================================================= The Information about Ireland Site Newsletter September 2008 The Newsletter for people interested in Ireland Now received by over 50,000 people worldwide http://www.ireland-information.com http://www.irishnation.com Copyright (C) 2008 ================================================= IN THIS ISSUE === Foreword === News Snaps from Ireland === New free resources at the site === A Different Drum by Pat Watson === Famous Irish Legends: Cuchulainn === Strawberries in the Field by Olegas Bogdanova === I Remember by Josephine Doherty McTague === Ireland House-Swap === Gaelic Phrases of the Month === Shamrock Site of the Month: Celticattic.com === Monthly free competition result ================================================= FOREWORD ======== Hello from Ireland where your favourite Ireland information site is about to celebrate its tenth anniversary. Do watch out for next months special edition which will include a number of free services to mark the occasion! This month we are delighted to bring you a couple of stories, a Cadet Midshipman's tale and an Irish legend. Enjoy! Michael Help keep this newsletter alive at www.irishnation.com WE NEED YOUR HELP! PLEASE - send this newsletter on to your friends or relatives who you think are interested in Ireland. By doing this you are helping to keep us 'free'. Got something to say? Don't keep it to yourself! Why don't you submit an article for inclusion in the next edition? Go here for more information: http://www.ireland-information.com/newsletter.htm Do you have access to a website? You can help to keep this newsletter alive by adding a link to any of our websites below: http://www.irishnation.com http://www.irishsurnames.com http://www.ireland-information.com http://www.allfamilycrests.com http://www.irishpenpals.com If you have an AOL or HOTMAIL account then you will get much better results by viewing this newsletter online here: http://www.ireland-information.com/sep08.htm The only way that you could have been subscribed to this newsletter is by filling out a subscription form at the site whereupon a confirmation notice would have been issued. If you wish to unsubscribe then go here: http://www.ireland-information.com/newsletter.htm ======================= NEWS SNAPS FROM IRELAND ======================= ITS A RECESSION! Latest figures from the Central Statistics Office have revealed that Ireland is now officially in a recession. Two consecutive quarters have shown 'negative growth' with GDP contracting by 1% in the first half of the year. The main cause of this economic contraction was the over-reliance on the property market to stimulate economic activity although the speed at which consumer sentiment and thus consumer spending has reduced has surprised many commentators. HOUSE PRICE PLUNGE CONTINUES AMID ECONOMIC WOES Only the US, Latvia and Estonia have suffered larger property value declines in the last year than Ireland according to a 'Global Property Guide' survey. Of course, these four countries are also among those countries who gained the most during the recent international property boom so it is not unreasonable to see them fall furthest and fastest. Prices fell by 9.6% in Ireland in the year to the end of June last. Latvian prices fell by 33% in the same period, and by 19% in the US. The guide revealed that only 5 countries from 33 surveyed showed a decline in 2007 compared to 21 in 2008, a sure sign of the effect of the credit crunch and of the sudden flight from property assets. BANK DEPOSIT SECURITY SCHEME EXTENDED The power of the media has been demonstrated once again after the Irish Government was forced to raise the bank deposit security scheme from 20,000 Euro to 100,000 Euro. This is the amount of money lodged by private individuals that is guaranteed should the financial institution go bust. Recent coverage in some Irish newspapers and in particular on Irish radio has been described as 'hysterical' and is at least part of the reason why up to 50 Million Euro was suddenly transferred into the state run Post Office savings schemes. Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan went so far as to write to RTE (who broadcast the radio programme) to complain that the 'call-in' programme was ill-advised and could potentially cause a 'run' on a bank. His decision on a Saturday to increase the guarantee five-fold shows just how quickly things are currently happening in the financial arena, as if we needed any reminding. Speculation is now rife that an Irish bank may fail or will at least be taken over, despite protestations from the Financial Regulator that Irish banks are well capitalised. LISBON SECOND REFERENDUM CHATTER INCREASES The groundwork for a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty is clearly being laid by the Irish Government. Already one Minister has indicated that he believes a second referendum will be necessary (to presumably get the 'yes' vote that the government demands). A recent visit to new EU-member Romania by the Irish President Mary McAleese was followed by press releases from the Romanians that, while they respected the Irish decision that it was up to Ireland to sort out the Lisbon problem. (They also issued a plea to the thousands of Romanian workers in Ireland to go back to their homeland where they are needed and where the economy is booming). The president of the European Parliament also weighed in by demanding an investigation into the funding used by the independent Libertas organisation during it successful defeat of the first referendum. Those in favour of passing the Lisbon Treaty maintain that our economic prosperity depends on its ratification. Those opposed to it now maintain that nothing less than democracy itself is at stake, should the Irish Government buckle to European pressure to overturn the decision of the Irish electorate. Given the current economic climate (and thus inevitable Government unpopularity) it is unlikely that a second referendum will be held until the end of 2009 at least but there is little doubt that the Lisbon issue will dramatically divide the country. IRELAND RANKED 16TH IN CORRUPTION LEAGUE TABLE Ireland is now ranked joint 16th in the international league table of countries according to the Transparency International's annual Corruption Perceptions Index. The index measures public-sector corruption across 180 