title>Folk Traditions of Taghmon Parish
Folklore or in the Irish language béal-oideas (knowledge from the mouth) differs from the historical tradition in that folklore is the spoken knowledge, as opposed to the written, or historical tradition. In essence this article does not contain any folklore, for the fact that these stories have been written down. However, folklore is recorded for the purpose of preservation and comparison, and consequently the records illustrated below allow us a brief and by no means complete glimpse at life in Taghmon since the latter part of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th.
The folk traditions contained in this article have been drawn from two sources. Firstly there are the accounts taken from the Department of Irish Folklore in the National University of Ireland, Dublin, and the second recorded by myself as part of 'The Reminiscence Project' a folklore collection programme sponsored by Wexford Organisation for Rural Development and Wexford County Council. This was a three-year programme of folklore collection from contributors throughout County Wexford, and includes stories from the late Mr. Ger Foley, who once served as a garda in Taghmon, and Mrs. Bessy Ffrench-O'Neill, a native of Shanoule and now residing in Carrigbyrne.
The manuscripts contained in the Department of Irish Folklore and recorded by the Irish Folklore Commission (IFC) are divided into two collections - colloquially called the Main Manuscript Collection (designated IFC) and the Schools Manuscript Collection (designated IFC S.)2 The Irish Folklore Commission was established in 1935 with the purpose of collecting the folk traditions of Ireland, and has been recording extensively for the last 65 years. The Schools Collection was undertaken between 1936 and 1938 and involved the national school teachers throughout the country, including the four schools in existence in Taghmon parish at this time - Taghmon, Trinity, Caroreigh, and Traceystown. It was believed that 'in every rural school in Ireland the children will vie with one another in collecting from their parents and friends these traditions, and with the friendly help and encouragement of their teachers there is no doubt that a huge body of very valuable information will be recorded from every part of the country.' 3
Collection was undertaken by the children, who undertook the project as they would an English essay. Each week they were given a topic and suggested questions from which they would record as comprehensively as possible from parents, grandparents, or neighbours. The most suitable and informative accounts were then transcribed by the neatest hand-writer or teacher into a larger manuscript and bound. Both the bound manuscripts and the children's copybooks are preserved in the Department of Irish Folklore, National University of Ireland, Belfield, Dublin.
Investigating the folk traditions as people encountered
them through their lives would lead us first to examining
the traditions of going to school:
About a century and a half ago there was a great school at Lawler's Cross, Camross. This school was a Protestant one but some of the Catholics were allowed to have a night school there. A man named Humphrey taught there. Another great school was at Ryan's Cross, this school was there about eighty years ago and a teacher named Bob Staunton taught the pupils there. Every child brought its own stool when starting and those were left in the school all the time.
There was another school in the Modubeg where Mr. Whitty's house now stands and Miss Kelly taught there before she came to this school (Caroreigh which was built at that time). 4
Regarding Caroreigh school, Bessy Ffrench-O'Neill recalls
There were about 70 (students), we had only two rooms in Caroreigh school, two teachers, Ms. O'Loughlin and Jimmy Kelly was there that time and I'd say there was about 70, but it used to be very cold, the small school was warm but the big school was big and very, very cold and we used to have to gather sprigs to bring with our little cipíns bundle under our arm at certain times, or maybe once a month each child would have to bring them down to start the fire. We'd bring our lunch with us but my goodness by the time we'd get home in the evening it'd be four o'clock. And on the way home a course there'd be always a field a turnips somewhere along the road and we would get into that and slap the turnip off the stone and eat the turnip and then when we'd get home poor mother was wondering why we wouldn't eat the dinner. We'd be full already with the apples or sloes or whatever we'd get on the way home.5
It was mentioned above that when the children arrived home from school that they were too full to eat their dinners. So we ask ourselves what did people eat in bygone years?
