John McCullagh October 29, 2008
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The houses about Drumbally were scattered – I doubt if there were more than a dozen in a radius of a mile – and there wasn’t much by way of entertainment available.  What there was, was talk.

Our house was a ceilidhe house, and there was nearly always someone visiting.  No one knocked, the latch would be lifted and a voice would say, "God bless all here" before the visitor entered the room.  Most regular visitors were male.  Mrs Burns was the exception. Caps were worn at all times, in the house as well as out. They were removed only when tea was served; usually hung on knees.  We children were supposed to be in bed but we could usually hear most of the craic.  The talk was mostly about family and community issues; who was poorly, and if someone had died and how much the "Offerings" had been.

 

"Offerings" was a Catholic custom whereby at the funeral mass the congregation would file past the priest and make a donation.  As the money was handed over its amount and the name of the giver was announced to the congregation.  Originally the money had been intended for the family of the deceased but had at some point been transferred to the parish.  I suppose this change had been initiated by better-off families making the donation voluntarily, followed by those who took the lead from such behaviour until gradually it became the norm.  The custom continued into the 1960s.  The total figure was announced at the next Sunday Mass. The size of the "Offerings" was a hot topic of discussion, a person’s standing in the community being unfairly assessed by the amount raised.

 

I well remember the first time I saw a dead body.  It was that of an old man who lived in a cottage on the hill opposite Glasdrummond School.  He was known as "Sailor" Murphy; I suppose he must have been to sea in his youth.  I was apprehensive going into the bedroom but the sight of the old man, laid out neatly in a white garment, with his flowing white hair and beard, evoked no horror, only pity and a feeling of mortality.

 

… more later …

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