countries worldwide. Britain is also ranked 16th with the USA in 18th place. Sweden, Denmark and New Zealand share first place. IRELAND TO FAIL TO MEET GREENHOUSE GAS TARGETS An EPA report will show that greenhouse gas emission levels from the Irish transport and agriculture sectors are running at 12% above their targets with the entire country now 25% above 1990 greenhouse gas emissions. This will inevitably result in yet more public funds being used to buy the necessary carbon credits in order to fulfil Ireland's obligations under the Kyoto agreement. Although the breach of the target is significant it is not shockingly so. The Government has pledged to reduce emmisions by 3% annually until the situation is under control. Given the recent huge boom in the Irish economy it was not too surprising that the targets were not met. Nevertheless the Green party that is now part of the ruling Government coalition is likely to seek improved measures to progress this issue in return for its willingness to stay in government. PAVING OF FRONT GARDENS TO BE BANNED Of all of the new measures sought by the Green Party as part of its coalition with Fianna Fail in Government its recently announced plan to reduce the amount of front garden paving is attracting the most attention. With car-parking space at a premium and the actual number of cars increasing it is a common site to see gardens of city houses being paved over. New regulations are to be introduced to prevent such paving being completed without planning permission, as the government tries to encourage the use of materials that allow rainwater to soak away, such as gravel. Recent flooding around the country has again highlighted the inadequacy of Ireland's ancient drainage systems in dealing with the new 'Irish Monsoon' weather patterns. The building of houses on flood plains is also to be severely restricted. Voice your opinion on these news issues here: http://www.ireland-information.com/newsletterboard/wwwboard.html ============================== NEW FREE RESOURCES AT THE SITE ============================== IRELAND HOUSE-SWAP LISTING Our new free service lets you find or list a home for a house-swap: http://www.ireland-information.com/irelandhouseswap.htm NEW COATS OF ARMS ADDED TO THE GALLERY: The following 4 coats of arms images and family history details have been added to the Gallery: B: Brandon C: Costello K: McKelvey, Kilpatrick M: Mackie View the Gallery here: http://www.irishsurnames.com/coatsofarms/gm.htm THE PERFECT WEDDING, ANNIVERSARY OR BIRTHDAY GIFT! We now have over 100,000 worldwide names available. Get the Coat of Arms Print, Claddagh Ring, Screensaver, Watch, T-Shirt Transfer or Clock for your name at: http://www.irishnation.com/familycrestgifts.htm ========================== KEEP THIS NEWSLETTER ALIVE! Visit: http://www.irishnation.com ========================== ================= A DIFFERENT DRUM by Pat Watson ================= Around the end of the war we were in third class. The class consisted of about thirty, nine-to-ten year olds and about ten dunces of various ages and sizes who sat down the back. These had been kept back, denied promotion to higher classes, because it was felt that another year in the same grade would bring them up to speed. Very slow learners might spend two years in every class from infants up and as a result might finish school in third class. Fitz was the biggest dunce in every respect. He was six feet tall and weighed ten stone. He sat on a stool at the end, as he would not fit in the desk seat. He never knew anything, in fact nobody ever heard him say anything in class. Occasionally the master would ask him a spelling or a sum but Fitz would never reply. The master would hit him a few belts and move on to the next pupil. Fitz never complained or seemed annoyed about being beaten or called a dunce. In the playground he just stood around, ate his lunch quietly and didn't say very much. Any boy being chased by a bully could find sanctuary in his shadow. Then one day Fitz hit out at Slasher, the next biggest dunce. The master was on the scene in a flash. 'Fitz, this is not like you, why did you hit Slasher?' 'He spilled me 'tae' ration into me sugar ration.' 'And why have you your tea and sugar in school?' 'Sure the stepmother would eat them and feed them to her young ones if I left them at home.' 'In future leave his rations alone. How old are you Fitz?' 'I'll be fourteen tomorrow Sir.' 'When are you leaving school?' 'Today Sir.' This was the first time we ever heard Fitz speak in class; even the master was surprised. Then the master did a funny thing. 'I will never give out to you or punish you again but I want you to do just one thing for me on this your last day at school.' He brought him up to the board and wrote 2 with another 2 under it and a line under that again. 'Can you do that sum for me?' he said. As far as we were concerned the plus sign had not been invented. Fitz said nothing. 'Just tell me if you don't know the answer, I won't say anything to you.' 'I don't know,' said Fitz. 'O dear! O dear!' said the master 'we have failed you, what are you going to do in life?' 'I start work tomorrow with Tom Smith, sorting spuds.' 'But he will fool you. If he promises you two shillings an hour for an eight-hour day you wont know how much to expect.' 'Sixteen bob' said Fitz. The master just smiled and said, 'Good luck to you in life Fitz - we have been marching to a different drum.' 