My Native Village
This article appeared in the Oughterard Newsletter. Unfortunately the identity of the author “Exile” is unknown to us. I hope whoever it is will not take offence with me for publishing such wonderful memories of times past.
Gleneochagangowla, as it was called in the late 17th and 18th centuries is situated about three miles west of Oughterard, towards Maam Cross, or as it was always referred to by old residents, Teach Dóite, with Seann na Feola in the background, which shrouded by a ‘tablecloth’ (mist) was a sure sign of rain.
Families of Glengowla
There were at least sixty families living in Glengowla towards the middle of the last century but many died from starvation during the famine years, these are buried in a pre-famine graveyard in Derrinn. There are quite a number of graves between the old road and the graveyard, the people were so weak from hunger that they were unable to carry the remains and so were forced to bury their loved ones by the wayside. Those who had enough strength to make their way to the coffin ships with their little bundles of straw, a few potatoes and a stocking of oatmeal were transported free to America: a journey that took three months.
Decline of the Population
The population dwindled so much that in my early there were only sixteen families, five in Glengowla Beag, and eleven in Glengowla Mór; All were thatched except for the local shop and the “Jumper House’, which was reputed to be haunted, and people feared to pass it by night. This house had been a soup kitchen, and the people who took the soup were known as ‘ Jumpers’ but few did; they starved to death rather than change their religion. No matter how inclement the weather they tramped miles through the mountains to hear mass on the rock in Lug an Aifrinn until they got their own church.
How they prayed kneeling upright in their wet clothes, dripping pools of water all over the floor? I don’t know. There were only a few benches in the church, and the Glengowla folk were seldom early enough to get a seat. In those days the act of Faith, Hope, Charity and Contrition were read before the mass and the prayers were followed by long sermons. Yet no one ever complained or said the Mass was boring, that word wasn’t in their vocabulary.
Scarcity of Food
There were no luxuries; food was scarce but if one had it, then everyone got a share. The greatest sharers were the Clancy families. When they churned they shared butter and buttermilk. If any family hadn’t turf Cathal and Mike were around with dry turf, and bog deal to give the fire a good start. Cathal was a great craftsman; he cut ‘sallies’ in October and made beautiful scibs and baskets. He also made sugán chairs. His churns, butter dishes and carved butter prints with coat of arms on some of them were beautiful. If anyone’s thatched roof was leaking the Clancy’s or Connelly’s and Mike Seán Mac were on the scene immediately and everything was put right. If anyone was short of anything they had only go to the local shop and they got what they wanted regardless of money, and they were treated with the same curtsey whether they had or hadn’t money.
Then there was dear old Ned Thornton who always dropped in for a chat and regaled us with stories about ‘Yankieland’, he went there in 1903 and worked on the railways for many years. Ned’s mother was a great old lady. She always gave her services at births, she was considered a very lucky woman to have around.
St Colmcille’s Prophecies
Patrick O Connor was another unforgetable gentleman; he came from a nearby village to live with his sister in Glenglowla Mór. His favourite topic of conversation was St. Colmcille’s Prophecies”. I can see him now sitting up so straight with one hand resting on his camóg stick and his other raised as he quoted:
“One will not know the summer from the winter except by the leaves on the trees.”
“The fish shall leave the rivers.”
“One will not know the men from the women.”
“Regular festivals of the church will not be observed.”
These are a few of dear old Patsy’s predictions. God be with all those dear people, to have known them, and to have belonged to such a community was a privilege beyond compare.
There is a cave in Glengowla where during the troubled times those on the run found a safe hideout from the dreaded “Tans”. There is a Danisfort, which was watched over by a little old woman: also Cathar Mór which is a most interesting formation.
Crocán’a Teine where in bygone days all the people of the village gathered on St John’s Eve, when the bonfire was lit. They all knelt and recited the rosary before taking a lighted sod to place in each crop in honour of St John the Baptist.
Another village custom was to light a candle on Saturday night in honour of Our Blessed Lady. A candle in those days cost two pence – that was a lot of money but people went with out in order to be able to buy the candles. They always made sure to have Our Lady’s Candle.
There was no end to the good of each and every one of those splendid people.