Saint John’s Day, “Tell it in Toberona”

Louth-

Saint John's Well, Toberona
Saint John’s Well, Toberona -Photograph by John P. Swift

John Swift, Toberona;

‘Up to the early part of the nineteenth century a pattern or fair annually celebrated St John’s Day, 24th June, when well known bards and other artists from Louth and the surrounding counties would gather in the vicinity of Toberona bridge, to show their talents. It is recorded that over-indulgence in alcohol and rowdying brought an end to these patterns…..

But legend had it Toberona did not require either brewed or distilled liquor to engender anything like transports of inebriation. Toberona had its well of spring water, named after Saint John, and those quaffing of its draughts, if endowed to even the slightest extent with poetic or rhetorical talent, would be inspired to speech worthy of the most gifted orator or author. They had a saying in the Temple tavern (in Dundalk): Tell it in Toberona.’

Told in Toberona, 2008

John Swift 1896-1990 spent the formative years of his life in Dundalk, County Louth, before moving to Dublin in 1912.

 

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The Feast Day of Saint Columbkill

Donegal-

clonmany village

F.L. Molloy, Parish of Clonmany, 1814;

‘The titular saint, or as some express it, the guardian, of this parish, is Columbkill. The 9th of June is his festival day, and is observed most ceremoniously by the old people in the parish: on that day they circumambulate certain places, repeating certain prayers, deified, as it were, for him.

They formerly drove down their cattle to the beach, on that day, and swam them in that part of the sea, into which runs the water of St Columb’s well, which is thereby made holy-water; but this custom, of late, has not been practised.

There is also a traditional story told here, that the earth of a little hillhock (tempo desh,) on the right of the road leading from the chapel to the church, formerly expelled all mice and rats, until the earth of it was vended, when its expelling powers ceased; still, however, they carry all their dead around it, as being an ancient custom.

There is a circular flat stone in the centre of the church-yard, about fourteen inches in diameter, on which are two round hollow places, which they say are prints of Saint Columb’s knees. On that day mass used to be celebrated, but of late, I believe, it has being discontinued.’

A Statistical Account or a Parochial Survey of Ireland –  William Shaw Mason.

Saint Laserian’s Feast Day

Carlow-

St Stenan's Tree with rag offering, Kiltinanlea (Folklore 22, no 2 1911, 210-212).

Mr & Mrs S.C. Hall;

‘In the immediate vicinity of Leighlin is a remarkable and very picturesque rath, and close to the cathedral is the well of Saint Laserian. This was until a few years ago a famous resort of the peasantry on the saint’s day, the 18th of April. However the patron was very properly prohibited by the parish priest and it is no longer the scene of gambling and intoxication. Two very old ash trees and a whitethorn which formerly overshadowed the well were cut down about 1823 by the late Captain Vigors of Erindale who leased a considerable tract of land here from the see of Leighton. The Whitethorn was formerly hung with all sorts of rags by devotees, pilgrims or visitors to this holy spot.’

Hall’s Ireland

Saint Martin’s Day

Wexford, 11 November –

360px-New_Ross_1832
New Ross – 1832

Patrick Kennedy;

‘A Wexford legend says that on one recurrence of this festival, November 11, the people in all the boats plying about the Wexford line of coast were warned, by an apparition of the Saint pacing along the waves, to betake themselves to the harbours. All who neglected the advice perished in a storm that ensued the same afternoon.

In our youth (c.1810), no Wexford boat would put to sea on that Saint’s festival, no miller would set his wheel a-going, no housewife would yoke her spinning wheel. Occasionally, when a goat or sheep was ill, and seemed likely to die, its ear was slit, and itself devoted to St. Martin. If it recovered, it was killed and eaten on some subsequent 11th of November. It would not be sold in the interim for ten times its value.’

Patrick Kennedy – The Banks of the Boro, 1867.

Patron of Clonmacnoise

Offaly-

9 September –

Last Circuit of Pilgrims at Clonmacnoise
Last Circuit of Pilgrims at Clonmacnoise – George Petrie, 1838

Rev. Patrick Fitzgerald, Parish of Clonmacnoise, 1816;

‘There is but one patron day held here, on the 9th of September, in honour of St Kieran (Ciarán) their tutelar saint; it is numerously attended. From 3000 to 4000 people assemble there to do penance from different parts of Ireland, even from the county of Donegal.

Tents and booths are erected round the church-yard for the accommodation of people. The assemblage continues for two days, and often ends in quarrels. Its abolition would be a desirable circumstance. Some persons have been obliged to keep to their beds for weeks, in consequence of beatings received at such meetings.’

William Shaw Mason, A Statistical Account or Parochial Survey of Ireland Vol 2