'A Different Drum' is one of sixty lyrical yarns from 'Original Irish Stories' by Pat Watson, Creagh, Bealnamulla, Athlone, Ireland. First published in March 2006. Get your copy from here: http://www.myirishstories.com ========================== KEEP THIS NEWSLETTER ALIVE! Visit: http://www.irishnation.com ========================= ================================ FAMOUS IRISH LEGENDS: CUCHULAINN ================================ There was a time in Ireland's history when chivalry and chieftainry ruled the land. When the country was occupied by bands of warriors who spoke only their native tongue and who cherished their heritage and civilisation. This was the time of Conor McNessa and the High Kings of Ireland, of the Gamanraide and the Red Branch Knights of the Emania. It was the time of Cuchullain. All of the warrior bands had their own Seanachie, a person responsible for recounting the deeds of times past, a chronicler of the ages. Cuchullain was their most famous subject and hundreds of tales of his heroic deeds, both real and imagined, have survived to this day. Cuchullain was the nephew and foster son of King Conor of Emania, and was originally named Setanta. He arrived at the Court to find the youths playing Caman (hurling) and, having with him his red bronze hurley he so outplayed the other youths that his future greatness could be seen by all of the Court. The warriors of the Red Branch acknowledged him as a blood relative of the King and heard him proclaim before the Druids in the Hall of Heroes: 'I care not whether I die tomorrow or next year, if only my deeds live after me'. Cuchulainn's greatest deed was perhaps when he alone held back the forces of Connaught and had to fight his friend, Ferdiad, who was the champion and chief of the Connaught Knights of the Sword. Ferdiad and Cuchullain had trained together in arms in their youth and it was displeasing to Cuchullain to have to fight his friend of old. He tried to dissuade Ferdiad against fighting by reminding him of their days in training, when they were both subjects of the great female champion, Scathach, in Alba. 'We were heart companions, We were companions in the woods, We were fellows of the same bed, where we used to sleep the balmy sleep. After mortal battles abroad, In countries many and far distant, together we used to practice, and go through each forest, learning with Scathach'. Ferdiad would not be swayed. Lest he weaken under Cuchullain's pleas he responded only with taunts against his friend, now foe. So they fought. They fought for four days and eventually, after a tremendous effort, Cuchullain laid Ferdiad down and then fell into a trance of sorrow and weakness after the epic duel. As is the way with such heroes, Cuchulainn died on the battlefield. He was propped against a large rock whilst dead, with a spear in his hand and a buckler on his arm, and with such a defiant attitude was able to strike fear into his enemies even after death. ========================= STRAWBERRIES IN THE FIELD by Olegas Bogdanova ========================= My affinity to Ireland and the Irish started in 1962 when I visited Londonderry on the good ship HMS ULYSSYS. I was a 'trog' at the time - the lowest form of sea life - being but a Cadet Midshipman under training at Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, South Devon. By tradition, the ship was open to visitors and the cadets were available for daily 'adoption' by the good people of Ireland. I was lucky to be taken out by two elderly ladies. We drove over the border, near a lake (the name of which I am sorry to say I cannot remember), and had a picnic on grass which is so green only in Ireland. Among other delicacies were strawberries and cream. The strawberries were huge and sweet. The sky was blue and clear and the sun warm. I did try to find a Leprechaun without success. I have since tried, also without success, to grow such strawberries in my own garden, I guess they only grow in Ireland - a country which produces only the best and the nicest of people. Olegas Bogdanova. ================== IRELAND HOUSE-SWAP ================== We had a great response to our article about house-swapping which you can view in last months newsletter: http://www.ireland-information.com/jul08.htm We are working on the online program to allow you to freely add and view details of other people who are interested in this service. You can add your home-swap details to our new free listing service at: http://www.ireland-information.com/irelandhouseswap.htm ========================== KEEP THIS NEWSLETTER ALIVE! Visit: http://www.irishnation.com ========================== ============================ I REMEMBER by Josephine Doherty McTague ============================ The fabric of my childhood is like a patchwork quilt of stories that are stitched in my mind. My mother, Bridie Kearns Doherty, was the storyteller. She was a very special person who lived her life in a simple and loving way. She was a beautiful individual. She was an extremely generous person who was thrifty and hard working. She valued her family. Bridie emigrated from Ireland to the United States in 1937 at the age of 18 in hopes of better employment. She had to leave her family in Fargureens, which was a small village on the green outskirts of Balla in County Mayo. Although Bridie was miles away from her birthplace, she kept her family close to her heart and naturally, shared stories about them with me and my siblings. She shared tales of her younger years in Ireland in our everyday conversations. These accounts were about her mother, her father, her four brothers and eight sisters. They were simple stories of everyday events that happened in her family. She told these anecdotes effortlessly. She was proud of her family and wanted us to know about them. My mother told me so many little things that happened to her in Ireland that I could almost envision what life was like in Ireland for her and her family. At times, I felt as if I was back in the 'old sod' myself. I remember hearing many things about my grandmother Ellen (Kilgallon) Kearns. She was referred by the neighbors as Mrs. Kearns but her family called her Baby. As a teenager she had emigrated to New York in 1910 and made a living as a domestic housekeeper, which was a typical occupation for an Irish woman. She loved New York and had intentions of making it her home. But after five years in the United States, she decided to return to Ireland in order to be with her mother who was going to be living alone in Fargureens soon. Baby's sister Mary had been living in Fargureens with her husband Patrick Dennison. Patrick had just been given the title to his family's home. Mary and Patrick were moving to his old homestead in Ballindine, County Mayo which was twelve miles away. Baby returned to Fargureens. She was reintroduced to Thomas Kearns who was also an alumnus of Prizon School. Thomas was referred to as Dan Kearns since there were many young lads named Thomas Kearns in the area of Balla, Count Mayo. Dan had emigrated to England and found employment in a coal mine in Rotheran, a town in Yorkshire. He told his children that he went down into the mine with a bird in a cage. If the bird died, that was the signal to evacuate the mine. It was extremely difficult work. The working conditions were appalling. Dan is credited