Saint Finian’s Day



Rev John Baldwin, Curate – 1819; ‘The people of Rearymore Parish annually assemble, on the 12th of December, at Saint Finian’s well, to celebrate the festival of their Patron Saint. The well consists of three or four holes in the solid rock always full of water, and is surrounded by old hawthorns, which are religiously preserved by the natives: it is also customary for the common people to go round this well on their bare knees, by way of penance and mortification.’

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


Hallowe’en Divination, with Keys, Cabbages and Nuts

Laois –


Miss A Watson (May 1893) Queen’s County;

‘When we were children Hallow Eve was always an occasion for practicing mysterious rites, the end and the aim of each being to foretell the future. The first thing always was to get an old iron spoon, filled with lead in scraps; this was held over a hot fire till it melted. Then a key, which must be the hall door key, was held over a tub of cold water, and the hot lead was poured through the wards of the key. The lead cooled in falling through the water, and when it had all settled in the bottom of the tub, the old nurse proceeded to read its surface. I don’t know whether there was originally one especial story of the “willow pattern” description, but I do know that the many that I heard all bore a family likeness. There was always a castle with a tower here, and a narrow winder there, and a knight riding to the door to deliver a beautiful lady who was imprisoned there. And of course the lady was the round-eyed child who was listening with bated breath, and who was eventually to marry said knight.’

Then you go out to the garden blindfolded, and each pull up a cabbage. If the cabbage was well grown the girl was to have a handsome husband, but woe betide the unlucky damsel who got one with a crooked stalk; her husband would be a stingy old man.

Then comes nut-burning, as an antidote to all this boisterous fun. You put two nuts on the bar and name them, but must not mention the names or all luck will vanish. If one hops off, then the pair will not marry; if one burns to a cinder and not the other, it is a case of unrequited love; but if both burn away steadily, they will marry and live happy ever after.’

Folklore 1893.