Mary Dolan, Lissavalley

Interviewed by her daughter Bina Devaney on 17th July, 2007

pps 435 -437 Killererin - A Parish History

Mar Dolan, Lissavalley
Photo: Bina Devaney, Lissavalley

Arranged Marriages

During the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s, a lot of marriages were arranged. Older men were often left in the position of reaching middle age and inheriting the farm and maybe looking after one or both elderly parents. The man may as they say, have ‘a match made’ for him to get married to a younger woman, as they would hope to have children who in time could take over the farm.

There was usually a dowry or ‘fortune’ involved which was handed over to the groom from the bride’s family. This would differ in value depending on the circumstances of the family. Invitation to the wedding was done by word of mouth to the neighbours and relations. The groom would buy a new suit for the wedding day and the bride often wore a costume and a hat.

Wedding celebrations

When the church ceremony was completed, the wedding breakfast was often held in the bride’s home and in the evening it moved on to the groom’s house. Celebrations would go on into the morning with music often provided by a local musician. If the couple went on honeymoon, there were bonfires lit along the road on their return. The bride was not allowed to visit her parent’s home for a month after getting married. This was called the ‘month’s visit’.

There were no weddings carried out during Lent or Advent as the church did not allow dancing during this period. The bride would move into the groom’s home after the wedding and take on the housework. She would be expected to care for the smaller animals, hens, pigs and geese and maybe ducks.


Most houses were thatched with 2 bedrooms and a loft at the end of the house. The kitchen was in the centre of the house. The big open fire often had a brightly painted brick fireplace with a metal crane hanging across over the turf fire and on this the pot of potatoes or the kettle would hang on a pot hook to boil. Bread was baked in a black pot or oven placed on a bed of hot coals from the fire with more coals placed on the lid. Every house had a dresser where the cups, jugs and plates were kept. The kitchen table and chairs and stools were made from plain wood, which would be regularly washed and scrubbed. Some houses had a settle-bed that would act as a seat during the day and open out into a bed at night for children. The outside and inside of the house would be whitewashed and sometimes a ‘bluebag’ was added to the bucket of whitewash to give a brighter shade to the outside of the house.


The washing was done in a washtub, with the help of a washboard and a bar of washing soap and washing soda. The water was brought in from the barrel standing at the gable-end or the well, and heated over the fire. In some homes, the 8st.flour bags were saved and opened out washed and bleached in the sunshine and made into sheets and pillowcases. They would come up almost as clean and white as cotton.


The wall lamp was filled with paraffin and the wick lit and covered with a glass globe. A candle in the bedrooms gave whatever light was needed at night for reading, knitting or sewing.

Christmas time

The chimney was always cleaned at Christmas in preparation for Santa Claus’ visit. There was a tradition of lighting a candle in the windows on Christmas eve. There were no Christmas trees, only some decorations and lots of holly.

St. Stephens Day tradition

St. Stephen’s Day was another special day with the catching of the wren in the thatch and putting him in a jar with air holes made in the lid, to give a supply of air to the bird. The jar was topped with holly and you went from house to house where you repeated “The wren, the wren the king of all birds, St. Stephen’s Day, was caught in the furze, up with the kettle and down with the pan, give us a penny to bury the wren. If you haven’t a penny a halfpenny will do, if you haven’t a half penny, God bless you”.

12th night – 6th January

The 6th of January was known as the 12th night and 12 small candles were lit on that night to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas and the rosary was said by the family.

St. Brigid’s Day tradition

On 1st February it was known as St. Bridget’s Day. The young girls would go around to neighbouring houses with a doll and collect 1d or 2d. The night before would be called St. Bridget’s night when people went from village to village, dancing and playing music. The melodeon or squeezebox and sometimes a flute were used to provide the music. One famous night, some boys and men gathered at Martin Connor’s, Hillsbrook, (now Fleming’s) where they dressed up in clothes made by their sisters and they then travelled far and wide to celebrate with the music supplied by Sonny O’Neill, Lissavalley.

Bonfire Night 23rd June

The 23rd of June was bonfire night when a large gathering of people conveyed at every crossroads and lit big bonfires. On the 23rd of June it was St. John’s Day and known as midsummer, a time the farmers would go to the fairs in the different areas.


The ‘house stations’ were held in Spring and Autumn. The cleaning would start if it was your turn to host the station mass, which was held always in the morning. The table would be placed under the window, covered with a white tablecloth and the candlesticks holding the blessed candles and the crucifix set in the middle of the table. You would light the candles when the priest arrived and made sure that a jug of water was left on the table to be blessed for the consecration.

Confessions would be heard in a quiet corner of the house. When the priest had finished saying the mass he collected the ‘station money’ from each of the neighbours attending the mass. They always had the money with them and gave what they could. He would then be served a breakfast of boiled eggs and maybe toast or brown bread. This was often in the parlour or best room. Tea and currant cake would later be handed to everyone as they sat around the table and chatted. Something stronger would be served when the priest was gone and very often there would be a party in the house in the evening.

McHughs, Illaune

Patrick McHugh, Knock Lodge also had a brother Jack McHugh who lived with his aunt Delia Ward in a house that is now in ruins and located on a road to the east of Cottage or across on the main road at the village known locally as Illuane.

Black and Tans

It was said that in the 1920’s the Black and Tans often came down the road known as ‘Bane’s Hill in trucks and entered Hession’s pub and sometimes if they got word you were supporting the Republic they would use torture on people and take money and goods and this was well known to have happened in the Hessions’ premises. The Black and Tans were so called because of the colour of their uniforms. They were sent in from England with the knowledge that they already had bad reputations and they were to assist the R.I.C. control the rebels here in 1920-1922. They were feared all over Ireland at the time because they became notorious for their attacks on Irish people.




This page was added on 12/01/2023.

No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.