In this district in olden times the principal kinds of bread made were barley and wheaten. The wheat and barley were grown locally and the wheaten meal was grown locally also, but bread made from the locally ground flour was chiefly used by the gentry. As far as I can remember grindstones were not used. Oatmeal bread was used also and milk was used in the kneading of it. A cross was generally made as a mark on the top of each cake, but the cake was sometimes cut into four parts, these parts being called 'square'. This is done at the present day. The vessels used in the baking of the bread were the 'griddle' and the 'pot-oven' the latter being used where turf was available for burning. Sods of turf were placed on the lid of the pot oven. 6
The most apparent difference between life before, during, and for some years after the wars and the commercialisation of today is that people long ago made more use of the natural products around them. People, women and their daughters in particular, had expert knowledge of baking bread, making butter, puddings, jams and crab jelly.
I'm talkin' about the early 30's now when I lived at home on the farm in Shanoule. There were seven houses in Shanoule and there were three families of Banvilles there. We were related, and each helped the other when the threshing and taking in the corn and the making of the hay. And when the pig would be killed at our house that would be shared with the neighbours, and when they'd kill the pig it'd be the same, vice versa. I think it's still there but not as much because people are more independent nowadays.
We always had potatoes, cabbages, onions, turnips, and the pig would be killed by the late Jimmy Leonard from Taghmon, which was a great day, a great ceremony on that day, and the puddings would be filled…. the intestines would be taken to the river and washed and that was great fun, and when we came home then, me mother, Lord have Mercy on her, would have this mixture up, well, the day after and it was lovely.
That would be hung up too at the side of the chimney, the same as the herns. [herrings] When anybody would go to town they'd buy maybe a couple a dozen herns, they would be cleaned out and they'd be put up on a wire and hung at the side of the chimney and a course we'd have smoked fish then for ages after. Then we had this grid iron, which was made from pieces of a heavy wire and that would be placed in the fire, on the greesuc of the fire and the herrings would be cooked on that or the rasher or whatever we'd have would be cooked on that, lovely.
But I remember also using the hay box. Now the haybox was mostly during the war years when coal couldn't be found at all because of the war and we had quite a bit of timber on the land luckily. Butter used to come that time, creamery butter came in a wooden box, a square wooden box and this would be filled with hay and the stew or whatever we'd have for the dinner, usually a stew now would cook very well in a hay box. We'd do it on the fire first to boiling point, then that would be put in the hay box and the heat of the hay would cook the pot, the remainder of the time which would be maybe an hour, or two hours, and the same was done with the rice pudding which was a great treat. The rice was made with either milk or water, currants added to it or raisins and that put into they hay box as well.
We made all our own jam, we'd collect the crabs and made crab jelly and the blackberries and we also made a plum and apple jam. The wheat too was grown on the farm and sent to the mill, and would be ground into brown wheatenmeal and we made our own flour bread with that.
The war years were tough times but looking back on it now I think it was a great training for us all because we made do with very little. I remember the ration books, I remember tea, it was two ounces first then it went down to one ounce and it ended up a half ounce a tea per person, we had the ration book and a couple of ounces of sugar, and I remember even the bread, the bread was rationed, flour was rationed and it was such a treat to try and make sponge cake, we used to try and sieve the wheatenmeal to try and get the flour off it, but it wasn't a success, it was always that little bit browner because it was that little bit courser. 7
Many of the accounts relating to trades and occupations in Taghmon parish were recorded when the children were asked to collect stories about 'old crafts'. They were required to 'give an account of any type of industry carried out in the district in former times and now perhaps discontinued. If any of these trades or occupations are still carried on in your district please describe them.
Examples: candle-making; soap-manufacture; basket making; forge work such as the manufacture of spades, gates, ploughs, fire-cranes; spinning and weaving; dyeing; thatching; rope-making; tanning of leather; woodwork of certain kinds such as barrel or churn-making; wheel- making; nail-making; whip-making; pottery work; burning of lime in kilns; fishing or fowling of certain types. Accounts of at least one of the above crafts may be gleaned in every district. A description of the methods and implements used will be very valuable, especially if the craft in question has ceased to be carried on in the district." 8
Consequently, the following 'old crafts' were recorded in Taghmon parish:
About sixty years ago basket making was carried on in the district of Taghmon by a man named Mr. Murphy who lived in Mulmintra, a townsland about a mile and a half from the village. He produced baskets of various kinds, straw beehives and such like. Work of this kind is still continued by his son.
