The cailleach was an effigy generally of straw, affixed to the outer wall of a dwelling, where there was an eligible young man or woman on Shrove Tuesday night. Brat Bride was a piece of ribbon or cloth put hanging from a house on St. Brigid's Eve. It was kept during the year, for giving relief to sores or other ailments.
Easter water is always sprinkled on fields, especially on boundary fences on May Eve. Most people still place a lighted candle in the window on November night (Holy Souls).
My mother would not allow hawthorn into the house, during May. Alder branches were also taboo. Katherine Lyons recalls a baby brother dying and the women around the fire in hushed tones referring to the presence of alder in the house.
My sister while in Melrose had another unusual experience. She was having wash put up on the front of the house; it just so happened to be May Eve and the wash did not adhere at all to the wall. She never thought of piseoga, but one of the men was from Monatrea and said no one in Monatrea would dream of white-washing in May. She didn't take this statement too seriously but did have to get alternative materials some days later. It so happened that the lady who supplied eggs to the house passed in during the operation and this was looked on as a bad omen too.
A grave shouldn't be cut on a Monday, but it is quite alright to cut the sod on a Sunday night.
Don't start anything on a Friday.
Don't look at the new moon through glass.
It is good luck for a black cat to come in the door. On the contrary, a robin coming in betokens ill fortune.
Strange sinister customs prevailed not alone in our area but throughout the country, people had a horror of the 'evil eye'.
In the 1940's, Jimmie Burke (who died in 1970 aged 73) was setting potatoes and a women with the reputation of the 'evil eye' came and spoke with him. When he returned to the house, he sat down and told of his encounter and said there would be no potatoes in that section of field, and that's precisely what happened.
One farmer's cows having practically no milk while his neighbour's had plenty was another occurrence. Also, there were accounts of one farmer having a fine crop of corn while his neighbours harvest was a disaster.
There are several stories of women trying unsuccessfully to churn and make butter while butter was at the same time often plastered perhaps to an outhouse wall or a gate pier.
A well-known happening was the planting of eggs in between drills of potatoes and the potatoes did not mature, Paddy Foley encountered this, as did Jimmiy Rooney.
Another well-known happening was burying dead animals or bones in neighbours fields and the neighbours crops were ruined as a result.
D. Connery speaks of a man near Villierstown who kept some pigs and one day he found a pigs head impaled across the gate-way; all the pigs died subsequently. The present generation may scoff at such stories, but unfortunately they were very real.
There are far more spectacular stories than these: I have merely touched on the subject and recounted the more commonplace ones. The present generation will find it hard to credit and will be more inclined to scoff at it but it is all only too true. The perpetrators were known and were often frequent visitors to the afflicted households and were regular churchgoers. The occurrences were serious and most sinister and I cannot understand them, but know them to have happened.
The late Jimmy Burke (previously mentioned) told two other rather scary stories which make interesting recording.
At the top of Geata 'n Bhóthair Aird, i.e. about two and half miles from Ardmore there is a sign post and a road to the right leading to the N25. Just at the intersection, on the North side there is a very small plot of ground occupied at the beginning of the last century by a family of Braonán. Peig the wife died and was buried in the old graveyard in Grange.
The following night about midnight, there was a frightful din in the house of delf, chairs etc all moving. The following night a neighbour probably Mike Broderick came to keep Tim the widower company and the disturbance began again, whereupon the neighbour addressed the spirit i.e. Peig and asked her why she was troubled. It transpired she was in the wrong grave. This was rectified the next day and the corpse reburied in another grave, a very short distance away. There were no further disturbance in the household at night.
In the same area but some distance downhill where an old boreen crosses, the farmer then in occupation there had trouble with milk, his cows just didn't have any. He began watching and one morning early saw a hare sucking one of the cows in the field and then crossing towards a ruined shed. He went in pursuit with a sprong to pounch on the hare whereupon it spoke "Ó ná déan a phádraig mise atá ann" it was a neighbour as he suspected.
Author: Siobhan Lincoln