with saving the life of a fellow miner. For his heroism, he received a gold watch and chain from the company which he wore proudly. After a few years of grueling work, Dan returned home to the land of his birth in 1915. It is not clear why he returned to Ireland but some may call it fate or divine intervention. Not long after his return, he saw Baby who was known as the stunning 'Yank from America.' Within three months of Baby's return to Ireland, she wed Dan Kearns who had matured into a very handsome gentleman. Baby and Dan Kearns lived a happy and extremely fruitful life together and the rest is our history. I remember Mom talking about her lovely warm thatched cottage. A clamp or pile of turf was neatly arranged outside the whitewashed stone house. It had a roof of straw, a half door and an open fire. According to mom 'the room above' was for the girls and their grandmother and 'the room below' was for the boys and their father. The room in the middle was the kitchen, dining room, and living room. As a child I thought that she had a three-story house. The middle room had a warm turf fire that was always burning. A large black pot hung from the crane in the fireplace. On the side of the hearth was the oven where the many loaves of bread were baked. Against the back wall was the dresser that held the dishes. On the top shelf of the dresser Baby put her three fancy dishes that she had brought back from America. There was a mint green fluted pedestal dish, a small oval platter trimmed in red with Japanese figures, and a sepia toned dish. These were her prized possessions. On the middle shelf were the platters. The first shelf held the everyday dishes. The kitchen bed was to the right of the fireplace and was recessed in an alcove and hidden away with curtains. The alcove was referred to as the 'collough' and the bed was called the 'hag.' Her mother and the youngest family members slept there. Later on I learned that the house was a typical Irish stone cottage that was situated on the side of a mountain just north of Balla in the Township of Manilla in Bohoge. The little village was called Fargureens. They could look down into the valley and see the villages of Rush Hill and Prizon to name just two. They viewed Ballinagran Lake (Lough Nanilnnoo) and up the other side of the valley to Ballycloger and beyond. Behind their house, they could look up to the top of the rounded hill called the Crock-nas-bul-ig-i-thon. On the very top of this hill stood the Far-brai-ga or False Man which was a very tall mass of stones. This high point could be seen for miles around. Fargureens was a picture perfect place. I remember mom telling me about the fields around their house. Each field had a Gaelic name and a purpose. The 'Gara-gara' is the only name that I can remember now. That field was special. It was for playing in. The field was behind their house and quite elevated. The kids would take an old burlap sack and run up to the top of the hill. Then they would sit on the sack and pull each other down the steep hill having loads of fun! What an innovative playground in their own backyard. I remember hearing that everyone in the household had a job or two. Actually, their entire lives were centered around 'work.' This article is continued in the online edition of this newsletter: http://www.ireland-information.com/sep08.htm#article
My mom had many chores. One of her jobs was to rekindle the fire in the early morning before anyone awoke. She would uncover the burning embers of the previous day and add new pieces of turf carefully. The warming fire greeted the family as they awoke. She was also responsible for killing the chickens when it was necessary. Her grandmother, Bridget Kilgallon who lived with them, also performed this chore. Her mother, Baby, couldn't find it in her heart to do the job. I remember hearing that everyone shared in getting the water from the spring well but some took a longer time coming back with it. Everyone helped with the planting and the harvest. Her dad Dan was the butcher for the area. He would go to the neighboring farms when an animal, such as a pig, needed to be slaughtered. His payment was part of the animal. After a job, there was plenty of black pudding for the family and some rashers (bacon) as well. It was a group effort to run the farm and they prospered thanks to everyone's contribution.
I remember hearing how James, my mom's oldest brother, was upset by having seven sisters in a row. He was relieved when his brother John was born to break the streak. James was a great worker and plowed the fields with his father. He cut the turf in the bog. In later years when his father was not able to do the work, James worked diligently in the fields. His sisters would bring out a cup of tea, some buttered bread and occasionally a cigarette to him in the field.
Besides farming, plastering was another strong talent of James's. He plastered around the fireplace in the kitchen to make it more appealing. Using plaster on the rough stones, he molded the wet plaster to make it look like bricks. Then with the touch of a skilled paint brush, he painted the molded bricks a warm red color and added white to imitate the cement between the bricks. He added a larger mantle piece as well. All these improvements made the kitchen-family room so much cozier! He was a great worker and stayed on helping his mother when other lads of his age had immigrated to England.
I remember hearing so many stories about my mom, Bridie, the oldest daughter from my aunts and uncles. One that touched my heart occurred when she was thirteen. Bridie thought that she was getting a new pair of gloves. While shopping in McEllin's General Store in Balla, her sisters overheard their mom asking for a pair of gloves for a girl of 13 years. The girls didn't waste any time and ran home quickly to tell Bridie of the wonderful news. Bridie was so surprised to hear that she was getting a pair of gloves. When her mother came home, she was wearing the gloves. Baby confessed that she had asked for gloves to fit a thirteen year old girl. She needed a pair of gloves but could not afford a better pair. To avoid embarrassment in buying a substandard pair, she pretended that they would be for her daughter. Bridie understood completely. Her mother felt miserable about the mix up but Bridie said it all ended up well. She was too young to wear gloves anyway!
