This post has been updated in July 2017 to include a photograph of the key player, Mary Vaughan of Carrigart and to commemorate the anniversary of her death on July 5 1953, 64 years ago, She would now be aged 145!
In a previous post I wrote about finding reference to our family transcribed in the 1930s Schools Folklore Collection for Newtownforbes, Co Longford. I have now taken a look at the collection from schools in the parish of Mevagh/Rosguill where I grew up in County Donegal, to get an overview of what treasures are here, and to take a closer look at the stories from Mulroy school where our grandfather taught. It has been a fascinating journey of discovery at a social and personal level!
There were eight schools in the parish of Mevagh/Rosguill, in north County Donegal catering for children from the ages of about 5 to 15. The parish schools listed are Manorvaughan, Derryhassen, Gortnabrade, Glen, Carrigart, Aghadachor, Kinnalargy and Mulroy. (See links at the end of this post). The collections for Aghadachor and Manorvaughan Schools are all in English, with some stories in English from the Carrigart school too. All others are in Irish in the old Irish script.
Some of these schools had teachers who were still teaching us in the 1950s and 1960s. Pat McFadden (known as Big Pat) for example was the teacher at Carrigart School when the stories were being collected and still taught there in the 1960s.
Tom McGinley was the teacher in Derryhassen in the 1930s, and he was still teaching in Gortnabrade School in the 1950s.
How fascinating to read of significant local events and how people coped with famine and floods; to see names of people who were drowned in various accidents or shipwrecks – all woven into local tales and stories. I particularly loved the stories of people who excelled and astonished their neighbours…great walkers, jumpers, runners, swimmers, divers, dancers. A local lady walked to Derry and back the following day in bare feet,(80 miles?) and someone else who was a great Irish dancer, danced on top of Lackagh Bridge!
And these stories were recounted by people whose family names were very familiar in the area when we lived there, some 50 years later, such as McGettigans of Glenree, Dennisson from Drumdutton, Hall of Aughalatty, McBride of Tirlaughan, Boyces of Tullagh to name just a few. Much of the collection is beautifully handwritten by the pupils themselves with the name and age of the informant usually given at the end of each piece. The pages below for example are the work of Cyril Hall from Aughalatty.
In these copybook pages, you can discover that not one but several townlands in the parish seem to have a pot of gold hidden under a rock! Devlinreagh gets a particular mention. (Why would you bother doing the Lottery?). Then there were the superheroes of their day….Danny Coyle from Glenree who could dive 60 feet under water, a man who could cut 3 acres of hay with a hook in spectacular time, William McCorkle from Audhachor who could lift seven hundredweight on his back, two great runners, James McClure from Dunmore and James McBride from Carrick, and John Coyle from Kill who could jump 16 feet over a river! I particularly love the entries that describe names of fields, rocks etc in several townlands, such as seen below from Glen school. I wonder if any of these names are still in use?
Here too we learn of personal tragedies. Kate Boyce of High Glen was killed by a flash of lightning; three McCorkell children drowned on Tramore strand when they were cut off by the tide; John Coyle of Glenereragh died of the big flu in 1918 and the bodies of 5 shipwrecked men were buried in Carrigart. (This last story is new to me and I must get more information about it..can anyone help?)
When the Schools Folklore Collection was undertaken, our grandfather James D Gallagher was the school principal at Mulroy National School. Rather than have the children write the stories in their own hand, he seems to have undertaken all the transcriptions himself as I recognize his handwriting from the margins of books that used to be in our house. I wonder why? Perhaps he had a deadline to meet? The school closed in 1966. We were pupils here for some years, with Enda Ward as Principal, but never knew our grandfather who died in 1944.
One of the more prolific sources of information in our grandfather’s School Collection was a lady named Maire Ni Bhaughan, who was then aged 67. I am not sure where she lived in the 1930s, but during our younger days she was our immediate neighbour at the top of the village. I remember her fairly well as a shawled old lady sitting in the corner in the kitchen and I seem to recall someone saying that she smoked a pipe! She died on July 5 1953, when I was 5 years old.