A man named Mr. Cogley who lived in the Main St. made candles long ago. The material he used were rushes and grease. He dipped the rushes in a large pot of grease and then let them dry. After which he dipped them again. He continued in this way until there were about six layers on every rush, and then he allowed them to harden. These candles were the only lighting apparatus the villagers and peasants had. They were about the size of an ordinary candle and were sold at the rate of a penny and three halfpence each.
About thirty years ago a fine foundry was the property of a smith named James Kearns. He manufactured gates, fire- cranes and fans. It was situated on the Ross Road, and it is now owned by Mr. Richard Brady. Such work is not carried on at the present time, but the building is used as a store.
About the year 1908 Miss Mary Ann Kehoe, Joseph St. Taghmon had a knitting factory at the back of St. Fintan's Church. She supplied the surrounding district with stockings, jumpers, cardigans and such like. This is not carried on now.' 9
Other general information regarding the industries in Taghmon are illustrated in another account entitled 'Factories'.
In former times Taghmon was noted for its factories, most of which are now extinct. Soap and candle making were carried on to a large extent in the premises now occupied by Mr. Philip Keating.
Linen was made in the Bleach - so called because a large part of it was used for bleaching the linen after it was manufactured. Weaving was carried on in Brownscastle and the tweed and blankets that were made were in great demand not alone in the district, but all over Ireland. The remains of this factory can still be seen.
The making of churns, barrels, and buckets was carried on in Hill St. by the Whelan family. This is the only one of the industries still in being. Taghmon was noted too for its limekilns, many of which the ruins can still be seen, and some of them are only a few years out of use.
At one time the coach used to pass through the village, halting at Stafford's hotel, now a garage owned by Mr. Williams. The road was more or less a main road along which the coach used to travel. 10
More detailed accounts of specific industries are outlined below:
A second account also recalls that:
Long ago the people used have no blankets only old bags and old things like that. Only about fifty years ago there came a spinning machine and all the people had a good lot of sheep so they brought all the wool to the spinning machine in New Ross. Some people used to bring it to the factory to be washed and cleaned and then they would have it spun into blankets and tweed.
Before the spinning machines were made there was an old woollen mill in Brownscastle and all the farmers got their blankets and tweed made there. 12
Another account describes how these baskets and beehives were constructed.
He made the baskets out of sallies. He put the sallies in and out through each other. He had smaller sallies for the middle of the basket and one big sally for the mouth of the basket. He put two handles in it; he did this by getting a few thin sallies and twisting them around each other. Then he fastened them to the big sally at the mouth and the basket was complete. All the farmers in the district bought baskets from him. They used them for carrying the lime to the kiln to be burned and for gathering potatoes.
He made the beehives out of wheaten straw. He got bunches of straw and arranged them; then he sowed them together. Briars cut in two were used for sewing them; this was done like darning. He continued that until he had all the bunches of straw sewed together. Then he got a big bunch of straw and he sewed it around the top. Then the beehive was complete.14
In bygone years Taghmon was also not without its own distillery. However, it met its demise in a somewhat curious manner.
About one hundred and sixty years ago a distillery flourished in Taghmon. The site of the distillery is in a perfect state of preservation today and in the possession of Mr. M. J. Cullen merchant, Main Street, Taghmon. The distillery proper was situated in Joseph Street Taghmon. The big stores, visible from Green Garden Street, were used for malting purposes. The remains of the grain chutes can be observed and also the corn lifts can be seen.
The concern was owned by Bolgers who were at the time the leading business people in South Wexford. The downfall of this distillery was as follows. In the summer of 1709 a revenue officer under an escort of a troop of yeomanry arrived in the town and made a raid on the distillery. The officer found two stills working although the owner had only license to work one still. The whole machinery was dismantled and in addition the owner was fined £200. So that ended the distillery in Taghmon. 16
The big pits in which the hides were steeped could be seen up to thirty years ago. A roadway from the Tannery was at that time traceable to the Bleach. Many thought a cloth mill once flourished here, but that is not the case, as there was never sufficient waterpower for such a mill. The hides, when from six to twelve months in steep, were carted to the bleach to dry before undergoing the final process. It took over twelve months in those days to tan and hide. Today (1938) it can with the aid of machinery be done in as many days. The Bleach, a narrow strip of land skirting the eastern boundary of Taghmon, is about one hundred yards from the site of the Tannery. 17
Of course, no parish would be without a number of forges. These were pivotal both in a commercial and industrial sense to a parish, but also of social significance. Recorded in the account below are only three forges in Taghmon, but I am sure that this number could be multiplied many fold to reflect the true number of forges operating in the parish over the centuries.