I remember hearing that Lena, the third oldest, led an act of defiance on the road outside Prizon School. The children attending Prizon School had had their fill of crotchety, old Miss Doherty, the schoolteacher and Head Mistress of the school. Lena, along with a few fellow students decided to get back at Miss Doherty for her malicious treatment of the children in her care. One day after school had been dismissed, Lena and some friends planned an unfortunate traffic delay. Knowing the road on which Miss Doherty drove her Baby Ford home to Turlough, Lena and her cohorts cleverly blockaded it with large stones. Lena and her fellow students crouched down behind a stone wall and waited for their teacher. Miss Doherty drove over the crest of the hill and made an abrupt stop. She had to get out of her car and remove each stone from the road. From behind the wall, Lena and her fellow students witnessed their teacher's plight with glee. I can't remember if the perpetrators of this action were discovered or not. I just remember thinking that Lena had a lot courage to take a stand against an adult who had been mistreating the students. Bravo!
I remember hearing that Kathleen, the fourth in line, was christened Mary Kathleen but was always called Kathleen. She would help her mother with the younger siblings and the household chores as well. She was noted for her interior decorating. Kathleen was an excellent painter and painted the kitchen walls to make it appear like wallpaper. She was fastidious about adding the trim around the windows and making their cottage look neat and clean. When Kathleen was around thirteen years old, she obtained a live-in position with the McDonough Family in Kiltimagh. The McDonough's owned a Public House in Bohola. Each morning Kathleen along with Mr. McDonough would cycle five miles to Bohola. She would work all day in the pub and then cycle back to Kiltimagh. She definitely got in her aerobic exercise each day!
I remember hearing how Ann and Margaret, the first set of twins, had their own built-in babysitters. Bridie took care and held Ann as an infant. Lena, likewise, was caregiver to Margaret. The older girls entertained their baby sisters with songs and kept them away from the fireplace and out of danger on the farm.
I remember hearing that Ann, the fifth child, was a great worker. Her actual name was Annie but was called Ann for the most part. She preferred to work outside and could perform as well as any of the men in the field and sometimes even better. Ann helped to prepare the fields for the planting of the potatoes. Digging the green sod or scraw as it was referred to, was hard backbreaking work and Ann developed great strength. When she reached her teens, she loved to go to the dances and socialize. She was the 'belle of the ball' and would dance all night with gusto! Some things never change!
I remember hearing how Margaret, the sixth in line, was noted for keeping a nice straight edge along the roadside by their cottage. She kept pulling up the weeds and cultivating the wild flowers around their house. She would gather blueberries and gooseberries and help with the cooking. As a young teen, Margaret developed appendicitis. She was brought to the hospital and had her appendix removed. It was discovered in later years, that the doctor who had operated on her, had damaged her reproductive organs. As a result of this malpractice, she was unable to have children in later years.
Margaret was an excellent worker along with Ann, her twin sister. Margaret and Ann were often sent with the donkey and creels to bring home the turf from the bog which was about five miles away. On the day that Bridie left for America, Margaret and Ann had to collect the turf. Margaret reported that both of them cried on their walk to the bog and on their walk home. Seeing their oldest sister leave for the States was very overwhelming. As Margaret approached the age of 16, she was preparing to leave the country herself. I remember hearing how she had to cycle ten miles to apply for her International Passport. When she reached the passport office, the officials did not have any record of a 'Margaret Kearns'. She had to cycle back the ten miles and get her official birth record from the town office. To her surprise, her name had been recorded as 'Margaretta Kearns.' The next day she cycled back the ten miles to the passport office with the correct documentation in hand and applied for a passport abroad. She surely got enough bike riding done that week!
I remember hearing how Teresa, the seventh child, was full of fun. I remember hearing how she would tease her bushy mustached Uncle Mike Kearns who lived over in the next village, Prizon North, when she and her sisters would visit on the way home from church on Sunday morning. Aunt Bridget, Uncle Mike's wife would have the black pudding, eggs and rashers all ready. Who could resist a delicious breakfast? In those days, it was an actual 'break- fast' for they could not eat anything from midnight on to the next day when they received communion at Mass in Balla Church which was a three mile walk. Teresa had a humorous slant on life. All of her nieces and nephews can attest to her jovial personality.
Unfortunately, Teresa had an accident at the age of ten which had an affect on the rest of her life. She was playing in the barn with some of her brothers and sisters when their horse got loose from its stall. This particular horse had a somewhat mean and bad-tempered disposition. To flee from the approaching horse, the children decided to jump out of the barn window. Everyone escaped unharmed except for Teresa. She managed to climb out of the window but fell down into a pile of jaggered pieces of slate. One of slate pieces pierced her knee. Her knee became infected over the next few days and the infection spread throughout her leg. Her condition only became worse after visiting the physicians in Castlebar. The doctors examined her and put her entire leg in a cast for 18 months. As a result of the cast, she was unable to leave the house. She suffered much. After the leg cast was removed, the doctors put a total body cast on her and sent her home once more. Her family transported her back and forth to the Castlebar Hospital lying flat in the wooden cart behind the horse. Her mother lined the cart with a hay filled bag to give Teresa some padding on the ten mile bumpy ride to the hospital and covered her with warm wool blankets. She had an extra pillow of hay to support her head. Her face got some slight shelter from the rain because her head lay under the seat of the driver. Living in a plastered cast in a thatched cottage in a damp climate was extremely difficult to say the least. Teresa would use her knitting needles to scratch at an itch inside the cast. She developed sores and ulcers under her arms where the cast rubbed against her body. When the cast was finally removed, Teresa was unable to move her hip joint. The bones had fused together incorrectly. Teresa was able to walk but did so very slowly with the assistance of a cane. She had gone through so much torment.