Mary Vaughan or Maire Ni Bhaughan told of cures, placenames, landlords, how the robin got a red breast and how the donkey got the cross on its back. She told of buying and selling outside the chapel after Mass before there were shops; she gave a recipe for boxty and listed the native animals about the place including badgers, squirrels, weasels, foxes and ‘mada uisce’, the otter. She told a story of three boys who were at a dance and had to walk through a wood to get home. A badger came out of his den, and one after another 7 more of them appeared.The boys were terrified and ran away. She also tells that there were two people over 70 at the time (in the village or townland?) – a McClafferty woman and Peter McBride.
I remain intrigued that so much of the collection from Mulroy school has been provided by Mary Vaughan, and equally intrigued by the fact that there is usually no pupil recorded as the collector, indicating that it is likely that our grandfather spent a lot of time with her listening to her recollections and stories. That he enjoyed them is beyond question as it is possible to see the humour shine through. There is one page in particular that lists local old ‘sayings’ (without attributing to anyone in particular) . Included here is a brilliant ‘Go Pettigo leat’ – To Pettigo with you – a dismissive phrase apparently that I certainly never heard of. (Pettigo is a village in the south of the county).
As with all of the Mulroy collection, every word is recorded in Irish –EXCEPT for a little phrase here in English that says:
”There are raisins (reasons) for everything and currants for bread. (Mary Vaughan Carrigart) ”
So how special was that to have her own quotation recorded and attributed to her in English?
There is one other spectacular entry attributed to her. It tells of Leprechauns and Fairy Folk.
She describes the ‘small things’ with their blue coats and red hats and how a man went off to cut a stick to make a fishing rod. Taken ill when cutting it, he went home and did not return for some years when he was out looking for a stake to tie his cows. He recognized the stick as the one he began cutting years earlier. He brought it home and tied up the cow but by morning she was dead. A further 3 cows met similar fates until he threw the stake away and no more cows died. It’s the entry at the end of his story that is so intriguing. Translated, it goes like this:
”This is the best proof we have that there are fairies:-
I myself heard a woman saying that a woman told her that she heard her grandmother saying that she heard a woman saying that a woman told her that she herself saw a fairy”
I can’t help but wonder if the first sentence is inserted by our grandfather, and is tongue in cheek, or did Mary with a glint in her eye recite it exactly as written? We will never know!
But what we do know is that our grandfather and Mary Vaughan spent a lot of time talking and listening and recording her social scene. Little did they know that their efforts would see the light of day decades later and their descendants would have a chance to step back in time and share their times together. Mary Vaughan obviously had a talent for story and tale-telling, one that was passed on to her grandson Paddy, who became something of a legendary yarn spinner in his own lifetime and who continues to regale many a listener with his stories still!
What a truly wonderful resource the Duchas Schools Folklore Collection is, and what a wonderful way to learn about our places and our ancestors!
The original school pages for our parish can be seen by clicking the links below.
|1078||Aghadachor (Aghador)||Aghadachor, Co. Donegal|
|An Mhaol Rua (Mulray)||Mulroy, Co. Donegal|
|Manorvaughan||Rawros, Co. Donegal|
|Doire Chasáin||Derrycassan, Co. Donegal|
|1079||Doire Chasáin||Derrycassan, Co. Donegal|
|Ceann an Largaigh||Kinnalargy, Co. Donegal|
|Gortnabrade||Gortnabrade, Co. Donegal|
|1080||An Gleann||Glen, Co. Donegal|
|Carraig Airt||Carrickart, Co. Donegal|
|Rosguill & Doe Branch I.N.T.O. )||Rosguill, Co. Donegal|
James D Gallagher died November 26 1944 aged 59 years
Mary Vaughan (Nee McGinley) died July 5 1953 aged 81 years
All images from The Schools Collection are by courtesy of Duchas.ie
They can be contacted at http://www.duchas.ie
The image of Mary Vaughan Nee McGinley is used courtesy of her great-grandson Kevin Vaughan of Carrigart. The original photo we understand was taken by local photographer John McClafferty.
Duchas is looking for people to transcribe this collection. It could be possible to collate it into a local resource at the same time? To my amazement, many people nowadays are unable to read ‘cursive’ writing. (This issue is often raised on genealogy sites that I follow especially since the release of the Catholic Church and the Irish civil records online). So those of us of a certain vintage need to get at it!
The English cursive writing challenge is one thing, but the old Irish script and spellings from the 1930s pose a different challenge altogether. In my opinion, these are best transcribed by native speaking locals who recognize place names and ‘turns of speech’ in common use in the locality!