There are three forges in the parish of Taghmon. One in Chapel St. Alley owned by Cartons (this forge was actually at the top of Castle Alley – near Keating's establishment - Ed.) and one in Harristown owned by Gradys. These forges have been owned by those people for many years.
They are all one-storied buildings with wooden slides or doors for windows and slate roofs on two of them, and on Kellys a wooden roof. There is one large open fireplace in each forge and a big bellows. The smith uses a large hammer, chisel, tongs, pincers, and an anvil.
He shoes horses and asses, but not cattle. Farm implements such as ploughs, harrows are not made in these forges but in older times were made in Grady's forge. Usually the work of the forge is done inside but sometimes horses refuse to go in for fear of the fire and roar of the bellows and they are shod outside the door.' 18 Threshing over the years throughout Wexford had evolved from the use of the hand flail to the arrival of the large threshin' set. The account below outlines how threshing was done with the flail: In olden times the people used to thresh the corn with a flail. First of all the people used to bring in about one hundred shaves (sheaves) of corn and put it in the barn. They used to lay down two shaves on the ground and thresh it with a flail and all the corn would come out of it. Then they would turn it over on the other side and beat it. They would shake the corn out of the straw. When they had a compliment of corn threshed they would bring it out in the field and put it on a sheet. Then they would hold it up against the wind with a sieve and the chaff would blow away. Then it would be fit for the market'. 19
Threshin' with the set became a communal event, when neighbours arrived in small and large groups to assist with saving the corn before the winter arrived. These were also great social events when after the threshin' was finished the threshin' dance took place into the early hours of the morning. The threshin' set was a regular sight on the roads of Taghmon, with one of the earliest engines arriving in 1928 and owned by James Carroll.
They'd have a day in the fall of the year and they'd have a day's threshin' after Christmas, which was the Spring's threshing they'd call it. And there were two men after the threshing set, the driver of the steam engine who would be in control. No one else would be let near the engine. And then he'd have a fella with him who would be called 'the oiler' now he did not necessarily oil the engine, he oiled the mill and the pitcher and looked after the belts and things like that on the mill and the pitcher all day long to see that everything was running right there. The 'oiler' his job I'd say was the worst job of the lot because he had to take a lot of abuse from the fella that was driving the engine…
Anywhere from small help would be twenty; between fifteen and twenty men would be small help at a threshing. Now if there was a big place and a good lot of help they might get plenty of help and there'd be lads there even to relieve them at night, and they'd have good help maybe thirty men knocking around the place, that'd be a place where they'd be good for sending help to other places and they'd get extra help back when it would come to their turn.
At the Spring threshin like that the ricks would be full of rats, there could be two or three hundred rats killed in a day at a Spring threshing, and lads even used to tie the bottoms of their trousers to stop the rats from going up the legs of their trousers.
Women would come from the different farmers around as well, their daughters or whoever would be working in the place would come and give them a hand on the threshing day to provide all the grub for all these fellas because they had to be fed. They'd get tea, sometimes they'd get tea at 10 o'clock in the morning, they'd get their dinner then at twelve. Twelve was dinner time at that time, and then they'd get tea at 3 o'clock and they'd after their supper time, they'd get the supper then, and the supper would go on maybe 'til God knows when, because usually after supper they'd go in and they'd probably might be some Guinness or what ever'd be going generally Guinness and probably in a lot of places they'd have a bit of a dance. 20
The corn was then brought to the mills dotted around the countryside for grinding into flour. Although no location is given for a mill in Taghmon in this account, it does describe in detail the sight that would have greeted a visitor to a mill.
Centuries before the coming of steam power the only means of mechanical power were the wind and water. Wind was rather uncertain but where water was available it was a great source of power and mills all over the country were driven by water. With the advent of steam and electricity the water driven mills fell into disuse. The ordinary water wheel was the most popular driven but the modern turbine is a better type and superseded the wheel.