Throughout this terrible ordeal, Teresa's spirit remained positive. She was still the family 'tease'. While confined to her chair in the house, Teresa helped her grandmother, Bridget Kilgallon, to make the many loaves of freshly baked bread each day. She also became an expert knitter. She earned money for the family by knitting for the neighbors on several occasions. Later in life, Teresa knitted colorful sweaters for many nieces and nephews.
Teresa's medical condition greatly improved when her sister Lena brought her to more competent physicians in London. Teresa underwent numerous operations to regain better mobility in her leg. With Lena's assistance, Teresa was able to regain her strength and find employment in Cricklewood, London. Although Teresa's hardships molded her personality to be a person of endurance, she had a cheerful disposition and enjoyed making people laugh.
I remember hearing that Josephine and John, the second set of twins, were a surprise package. Baby did not know she was having twins again. After they were born all the older siblings pitched in and helped with the new pair of babies. On their Christening Day, their Uncle John Kearns carried one of the babies to Balla Church. He assumed that he was carrying John, his namesake, and had thought that he was to be the baby boy's Godfather. It happened that he was carrying Josephine and it had been prearranged that he would be Josephine's Godfather. He was shocked to discover this piece of information during the actual Christening. Nonetheless, after the double baptism, the disappointed Uncle John requested to adopt the new baby boy, since he and his wife did not have any children at that time. The request was denied immediately! Baby and Dan said that they could not or would not part with any of their children no matter how many they had. This did not go over well with Uncle John Kearns and he rarely visited Fargureens after that day. Josephine and John and all of the Kearns family members grew as a tightly knit crew and they knew that they were loved by their parents.
I remember hearing that Josephine was surprisingly plump and quite well endowed as a teenager. She was so chesty that her mother had to make a special brassiere that clasped in the front in an effort to flatten her down. The fabric that was used for this bra was recycled from large flour sacks. The sacks held fifty pounds of flour and were made of white cotton. They had the company logo stamped across each bag in large bold letters. The name of the flour company was The Pride of the West. Often this logo landed across the chest of many of the Kearns girls since their mother sewed all of their bras.
Josephine was the eighth child but she was also the seventh consecutive girl in the Kearns family. In Ireland some folks believed that the seventh consecutive girl held a special gift or cure. Josephine and the family were not an advocate of this belief. Still, some folks upon hearing that she was the seventh girl in a row, would touch her in hopes of receiving something good or a cure. Josephine was special and would definitely energize any group that she came within contact. Perhaps the old timers in Ireland were not far off the mark in their folklore. She spoke her mind and had a quick wit about herself which charmed all those whom she met!
When Josephine immigrated to New York, I remember how she walked with a wiggle and would be quite flirtatious with the grocery clerks in Park Slope, Brooklyn. She lived upstairs in our house on Carroll Street and being named after her, I received lots of her attention. As a child, I became quite good at imitating her flamboyant ways. Josephine never changed and lived life with a youthful heart!
I remember hearing that John, the ninth in line, was kind and rather soft spoken. He was more reserved than his twin sister. He was small for his age and developed bronchitis or asthma at a very young age. He often had difficulty breathing. John grew into a fine lad and a caring son and brother. He worked extremely hard on the farm and was very good at white washing the house and walls as well. John, in later years of his life, was noted as an excellent house painter and helped many family members with their home repairs.
I remember hearing that Walter, the tenth in line, was the strongest of all the Kearns men folk. He tended to be quiet and reserved. He was very determined and worked extremely hard. During his early years, he caught pneumonia and later had a relapse of double pneumonia. As a remedy to this ailment, a hot putty or 'poultice' was applied to his chest to draw out the infection. This treatment was extremely painful. Between the pneumonia and the treatment, Walter was drained of his strength. Walter recovered from the pneumonia but it seemed to have had a lasting effect on his health. Nevertheless, Walter continued to work around the farm to the best of his ability.
When Walter applied for his passport, he discovered like Margaret, that his name had been recorded incorrectly. His name was recorded as 'Walter Kerins.' Walter was surprised but he kept that spelling on his forms. Hence, that is why his offspring are known as the Kerins Clan. I remember hearing that when Walter went to England, Lena was influential in getting him improved medical attention.
I remember hearing about Virginia and Veronica, the third set of twins, on their first day to school. Upon arriving at Prizon School with Margaret and Ann by their side, they were introduced to the Head Teacher, Miss Doherty. The little twins were all dressed up and very excited about their first day at school. When Miss Doherty inquired about their names, she was flabbergasted. "How am I supposed to put Gaelic names on those colleens?" she responded. In those days, students were addressed by their Gaelic name in accordance with school rules of the Republic of Ireland. Virginia and Veronica were caught up in the 'first day of school' excitement and Miss Doherty's curt reaction to their names had little impact on them. Miss Glen, the Infant's Teacher welcomed them in warmly.
I remember hearing that Virginia, the eleventh in line, was nicknamed 'the duck.' She inherited this playful name as a result of her love for water. Virginia liked to wash almost anything. She was always in the water. I heard that she loved to clean the kitchen thoroughly. She would wipe down everything and then put all items away. Her mother would know that Virginia had made her mark in the kitchen and would be reminded of her thorough cleaning when she reached for the potholders on top of the mantle and realized that they too had been put away in the drawer of the dresser. Virginia continued to leave her trademark of neatness throughout her entire life.
