By Mary Kyne
Glengowla, Derryglen & Maam Cross
The following stories were collected from the late Frank Lyons in 1992 by Iris, Lisa and Wendy Lyons and published in Derryglen’s school magazine ‘Flash Point’ 2000.
Once upon a time an old lady lived in Tamhnagh. Every morning she used to turn into a hare. She used to travel to Glann and suck all the milk from the cows. One morning Pat Holloran from Derrowra saw the hare sucking the milk from his cows. He called his dogs and sent them after the hare. The hare came across Tullaboy and the man chased the hare six or seven times around Tullaboy House. Then the hare set off for Tamhnagh with Pat Halloran and his dogs chasing after her. The hare jumped in the window of her old woman’s house, not before one of the dogs bit the hare in its bottom. The man then entered the house and searched it from top to bottom in search of the hare. When he could not find her he said to the old woman on a stool, “I will get the hare even if it is under you”. So he lifted up the old woman sitting on a stool and he saw blood on her stool. He knew then that the old woman was the HARE!!
Patsy and Martin Jack Kelly R.I.P .
In Derry, where the late John Nee lived there lived two brothers called Patsy and Martin Jack Kelly. Martin Jack used to do odd jobs for Peacocks and Frank Lyon’s father, who used to give him a few ‘bob’ for cutting briars in Derreen (a little farm on the right of the bog road). Many stories were told about them. Patsy was long before his time in that he had long hair and he always wore a lot of clothes and very wide trousers because he believed that “tight would tear and wide would wear: and what would keep out the cold would keep in the heat.” Patsy said that he would never cut his hair until there was a road to Derry. He wrote to the King of England to make the road. He started to make the road himself but, it was finished by the Joyces from Shanawaugh.
Nora lived at the far end of Lochan Iarainn (behind Bunnakill). There is a little wood there to day and the remains of her house can still be seen. She had only one son and he was killed by a bull. People refer to this area as “Nora Burke’s”.
In Deereen there were about six houses: the walls can still be seen and there is a little graveyard. The graves are marked with stones but sadly many of them are grown over.
The Missing Cat
On day when James Mc Donagh R.I.P. was working on the road with his friend and they decided to call on a house for a drink as they were both parched with the thirst. The man of the house was churning. He was very annoyed when the two men had entered his house as his cat had gone missing. He lifted the lid of his churn to give them a drink and out popped the missing cat!! The two men were disgusted but the man insisted that they drink from his churn. James Mc Donagh’s friend got sick and he went outside and vomitted. Who would blame him?
A man from Letterkeenaun used to smoke his pipe while churning. The dirty spittle from smoking the pipe often went into the churn as he smoked. The butter was usually a dirty brown in colour!.
‘Padraicín Rucard’ - Pat Conroy
When my mum was younger there was a man who used to travel around from village to village. Sometimes he would stay at different houses and he would help the household by doing jobs. His name was Padraicín Rucuard – Pat Conroy – that was his real name. He had a weakness for drink and on many occasions he was drunk on his travels. He could be heard from miles away because he used to shout, “He hayó scaoil amach an pocaide,” continuously as he was travelling. Children and those who didn’t know him were scared of him. In actual fact he was harmless. The reason he shouted was that he himself was afraid of the ‘fairies”. He used to shout this phrase because he thought no one would come near him if he was shouting. One evening when mum was coming home from school she heard him coming and because she was so afraid she ran up the mountain until he passed.
At one time there were up to 15 houses in Letterkeehaun. James Mc Donagh R.I.P. grandfather of Morgan and Jelena was born there and so were many generations of his family. Bartley’ Mc Donagh’s family lived there too. Jamsie lived there until 1947 when he moved from there to Bunakill. Jamsie sold to a family called Costello but they later moved to Roscommon in the late 1950’s. The ruins of the Costello home can still be seen.
Related by Jamsie to Wendy and Lisa Lyons.
The Witch of Bunakill
One of the old stories concerns a witch who possessed tremendous powers. In May and June she invited people to cut hay. If they refused the person would bring bad luck on himself and it was believed that he would not live long. If you decided to cut the hay with the witch you had to try and remain in front of her or else she would cut your legs off. One man placed iron spikes in the witches way so the witch had to stop to sharpen her scythe. The man was able to finish the field of hay before the witch so the ‘powers’ of the witch was lost forever.
The Seannachaí of this area were Patrick Mc Donagh, John Gibbons and John Mullen. John Mullen told a story about Séamus Ó Máille who was coming from Maam Cross on horseback. When he reached the “Lodge” a ghost crossed before him and the horse bolted and refused to pass. Eventually after much coaxing he did pass and galloped to Oughterard.
The people paid one penny to listen to the stories of the Seannachaí. Colm Walsh from Rossceada, Rosmuc was another Seannachaí who told stories in the Derry area.
It is said that several Spailpíns, casual workers, came to the area digging potatoes, cutting turf and saving hay. They were given food and lodgings instead of money for their labour. They usually slept in the kitchen or in an outer barn in the summer.
May Day Tradition
On the 1st of May people used to get branches of the Rowan Tree (Crainnín Bealtaine) and they stuck them into the handles of the doors to keep the fairies away. The branches were also put into the stables and into the old houses to protect the cows from the fairies. They believed that if a whirlwind knocked you, you would die that same year.
It was considered unlucky to be the first person to put up smoke on the first of May because the bad luck of the year went with the first smoke – so the old people believed.
One day during the Great Famine 1845-1847 a man was going from his home to get some food in Rosmuc. On his way he saw a woman trying to sow stalks of potatoes because she had no seed potatoes.
Once there was a girl going from her home in search of food. On her way she saw a rock beside the road. As she was very tired she decided to sit awhile. While she was sitting down she died. Now people call the rock, ‘Clocha Chailín’. A few days later a man was making his way to Rosmuc, he too dropped dead at a rock opposite ‘Clocha Chailín’. No animal will walk between the two stones but will go around the rocks.
In the late May Toole’s front garden a man is buried: he too died from fever during the famine.
The people who died during the famine were buried if they were fortunate in a graveyard. Others less fortunate were left to rot on the side of the road. Others were thrown down in a hole with a load of hay over them. Often bottomless coffins were used. In this way the same coffin was used over and over again. Locally, it is said that there is a person buried at the back of Glengowla Lodge.
There were sixteen houses in Letterfore at one time. Most of the inhabitants died of fever and it is believed that there are three people buried in one grave. Their names were the Kellys from Corraduff, Glann. It is said that they went to Clifden to buy a pig and they took a shortcut home through Letterfore to Corraduff. They were starving and they decided to cook the pig at Letterfore but they had no matches to light the fire. They took refuge in an old house and died from starvation and exposure. The graves are built up in ridges.
Mairéad Ní Thuathail, Rang a Sé 1976 collected the stories from her grandparents John and Sarah O Toole, Derryglen