Food related extracts from interview with Delia Shaughnessy, Dangan, taken from Killererin - A Parish History
Interviewed by Nena Nicholson for Young at Heart. in 1998.
Killererin Heritage Society
The following article has been put together for our Gastronomy Galway 2018 project. Delia passed away on 8th January, 2000. Most of the interviewees for our Parish history book were from a farming background and the common themes throughout are diet, threshing, stations, killing the pig, going to fairs etc. I hope you enjoy reading these extracts and that you get a sense of what life was like for past generations in this locality.
Born on the 14th January 1915, Delia lived in a thatched house with two rooms and a kitchen. On average, families had seven to eight children. Some had ten children. Parents and grandparents lived with them. There was very little furniture in the rooms – there was a dressing-table, a washboard and a table and chairs. They had to wear plenty of clothes to keep warm as rooms were not heated. The roofs would be thatched every three years.
The work at home was hard then. People had to furrow sand in sieves to build houses and pick potatoes. The women worked with the horse and plough to scuffle potatoes (which was to take the weeds out). They drew drinking water from the well. They would meet other women there and have a chat. The water was kept in a barrel outside the house and was also for washing clothes. ………
When a person killed a pig, it was shared with their neighbours. There was a special person in each village to kill the pig. The pig would be preserved in a tea chest; 3 or 4 stone of salt would be put in with the pig. They put straw over the top and a clean bag over that. They would leave meat for six months.
People always kept potatoes over from the dinner and these were then mixed with flour and butter, and eaten for tea. Butter was preserved by leaving it in a barrel on a cement floor, and putting a leaf of cabbage over it. Oaten cake, made of oatmeal, water and sugar, was also eaten and kept people warm in winter. When people made puddings, they would divide them between the neighbours.
For Lent, people would hang a fish from the banisters after being preserved the same way as the pig. It would be cut into pieces as required. ……….
The shops she remembers were Mannion’s, McHugh’s, Mrs Fagan’s, Devaney’s and Mary-Ellen Treacy’s. ………..
Fairs and Markets
People walked for miles to the fairs and markets. They had to leave at 2a.m. in the dark to get to Mountbellew and Tuam to sell their cattle and sheep. There was a special day for cattle and sheep – the 3rd of July was for sheep in Mountbellew; November Day in Abbeyknockmoy; 28th of May in Moylough. Turloughmore Fair was for horses and foals. The 24th of June, St John’s Day, was a special day, too. Fairs and markets were usually from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
During Halloween, people would put an apple on a string and hang it from the ceiling. The game was to try to bite it without putting one’s hands on it. It was also the custom to play a game with three saucers – one had clean water, one had a ring on it and the third had clay on it. A person would be blindfolded and had to choose a saucer. If you chose the saucer with clean water, it meant that you would in the future cross water or sea (travel). If you chose the saucer with the ring, you were sure to get married and the third saucer of clay represented death. Nobody liked to get that saucer. …………
People prepared for the stations by whitewashing the house. Whitewash was made of lime and cement, and if they had a ball of blue they would put it in the whitewash to make it brighter. The person taking the stations would be given a half score of eggs by the neighbour and some would make butter balls. The children would come to the station in the evenings to get something sweet. …………..
Curses and sayings
- If you went into a house when they were churning, you would have to help with the churning or the fairies would bring the butter with them.
- On May Day certain houses would not give milk as it was considered unlucky.