I remember hearing that Veronica, the twelfth one in line, preferred working outdoors. She loved helping with the planting of the potatoes. The cultivating of the land was done by older and stronger members of the family. It was extremely hard work. When the land was ready, Veronica and the other children would help plant the potato slits. (Potato slits are pieces of potato which have at least two eyes.) She would carry a cloth bag filled with potato slits on her back. She would put a potato slit down into the ground. She would measure the correct distance to place a slit on each side of the original one using her bare foot. Again she would take one step forward and repeat the procedure until the field was planted with evenly spaced potato slits. Learning about this story gave me a closer connection to the measurement of a 'foot'. Planting the potatoes was a family affair. Veronica enjoyed helping out with this important chore.
Besides the potatoes, there were numerous jobs around the house to be done. Veronica noticed one evening that the boys were extra busy. Uncle Mike and Aunt Bridget of Prizon North were visiting. She decided to help out and retrieve the family's horse from a neighboring field. This was one of her brothers' duties. Veronica approached the tall black horse with ease. It had a white spot on its forehead and was named Rose. It had a pleasant disposition. Veronica had seen her brothers mount the horse everyday. There was nothing to it. She went into the field where the horse was grazing and gently put on its bridle. She walked it out onto the road and positioned it near the stone wall. Veronica climbed the stone wall and from that advantage point, she swung her leg over the bareback of the horse. The horse immediately started trotting down the road. Veronica was caught off guard and within a few seconds her hands and feet went flying. She abruptly fell off the tall mare and hit the ground with a resounding thud. The horse seemed as surprised as Veronica and stopped short. Veronica just sat on the ground until Rose bent down and softly nuzzled her head. Veronica took hold of the harness on the horse and it straightened up. Veronica regained her composure. Veronica's pride as well as her arse was hurt. She dusted herself off and slowly walked the horse home with a strong resolution not to mount it again. She would let the lads do their own work and she would do her work! She became an ardent admirer of 'specialization of labor'. She came to believe that each person has his or her special talents and is called to use them wisely.
Both Virginia and Veronica loved to sing. They sang in school plays and shows at Prizon School. They sang at social gatherings. They were both quite outgoing and very friendly. Farrell, a close neighbor, is quoted as saying, "They must have been vaccinated with the gramophone needle!"
I remember hearing a few stories about Tommie, the last in the line of the thirteen. He was twenty years younger than James who was the oldest. Did you know that Tommie Kearns and President Carter have something in common? Well, President Jimmy Carter was the first president of the United States to be born in a hospital and Tommie was the first and only one of the Kearns Thirteen to be born in a hospital. I remember hearing that Baby in her later months of her pregnancy had been kicked by a cow while milking it. It was deemed safer to give birth in the hospital. Thus, Tommie was born in Castlebar Hospital and the midwives, Nora Stanton and Delia Riley, retired their neatly starched aprons from the Kearns family of Fargureens.
I remember hearing a comical story about Tommie. He was about eight years old. His sister Bridie was home from New York after eight long years. Kathleen was home from her position in McDonough's in Bohola. A big family dinner had been planned. The family had all gathered together to have a wonderful dinner. Tommie had helped with the preparations. This meal would be extra special. The family gathered together in the kitchen. Tommie had his own table which in fact was the huge straw basket used to strain the potatoes. The basket was set up-side down to act as a small table for the small man of the house. The vegetables were placed on Tommie's dish. He waited for the meat. Then his mother placed a slice of meat on his plate. All was just fine. As Tommie made his way to his table something went wrong. Someone moved the wrong way and before Tommie knew it, his plate went flying into the air. "Me meat, me meat!" he cried. Tommie grabbed the back of Kathleen's chair and dove under the table to retrieve his precious morsel. Unfortunately for him, the family cat had covertly entered the house through the half door and snatched Tommie's fallen treasure. Tommie was out of luck. His meat was history. After everyone had calmed down, it was noticed that the back of Kathleen's chair had been torn away from the seat. Tommie may have been a wee lad but he was very strong nonetheless. I remember hearing this story often around our dinner table as a child.
Tommie continued to be adventuresome and determined. After seeing a horse show and being impressed at how the horses and riders could jump over barriers with ease, Tommie decided to take matters into his own hands. As it was, he had trained the horse, to meet him at the bottom of the hill after school. He would whistle and his large auburn colored horse would gallop down the hill to meet him. Tommie would pull the horse over to the stone wall and jump on its back. Holding his books in one hand and the horse's mane in the other, he rode the horse proudly without a saddle or a bridle. Seeing the riders in the horse show inspired him to teach the horse to jump over barriers. Tommie would stop a field or two before reaching home and secretly work with his horse. He put obstacles in front of the horse and encouraged the horse to jump over them. Each day, Tommie would add to the pile and would have the horse leap across it. Tommie and the mare were becoming a pretty good jumping team. After some time, Tommie thought that they were ready to make the leap over the stone wall. One day while trotting in the field, Tommie decided to test out the horse. He rode the horse hard and headed in a full gallop toward the wall. All was going well. They approached the wall. Tommie was excited. This was going to be good. They picked up more speed. As they came to the wall at full speed, the horse stopped abruptly. Tommie did not stop. He went flying over the wall in mid air. He landed with great impact on rough terrain and hit his head. Blood streamed down from his forehead. His fingernail had also been ripped away from his finger. Although in much pain, Tommie was quick and picked himself up. He retrieved the horse and walked the rest of the way home. The secret of Tommie's horse jumping adventures was out of the bag. His mother forbade him from high jumping with the horse from that day forward. I am not certain if Tommie followed his mother's decree because he still loves to 'horse around.'
