The Schools' Folklore Scheme:
A Valuable Primary Source for the Local Historian
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Clare County Library

Oral Literature

There are three articles on The Weather. [12]. Collectively they contain nineteen ways of supposedly predicting rain or bad weather. The predictions are based on environmental observations, mostly on the activities of living creatures for example (p. 305): ‘If the swallows fly low it is a sign of rain.’ Two of the signs relate to crickets. Another prediction mentions hens (p. 306): ‘When the hens stay in the cabin all day it is a sign of snow.’

The abundance of the predictions is indicative of the importance of fine weather. Many farm-related activities could be done more easily if the weather were fine. The washing of blankets and other heavy clothing was an outdoor activity as was the drying of these wet articles. Harvesting of the crops, especially hay, was fine weather dependent. Today, washing machines, dryers and a shift to silage making rather than hay making has greatly reduced the dependence on fine weather. Cars and covered farm vehicles have made movement for young and old far less dependent on weather conditions.

The next topic is about an aggressive female still talked about today. The older members of the community refer to her as the ‘Cailleach Béalátha.’ She is reputed to have lived in Bealaha fort, a well preserved but densely overgrown roadside ringfort. The ‘witch’s seat’ is a white-painted stone with a hollow on a roadside fence and rounded landstones of varying sizes in nearby fields are alleged to have fallen from her apron as she flew across the sky. She is the local version of the Hag of Béara (Cailleach Bhéarra) or other famous hags. Like the Cailleach Bhéarra she ‘can be seen as a version of a supernatural female wilderness figure peripheral to and usually inimical to the human world.’ [13].

A female writer penned the Hag of Bealaha. She tells how at night the hag jumped on riders on horseback and squeezed them to death. One man came prepared with a priest’s blessing and a white handled knife. The priest instructed him (p. 368) ‘to stick the knife in her and not to pull it and stick it again.’ He did as instructed. She implored him to ‘Pull it and stick it again’ but he didn’t. The writer concludes (p. 368): ‘she fell off the horse and in the morning she was nothing but a heap of froth.’ George Petrie recorded the same story with little variations in 1855. [14]. Eugene O'Curry (1794-1862) was his informant.

There are three more stories in the collection, all of which are written by girls. These are included in different areas but under the same heading of Story. All three are examples of local legends that depended on folk belief for their origin and dissemination. [15]. One tells the tale of how a character called ‘Muinsín Fodera’ came to discover two pots of gold outside his front door (pp 356-57). The second describes the courageous achievements of a herdsman when faced with strange happenings in a haunted house (pp 364-365). Paradoxically a turkey cock that jumped out of a barrel the following day really frightened him. The third is about a bell that fell from heaven to St. Senan. (p. 336). This incident is referred to again under the topic of ‘patron saint'. [16].

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