More Tales from the Schoolroom

The start of the essay.

The start of the essay.

Back in March 1938, the children of Lisacul were given “Travelling Folk” as an essay title. Here’s one of them. Isn’t the handwriting beautiful?

Travelling Folk

The people of this district in ancient times were always noted for their hospitality and kindness to strangers, beggars and travelling folk who chanced to pass the way. A stranger was never turned away, refused from any door in the neighbourhood when he asked for a night’s lodgings.

Most of the travelling folk were well known to the people. Sometimes a family came to be sheltered, other times a band of girl travellers and again single people. They all had different ways of making a living.

A band of girl travellers were always sheltered in the house of William Madden in Curroughhile when they came to this place. They were known in this locality as the ‘sprigggers’ which is a Gaelic word. They made their living by knitting caps, stocking, pullovers and other articles, and they also made quilts from red flannel. They also carried a spinning wheel with them and one girl spent the whole day spinning. When the people heard that they were there they all went and gave them an order to make some goods. These they supplied without delay. When leaving the place, they had plenty of money earned.

Another woman called Anne French always gave lodgings to travelling women and beggar women. One Gaelic speaking old beggar woman always stayed in her house when she came to this place. Here nam was Biddy Duffy but she was locally known as Biddy Foot. Every morning she went to the bog and brought a large amount of heather from which she made brooms then known as ‘bezums’ and then she went about selling them at ½ d each.

Every night the young people gathered in to hear her tell stories and there as they all sat around the big turf fire she sat making her ‘bezums’ and telling them fine old Galic [sic] stories that amused them all. She could also compose poems. Her daughter afterwards took her to England where she died. God rest her soul.

Long ago people had a sports meeting which they called a ‘pattern’ in Kiltobranks and for the great event many strangers gathered into the parish. They always got lodgings in the people’s houses.

On the 13th and 14th of August in bygone years, the people of this district prepared many beds for the travelling invalids on their way to Knock to be cured. In these days there were only side-cars to take the Invalids there and when night fell on them in this place they were allowed to stay in the houses.

Many old beggars in those days went about and they also got lodgings. Before Easter they generally asked for eggs, and before Christmas they asked for various kinds of alms.

They were all allowed to stay in the peoples’ houses. The best known of them were Aurney Clarke, Biddy Shaughesy, Pan Killgarriffe, Kitt Griffen, Kitty Gordon, Mary Duffy, Kate Foulster, Biddy Garvin, Betty Grey and Peggie Grey.

Kitty Gordon was a very cross old woman and there is still an old saying in this place ‘as hard put out as Kitty Gordon’, because she would not go without getting whatever she asked for.

Many old beggar men also went about, among them were Tom O’Brian, Dominick Cawley,  Martin (?) Mullen, Tomey Kearnens, Jimmey Towey and many others.

Daminick Cawley was a weaver and when he got no work to do he begged.

The tinkers never camped out in those day [sic] as they do now. They always found welcome in the houses of the people. The Wards were the best known in this district.

There was an old woman living alone in this place many years ago, and one night a beggar man came in to her. She gave him his supper and told him to go his way but he sternly refused. At last she thought of a plan. She asked him if he would make some straw ropes for [her] and he said that we would. She brought in some straw and she made the rope while he twisted it. She opened the door and told him to continue twisting but when she got him outside the door stop she broke the rope and closed the door, so he had to go away.

Michael Higgins and John Moloney both of Curroughile were noted for the hospitality.