I remember hearing that Dan the father of the Kearns Thirteen was a very good man. My mom always admired her dad as a good provider. On a Fair Day he would bring his livestock into town to sell for the best price. Upon selling the animals he would return home with all the money of the sale intact. Many men in the area would spend half of their profit in the town pub before returning home to their families. Dan had a good sense of humor which seems to have been passed down to his offspring. He loved to listen to the music which was played by Baby on the concertina, a simple squeeze box or accordion. Neighbors would stop by in the evening and the house would come alive with the Ceili dancing. On other evenings, Dan and Baby would take their lantern and walk through the fields to visit their neighbors. There were quiet rumors that sometimes the light from their lantern seemed to mysteriously disappear for short spells of time and then reappear quite naturally. These rumors were noted from afar and were not confirmed. One is just left to wonder about Mr. and Mrs. Kearns and the darkened lantern on the hillside.
I remember hearing about the terrible tragedy that happened to Dan Kearns. It was Reek Sunday, the day that thousands of pilgrims and visitors came to Mayo to trek to the top of Croagh Patrick to pray and do penance. Dan was riding his bicycle to Balla to attend Mass. As he rounded a sharp turn which was called Kibble's Corner he was struck by an opposing car filled with pilgrims who were on their way to the Reek. Dan was hit and thrown from his mangled bicycle. Blood streamed out of his head. He was taken to the Barracks which was the Police Station in Balla. His skull was crushed behind his ear. His head was bound in bandages by the officers. He was not sent to the hospital but was kept at the Barracks until someone in the family came for him. He was sent home in a horse drawn wagon. As a result of the unfortunate accident, he suffered traumatic brain injury. It was a horrific event that affected Dan and his family and changed their lives forever. He was confined to bed for months. He regained some of his strength, but was never the same after the accident. He was unable to perform his chores around the farm as he had done so well in the past. He rarely ventured far from the house. Life for Dan and the Kearns family changed dramatically.
I remember hearing that Baby was determined to keep her family and the farm intact. She encouraged everyone in the household to work harder in order for the family to survive. The family pulled together with the extra chores and they continued to prosper. I remember hearing that Baby was a very thoughtful woman. She always gave the Tinkers a cup of tea when they came around. She gave her few extra pennies to the Foreign Missions at church because she knew that they needed it. She always made it to Mass on time each Sunday. It was a three mile walk each way. She led the family each evening in saying the Rosary on bended knees. She invited the priest to say the Stations of the Cross at their house when it was their turn. She made sure that the cottage was white washed and that everything was neat and trim. She made it a point to thoroughly clean the spring well twice a year. She scrubbed the stones clean and white washed it with limestone. She cleaned the common well at the end of their house as well. Their house was small but she had a place for everything and kept the cottage neat and clean. She washed the clothes by hand and put them out on the bushes to dry. She made oatmeal or 'stir about' in the morning. She made butter from the cream and on holidays she would mold fancy butter patties with wooden imprints. Each child got their own special butter patty. She would hang holly around the house at Christmas time. In the summer she sheered the sheep and used a spinning wheel to weave the wool into yarn. She dyed the yarn with green and purple heather which she pulled from the mountainside. She cut the empty cotton flour bags open and sewed them together to make blankets and other needed garments. She used these bags to also make bras for her eight daughters. She knitted socks and pants and taught her daughters this craft as well. She taught all of her children to dance the Highland Fling, the Versa-vi-anna, the Ceili Sets and the Waltz. She could tell the time of day by the way the sun shone through their front door. She was an excellent neighbor. She helped the Early children who lived next door since their mother was not well. She cut the potatoes into slits for Knock (John) Riley and Eddie Farrell as well as for her own farm. She was a very caring mother. She created a cocoon of warmth in the home. When each of her children had to emigrate to America or England, she was devastated for weeks after each one left. Baby eagerly looked forward to receiving Bridie's monthly money orders and her precious parcels from America. She prayed the rosary on her way to the well and on the way back home again. She was a woman of faith. Baby passed away on April 13, 1955 of a massive heart attack. Josephine and Tommie were home with her. In her last hour she spoke warmly of each of her children.
In her lifetime, Baby created strong loving bonds within the family that held it together throughout the years and across the oceans. This practice of bond making has been handed down through the generations and is evident in our many conversations, in our letters, in our short and long distance phone calls, in our e-mails, in our photos and family movies and videos, in a special family calendar, in our trips back to the old homestead, and in our notorious family reunions!
I am hopeful that our family history will continue to be passed down through the coming generations as time goes by. When my mother, Bridie (Kearns) Doherty, told me these little episodes of her family life, she never imagined their importance or value. They are more precious than jewels. They are the history of the Kearns Family of Fargureens that knits our family together now and for future generations.
Story told by: Bridie (Kearns) Doherty
Historical Assistants: Veronica (Kearns) Maguire, Tommie Kearns
Kathleen (Kearns) McHale, Lena (Kearns) Egan, Ann (Kearns) Kealey
Edited by: Katelyn Bridget McTague
Retold and Written by: Josephine (Doherty) McTague
December 1, 2007