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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Processions, Tributes & the Láir Bhán at Samhain

Cork –

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Illustration by Niamh Ní Ruairc of Wytchwood Creations, 2016.

William Hackett, 1853;

‘It is not many years since on Samhain’s eve, 31st October, a rustic procession perambulated the district between Ballycotton and Trabolgan, along the coast.

The parties represented themselves as messengers of Muck Olla, in whose name they levied contributions on farmers; as usual they were accompanied by sundry youths, sounding lustily on cows’ horns; at the head of the procession was a figure enveloped in a white robe or sheet, having, as it were, the head of a mare, this personage was called the Láir Bhán, “the white mare,” he was a sort of president or master of ceremonies. A long string of verses was recited at each house.

In the second dispatch we distinctly mentioned two names savouring strongly of paganism, the archaeological reader will understand what they were. Though they did not disturb the decorum of the assembly, they would not have been allowed to be publicly uttered elsewhere, for these people, and, indeed, all our peasantry are very free from any coarse expressions.

The other verses purported to be uttered by a messenger of Muck Olla, in which it was set forth, that, owing to the goodness of that being, the farmer whom they addressed had been prosperous all his life, that his property would continue as long as he was liberal in his donations in honour of Muck Olla; giving a very uninviting account of the state in which his affairs would fall should the Muck Olla withdraw his favour, and visit him with the vengeance certain to follow any illiberal or churlish treatment of his men.

Whether it was owing to the charm of the poetry or the cogency of the appeal, the contributions were in general of a liberal scale, every description of gifts was bestowed, milk, butter, eggs, corn potatoes, wool, &c. To distribute the accumulated store, it was the regular practice for a sort of rural merchant or two to await the return of the group and purchase the whole stock, distributing each share to each according to conventional arrangement of the respective ranks.’

Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries Ireland, 1855.

Although Hackett believed the word Muck Olla to be a deity, the Irish Folklorist, Kevin Danaher, speculates that it could have its root in the Irish word for echo – macalla.

If you would like a print of the above drawing please contact Niamh Ní Ruairc at www.facebook.com/wytchwoodcreations/

Skellig Night

Cork & Kerry

351-P-J-Beale-Skellig-Night-on-South-Mall
Skellig Night on South Mall, Cork, 1845 (Crawford Art Gallery, Cork

Rev. R. S. Patterson, Chaplain to Her Majesty’s Forces, Cork, 1889;

‘Although marriage was forbidden from Ash Wednesday to Low Sunday* in Ireland, at one time, the priest of the parish in which the rocky islets, called the Skelligs are situated, used to go out, and perform the ceremony on the Great Skellig after Shrove Tuesday. Accordingly, any couple who wished to get married during Lent started for Valentia, off the coast of which the Skelligs are situated.

This fact gave rise in Cork to the custom of publishing rhyming catalogues of unmarried women and bachelors which were called ” Skellig Lists.” These were printed and sold in immense numbers on Shrove Tuesday. Many of them were rather witty productions, the poetasters endeavouring in the most absurd manner to join the most incongruous pairs together.

The printers’ names were never appended to these lists, and of course an opportunity was sometimes taken of venting personal spite, so that advertisements in the local papers are occasionally to be met with, threatening to indict persons who may be discovered to have taken liberties with the names of the advertiser or his lady friend. The lists of the “Pilgrims to the Skelligs” were called by all manner of names, such as “The Paul Pry Skellig List,” “The Corkscrew Skellig List,” “The Simple Paddy Skellig List,” “The virgins of the Sun Skellig List,” ” The Shrove Tuesday on Spiflicator List,” &c.

The custom reached its height about 1840, but has since gradually died away.’

Notes & Queries 

*Low Sunday is the Sunday after Easter