John McCullagh March 5, 2006
SHagan053.jpg

My late and very beautiful friend Sarah Hagan – who sadly parted this mortal coil just a few days ago – was my distant cousin. So distant, one would not normally mention it at all – except for my pride in being related to such a remarkable lady.


Her great grandfather was my great, great, great grandfather! Still it was excuse enough for us to visit her ceili home in Ardboe as frequently as possible.

She spoke fondly of her grandmother Eliza who reared her as a young girl. What is remarkable about this is that Eliza McCullagh was born before the great Irish Hunger of the 1840’s! She had reached her late 60’s when she tended the young Sarah almost a century ago now. Sarah was just a few months shy of her centenary when she died this week.

When I first got to know Sarah a decade ago, I asked about her diet. What did she have for breakfast, for example? I like Weetabix, she confided. With hot milk? Yes, she admitted – and a wee measure of Bailey’s Irish Cream! Now you have the recipe for a long life, don’t be keeping it to yourself!

Sarah used to tease me about an unnamed illness wont to afflict the male of our line in middle-to-old age.

‘I’m keeping a careful eye on you!’ she teased me.

She told of one such distant relation, a bachelor, who was so incapacitated he couldn’t get around. Anyway he took a notion in this widow woman half his age and he had to find a friend who would push him in a wheel-barrow up the lane to her farmhouse so that he could propose to her. A ‘Blackfoot’ – you call such a man – the intermediary.

Sadly I never heard the outcome of his proposal! I’d like to have been a fly on the wall, as they say.

This must be the most eccentric proposal of intended intimacy ever! Unless, that is, YOU know better! If you do, get on a thread on Discussions!

Anyway the story I intended to tell you is similar.


There was this man who had a bad cough, who asked a neighbour man to act as ‘Blackfoot’ for him – an intermediary in a proposed marriage match. He agreed.

There was a certain ritual to it. The traditional bottle of whiskey was purchased and when it was placed on the table in the girl’s house, the old couple didn’t object! A good sign, that! The bottle if refused, was a sign that any marriage bargain was not on!

Before going in to the house, he had a bout of coughing. He told Blackfoot that if it attacked him during the matchmaking he, himself, would say,

‘Well, you know where I got that!’

Blackfoot was to reply that the man was ploughing with horses in the rain, digging out sheughs, or opening field drains, commonly known as ‘shores’.

The bargaining began and sure enough, a bout of coughing interrupted the proceedings.

‘You know where I got that!’ said the prospective groom.

‘I do, indeed,’ said the Blackfoot.

‘Sure, didn’t ALL your people die of that self-same cough?’

Leave a comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.