A visit to a country mill is the most interesting and few people know of the details of its construction and work. Most old mills are small and dark and as one enters the first attraction is the huge pitwheel slowly revolving into the upright or bullwheel which moves faster and this in turn drives the head to which the spindle which drives the big grinding stone is attached. Upstairs is to be seen the great tub-like kieve or surround of the stones on which is placed the hopper, damsel and chute. The corn comes from the upper loft through the chute into the hopper and is shaken by the damsel into the eye of the upper stone. As this stone revolves the corn enters between it and the nether-stone. On both of the stones there are cut furrows and cordinys which cut the grain and as it reaches the outer edge is ground to a fine powder and passes into another chute and so to the bag.
There is usually a pleasant sound in water-mills, produced by the revolving wheels and the lapping of the water as it passes from bucket to bucket in the wheel and always there is a fine film of powder on everything in the mill including the miller.' 21
There was also a flourishing woollen factory in Taghmon, whose reputation for fine work was known far and wide.
In the townland of Brownscastle, Taghmon, Co. Wexford about thirty years ago (turn of century) there was a woollen factory. It was situated on the bank of a small river about a mile in from the road to Taghmon. The machinery of the mill was worked by waterpower. Here was manufactured blankets, rugs, flannels, tweeds, and thread, all of a rather course texture and very hard wearing. There was great demand for these goods all over the country.
There is a letter still in existence written on the 23 Oct 1889 from the President of St. Peter's College, Wexford to the proprietor Mr. Fortune, ordering 30 pairs of blankets, dyed red, to be sent to the college for the students beds. Until a few years ago the roof was fairly good. A lot of old machinery was to be seen inside with bits of wool and material caught around it. Now only the walls of the ancient mill remain, even the big iron millwheel was sold as scrap.' 22
The following verses are also recorded from the folk tradition, and were, according to the account, taken from an old advertisement for the products of the old Woollen Factory at Brownscastle.
I Edmund Fortune say to all
Who at the Woollen Factory will call
That I to them a suit can sell
Which I shall warrant to wear well.
My prices too are very low
A fine assortment I can show
And one thing I had quite forgotten
That in my wool you'll find no cotton.
And more than all I yet have said
I've rugs, and blankets to fit the bed
And that there may be no mistake
A second price I never make. 23
Taghmon, like many other villages throughout Wexford
was renowned for its fairs.
According to this account:
There were 28 fairs in Taghmon. There were two fairs a month--they were in minding the cattle, driving cattle. And anyone who owned cattle would be driving to the fairs. Two every month, and one at Christmas; what they call the Cow Fair. Up Cow Lane. 24
A second account recalls that:
From the earliest days in this country people who have livestock or goods to dispose of usually met at some appointed place to offer their goods for sale. On such occasions the bargaining was often accompanied by amusement and more often than not, until recent years, ended up by a faction fight.
These meetings came to be known as fairs, but the fair of today bears little resemblance to those of a century ago when one compares the variety of goods then on offer to what we see now. In the olden days the products of various craftsmen such as weavers, coopers, nailers, basket- makers, together with farm produce, cheese, butter, and eggs had their places on the fair.
Fairs were not necessarily held in villages or towns as we had some of the county ones held in remote places such as Scar, Nash, and Regorey, because of the convenience of the place to those who had goods to offer and because of the lack of transport in those days this was a big consideration. Nowadays with the advent of modern transport such fairs have nearly disappeared.
In our native village Taghmon, the fairs which were held twice monthly were highly important and up to twenty years ago the stock on offer filled the streets and often extended a quarter of a mile on the roads outside. One fair in the year the second of May, known as the May Fair, was the day on which the boys and girls of the surrounding country came to the fair to seek new employment and was regarded by them as a general holiday. They usually spent the greater part of their year's earnings on new clothes and amusement that day.
In recent years, owing to stock being bought on the farms,
the fairs have become smaller. It is the custom when a
farmer sells stock to give the buyer what is known as luck
money and the sale was often upset by the parties,
disagreeing on the amount of luck-money given. The
bargain is usually clinched by the buyer and seller slapping
When cattle are sold the buyer marks them on the hip by clipping the hair with a scissors, or by using mud or a special branding preparation.
