died.’

Folklore- Journal  1885.

The feast of the Annunciation or Lady Day in March – 25 March

AnnunciationThe feast of the Annunciation, 25 March, also known in many areas as “Lady Day in March”, is one of the three “Lady Days” which are widely celebrated across Ireland, the other two being Candlemas which falls on 2 February and Harvest Lady Day which falls on 15 August. Observed in memory of the visit to the Virgin Mary by the Archangel Gabriel at which she discovered she would be the mother of the son of God, Jesus Christ.

If the Feast of the Annunciation fell in Lent the obligations of the Lentern season were relaxed. The day was a social occasion with many attending patrons and fairs, which were often the sites of boisterous behaviour. In 1816 the Reverend James Neligan who was Rector and Victor in the Parish of Kilmactigue in County Sligo complained that while all types of work were avoided on the three Lady Days no efforts were made by the local population to ‘refrain from sports, pastimes, cursing or swearing, or frequenting tippling houses, and drinking to excess.’

While the Feast of the Annunciation has a strong religious and social associations, the feast also had a civic significance. Kevin Danaher points out that before the introduction of the Georgian Calendar in 1752 the 25 March was the official start of the year, and therefore a day when rent was due, known as a “Gale Day” in Ireland. Rents were generally collected twice a year in the times when landlords were plentiful, the most popular “Gale Days” fell on the first of May and the first of November, however, in some areas including parts of Kilkenny and Leitrim up until at least the end of the nineteenth century the 25 March and 29 September (Michaelmas) were still the preferred days for collecting rent and beginning contracts. Possibly because the Feast of the Annunciation fell on a “Gale Day” bad weather was expected to occur, while if the feast fell on the  same day as Easter Sunday, according to Kevin Danaher, the “people feared that the following harvest would be poor.”

 

Sources:

Danaher, Kevin. The Year in Ireland. Dublin 1972.

Folklore Journal, 1894.

Mac Lir, Mananaan. ‘The Folklore of Months’. Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, Second series II (1896), 157, 316, 365.

Mason, William Shaw. A Statistical Account or Parochial Survey of Ireland. Dublin, London and Edinburgh, 1814-19.

 

Saint Patrick’s Day – Shamrocks & Crosses

Dublin & Kildare-

Journal of the kildare 1906-08 V-page-509

‘Observed as a holy-day. A sprig of shamrock (or “shamroge” as the peasants call it) is worn in the hats of men. Opinions differ greatly as what is the genuine shamrock; the trefoils which are generally sold in Dublin for some days before the anniversary of the saint’s death are two one rooted varieties: one having a small pink clover blossom, and the other (I think) a yellow flower; both of which are easily gathered. According to the old people, “the rale of errib” is that which sends out branches from the main root, and which themselves takes root at the nodes (i.e. the starting point of the leaves) as they creep along the ground, therefore forming more branches. The flower resembles a small white clover blossom; this trefoil is probably not found on sale in Dublin, owing to the trouble in grubbing it up. The best place to find shamrock is along the edge of a public roads, where it extends beyond the grassy sod.

Young girls and small children wear on the right shoulder “a St. Patrick’s Cross” consisting of a single or double cross formed of pieces of narrow silk ribbon stitched to a circular disk of white paper, nicked at the edge, and measuring from 8 to 4.5 inches in diameter. At the ends of the arms of the cross a very small bow or rosette is fixed, and one a trifle longer at the junction of the arms; the more and the brighter the colours of the silk, the more handsome is considered the St. Patrick’s Cross. Those crosses sold in the Dublin slums are made on the same principle, except that instead of gaudy pieces of silk being stitched to the disk, coloured paper, cut into the devices, is gummed as a substitute.

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Saint Patrick’s Day, 1867 – Charles Henry Cook

“The Drowning of the Shamrock” by no means implies that it is necessary to get drunk in doing so. At the end of the day the shamrock that has been worn in the coat or the hat is removed and put into the final glass of grog or tumbler of punch; and when the health has being drunk or the toast honoured, the shamrock should be picked out of the bottom of the glass and thrown over the left shoulder.’

Jounal of the Kildare Historical & Archaeological Society, 1906-8.

The Full Moon & Divination

Kildare, –

Full Moon
Full Moon, Nathan W. Pearse, Albumen Print – circa 1850’s

John O’Hanlon (Lageniensis), 1870;

‘Great honour used to be paid to the full moon; and it was the witching time for young girls to pry into their futurity, with a hope of obtaining, in their dreams, a sight of husbands in store for them.

The invocation, used at this period, as related by a Kildare woman, runs in this form:-

“Good morrow, Full Moon:

Good morrow to thee!

Tell, ere this time to-morrow,

Who my true love will be-

The colour of his hair,

The clothes he will wear,

And the day he’ll be married to me.”’

Irish Folk Lore

The Reverend John Canon O’Hanlon was a hagiographer and folklorist, he is most famous for his Lives of the Irish Saints which was published between 1875 and 1905.

Chalk Sunday

Kilkenny –

Chalk Sunday ILN 1931859
Illustrated London News

‘The first Sunday in Lent is styled “Chalk Sunday” from a custom indulged in by the village belles of Kilkenny, of chalking all over the clothes of inveterate bachelors who have eluded the trammels of Hymen, during the preceding Shrovetide, which season is looked forward to by the unmarried portion of the Irish peasantry as the period of the year in which those who are inclined to commence housekeeping are induced to make up their minds on that important subject ere the commencement of Lent; for during that season all matrimonial transactions are suspended; and those who allow Shrovetide to glide by unheeded generally remain “in maiden mediation fancy free” until that time twelve months, when another opportunity of matrimony is afforded them.

When an unlucky wight of the bachelor genus appears abroad in his Sunday suit on this day, on his way either to or from church, he is sure to be surrounded by a group of mischievious merry maidens each armed with a lump of chalk. Resistance is useless, for if he escapes one party he is certain of being caught by another; until, at last he is striped all over in such a style of vagiegation as might excite the envy of a harlequin. This opperation is intended to mark for the special example of the class to which he voluntarily belongs and to afford amusement to his neighbours.’

Illustrated London News 1859.

Ash Wednesday & “drawing the log”

Waterford-

19th-century-Waterford-city
A View of Waterford City, William Henry Bartlett, 1830s

Samuel Carter Hall & Anna Maria Hall, 1842;

‘In Waterford, some years ago, the lower classes had a species of amusement, we believe peculiar to them; it was practiced on Ash-Wednesday, and was called “drawing the log.”

It was instituted as a penitential exercise to the bachelors and maidens who permitted Lent to arrive without “joining in the holy bands.” The log was a large piece of timber, to which a long rope was attached; it was drawn through the streets of the city, followed by a crowd of men and boys of the lowest grade armed with bludgeons, shouting and hollowing “Come draw the log, come draw the log; bachelors and maidens come draw the log.” The party had generally a piper, who squeezed from his bags the most noted of the nationalist airs; and it was no small part of the frolic to see the poor minstrel upset in the mire by the jolting of the unwieldy piece of timber over the rugged stones with which the streets were paved. The most scandalous scenes of cruelty often occurred; young men and young women often being forced from their homes, tied to “the log,” and dragged through the city.

The custom has, of late years, been, very properly, discontinued.’

Hall’s Ireland