The principal fairs in Taghmon are those held in the months of May and June and the stock on offer consisted of cattle, sheep, and pigs. No horse fair has been held in the village for a number of years. 25
Another practice, which according to the folk tradition was carried out in Taghmon, was the practice of a 'hiring fair', which apparently flourished into the early 20th century.
Up to about twenty years ago it was a custom in Wexford for all servant boys and girls to leave their employment on the 2nd May - the biggest fair of the year, and parade the streets with their bundles under their arms for the purpose of hiring with a new master or mistress or re-hiring with their former one. Farmers in need of a servant attended the fair for the purpose of securing one. It was known as the 'fair of the boys and girls' or the 'Hiring Fair'. Then again at the beginning of the harvest we had another 'hiring fair' when all the men and boys wishing to be employed at harvest work or women who wished to be employed as 'binders' attended the fair. At a certain time all the men lined up in a double row wearing their 'weskits' or 'baneens' and armed with their reaping hooks. Then the farmer passed through them and having eyed them all picked out these that he considered most suited for his work. 26
It is also important to mention the many 'travelling folk' who lived in Taghmon, and who provided many of the utensils used by the people years ago.
Sometime ago travelling folk were very plentiful in our district. They
were great tradesmen and they made a lot of money by that because
they made small billy-cans or tin cans for use. That time there used to
be (a utensil) called a 'tae-drawer'. Every house had a tea-drawer that
time, and the tea would be made in the tae-drawer, put in the greesuc,
then that would be emptied into the delph teapot, because you couldn't
put the delph teapot in the fire, so that's the way the tea was made.
Now there was a man in Wexford at that time and this song was composed about him:
Of all the tin-men we see pass
From Enniscorthy bridge to Ross,
There's ne'er a man that drives an ass
Can work a bit of solder;
On hammer tight a bottom down
Like Cooney out o' Wexford town--
'Twas he bedad, can earn a crown
Without the slightest bother!
Och, 'twould do you good to spy him
If, my lad, you could get nigh him,
With the ditch for shelter by him
While he made a measure!
First, the sides so shapely lappin',
Then, the bottom nately rappin';
Till the handle revets (rivets) tappin',
He stretched at his leisure!
Jerry's lad isn't bad – when he does begin!
Doran's Jack isn't slack at a gallon tin!
All the rest, at their best, couldn't hold a pin –
Och, Cooney was a masther hand
To keep the wather in!
Oft in Taghmon he raised the fun;
For scarcely was the fair begun,
You'd see his darlin' childer run
With hanks of hairy asses!……
Jirry Connors and his brother
Jirry's aunt and Jirry's mother
And ould Cash crossed o'er the border
With his lovely daughter….27
A source of revenue, and entertainment, for the children
during the summer months was picking blackberries. The
renowned folklore collector, James Delaney, describes this
event in the following account:
The blackberry grows most plentifully and lusciously all over Co. Wexford, and a feature of the county in September is the hordes of children with sweet cans and baskets and every kind of container, all out picking blackberries; the poorer children picking them to sell to merchants in Wexford, who buy them for export, the better off ones picking them for their mothers for jam-making. It was always a part of our September, when I was at home in Wexford, to go blackberry picking, and I have gone year after year, when in Wexford, even after I had left school. But this is by the way. In no other county I have worked have I seen this tradition of blackberry picking, nor have I seen the same prolific crop in any other county or the same lusciousness of the fruit. But it has been discovered from a scientific survey of Bord Talúntais, that the Wexford soil and conditions of climate etc., but particularly the soil, are peculiarly suited for the growing of soft fruit, in which category, I presume, black-berries would take their place. 28
Ger Foley also recalls how the children skipped school to
pick blackberries during the summer.
But come when the weather is fine they went out picking blackberries, when I was away. They were making money picking blackberries. Sure, the farmers were picking blackberries in Taghmon and selling them. Johnny Quigley was buying the blackberries. 29
Ger also sums up rural life and subsistence years ago when he says:
There was no dole one time. Years ago if you lost your job years ago there was no dole, but you went into the village or the town, wherever the hardware shop is, and you purchased a roll of snare wire and you made snares and you set a trap for rabbits. I've seen them coming in the morning about six, seven or eight o'clock, and rabbits hanging off both ends of the bike, handlebars. They were out catching rabbits all night. And 'twas for the skin they were getting them, there was a great price for the skin. Sure that was their living. And that was the poor people's food, the rabbit.
Sources of entertainment in the parish were also plentiful. Most renowned, even up to a few years ago were the dances in Camross.
Oh the dances in Camross, Camross hall was very near, I was at my first dance, I was seventeen years of age when I got to my first dance and was I excited. And how I got to that dance was I was given Irish lessons to a local boy who was Protestant but he wanted to get into college and he needed some Irish and the master asked me would I do it, which I done for something like half a crown or something I forget what it was, but I was down with the Master Kelly and his wife, Nancy wanted to go, Lord have Mercy on her, they're all dead now wanted to go to the dance because it was the hall committee was having the dance, and Jimmy didn't want to go but Nancy wanted to go to the dance, and she sent up a letter to my mother to know if I could accompany her to the dance. Now I was to go down, stay down at Kellys that night and go back with her afterwards, which I did. So I took this letter up to my mother. I was seventeen on Saturday and I was going to my first dance on Sunday night. I think I gave my mother the letter and disappeared then for a few minutes 'til she read it and digested it, so she let me off to the dance, and was I excited that night. So after that then I broke the ice, and after that then it was Camross mostl. A half-crown the dances were that time, McGarry's Band was there that night, I still have a poster of that and it was a great night.
Now we had card drives as well, the card drives were runnin' in the parish that time as well and you'd be invited to the card drive or you could go, now there was always a dance at the card drives and a great tear. But this night we were at a certain farm an the geese used to be always in the barn but of course they couldn't let the geese into the barn, ah the geese were out around the haggard and they makin' desperate noise because they couldn't get in because the dance was on in the barn, and Rourke's loft then in Horetown there used to be dances there as well and card drives. And that was our form of entertainment
There'd be bicycles everywhere, yeah, and that time t'was a great one of course with the fellas, ahem, if the fella brought you to, gave you a ham supper he was serious, that was a half crown usually, but if he only paid a shilling or one and six like it wasn't that serious you know, for the tea, if he brought you for the tea he was meanin' business. 30
Ger Foley also recalls the sources of entertainment during his time serving as garda in Taghmon.
We had card playing at night then. And the old people, oh they were great card players that time. They used to play a game in my place called 31.
There was the flea circus. Oh God, there were 5,000 coming there...from Duncormick, Wellington Bridge, Carrickbyrne, and Kilmore. All over. About 5,000. The circus was down in Codd's field. You know where the barrack is. It belonged to Jim Boggan of Trinity. It was known as Codd's field. Oh, the circus, that was a big event. It started at 2 o'clock in the day and there's a matinee for the children, and then at night it was packed. It was two bob only, two bob or half a crown to get in.
But they started the picture house. You go towards the road going to Clover Valley. And there was a dance hall. D'you know where the dance hall is? The ground belonged to Harry Seery. And a travelling show come around. What's his name …I don't know if he was a Tobin or what, he was a Roscommon man. But hadn't he a travelling picture house, travelling pictures. He brought the pictures there anyways, and it was packed.
And they got the pictures. And anyhow, Condon, a fellow by the name of John Condon, Rob Brerton. Well, John Condon, Rob Brerton and me, we were always together, going to the pictures. We were called The Three Stooges. That's a fact. Now the picture . . . we'd be waiting outside in the road and waiting for the film to come, and it might be late, or it wouldn't come at all some nights. Then they'd put it in, and upside down they'd put it. His head was down and legs up. Ah--we'd great fun. They were showing cowboy films, mostly cowboy films. We were mad to see the fighting and the cowboys.
There was Fr. Anglim started a boys' club*, and they bought this Nissan hut. The Nissan hut was during the war--I think the army used to have it. They were round, round sheds like, down to the ground. That was the Nissan hut. And they bought the Nissan hut to make a boys' club. And they asked me had I any objection to it, and sure you wouldn't go against a priest that time. And he came to me, had I any objection to the boys' club, and I said "No." They had a billiard table there y'know. There was a teacher, he was from Dingle and he brought one down from Dingle with him.
(*Editor's Note -The idea of starting the Boy's Club came about in 1950 as a result of an advertising campaign being run by Cadbury's Chocolates. This campaign set out to encourage young people to buy the company's products by affording them the opportunity to join the 'C Club'. This 'C Club' had secret words and signs by which one club member could recognise another. One of the signs entailed cupping ones hand to make the letter C. All this took place during the 1950s when anti Communist propaganda was at its height. Someone got the idea that the 'C' sign represented Communism. There was also a badge given out by Cadburys and it was claimed by some that a figure represented on this badge was the head of Stalin. From the vantage point of the year 2001 it seems extraordinary that people could be so misled – but these were different times and people's thinking was much more insular. Fr. Jeremiah Anglim C.C., the local Curate, decided to put an end to Cadburys campaign and he approached a number of people in the village and asked them to help him start the Taghmon Boy's Club. The first meeting was held on 20th March 1950 in St. Fintan's Hall and the first committee elected was as follows: Fr. J Anglim C.C., John Kelly N.T., Tommy Williams, Nicky Brady, Brendan Munnelly, Joe O'Connor (Forest). Tommy Williams and Nicky Brady were delegated to purchase the Nissan Hut. Tommy Williams advanced a loan to the newly formed club and the Nissan Hut was located and erected in record time. During the lifetime of St. Fintan's Boy's Club, games, drama, athletics and rounders etc. were engaged in by the boys of the village. Those who were members have happy memories of one of the first organisations to cater for young people in the Taghmon area.)
The mummers also provided great amusement in the winter months.
Mumming is still a favourite winter pastime among the working classes in County Wexford. A set of mummer is composed of sixteen (actually 12) men or boys who dress in quaint coloured costumes representing historical Irish characters, etc. They then go through a sort of figure- dancing saying comic rhymes, and beating time to the music with their wooden batons. During the mumming season each farmer in turn gives a free night to the mummers. He supplies a supper and allows them the use of his barn where the 'mummers ball' is carried out 'til morning. Each townsland has its own set of mummers and at the close of the season the different sets compete at the county feis for a set of medals. 31
I think it is important to mention at this point the tradition of decorating the 'May bush' that has been practised up to the present day, in Taghmon. This is the tradition whereby a bush, formerly a sceach, is decorated with the old Easter egg shells, tinsel, and fancy paper.
It is a custom in the Taghmon district to hold celebrations on the first day of May with a May bush. A number of boys go out in the country armed with a saw or hatched. They cut a blackthorn bush or sceach. They then get an old bucket and fill it with clay. They stick the bush down in it and take it to a waste bit of land in the neighbour-hood of the village. Then they start to decorate the bush with coloured papers, candles, painted eggshells and pictures. Then they select a king and queen. The king and queen take it up and march around the streets with it. The people give them pennies. Then in the end they burn the May bush and spend their money. This custom has been carried on in Taghmon as long as the oldest resident can remember.32
In fact I remember passing through Taghmon for as long as I remember, and seeing the May bush being decorated outside Mrs. Elsie Donnelly's house every year.
I hope that this article has gone some way towards recalling the traditions and customs practised in the parish of Taghmon over the last hundred and fifty years. I wish to finish with two funny stories that illustrate both the intelligence, wit, and humour that existed in Taghmon;
Mike (Foley) had got rid of the horse and car and got a bike. He had changed the wheels and he'd changed the tyres but when the chain wore out he never bought another. But you see if he was coming up to Taghmon he'd have to walk up the hill anyway and he'd throw the bike in the ditch at the top of the lane and when he'd be going home all he had to do was sit on it. So really there was no need for a chain. 33
and finally in an account entitled 'a funny story':
During the time when there was an order that all dogs should be muzzled, a policeman came up behind a man who was walking along the Kilgarvan road and asked him why his dog was not muzzled. The man looked around at the dog that was a short distance away, and replied, 'The dog is not mine'. 'But he was running after you', protested the policeman. 'So were you,' answered the man, 'and you don't belong to me' 34