City of Streams: Galway Folklore and Folk Life in the 1930s

City of Streams: Galway Folklore and Folk Life in the 1930s

by Caitríona Hastings

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780750985673
Publisher: The History Press
Publication date: 08/01/2017
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
File size: 18 MB
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About the Author

CAITRÍONA HASTINGS is an award-winning author and former lecturer in Irish Studies (University of Ulster) and Heritage Studies (Galway Mayo IT). She has published several titles in both Irish and English, for children and for adults. This is her second book with The History Press Ireland.

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Thugtaí Cathair na Sruthán ar an gcathair seo uair amháin, mar gheall ar go raibh a lán sruthán ag sníomh a mbealach tríd.

[This city was once called the City of Streams, because there used to be a lot of streams winding their way through it.]

The pupils, and everyone they spoke to, had an intimate knowledge of their home place. The accounts furnish us with the myriad small, local details that are woven together to make up the fabric of a familiar landscape, a place called home.

We see the common surnames of the families living in the area, how their place names have evolved, the kind of houses they lived in, their graveyards, churches and holy wells, their castles and forts and raths, and how they have named their roadways.

The story of the home place is bound up with various personages, happenings and places: the giant Fiachail (who was supposed to have jumped from Loch a' tSaile to Renmore), the dreaded Cromwell, Thomas Murray the weaver, Daniel O'Connell (who spoke from a large rock in Shantalla), a lane where the tinkers used to live and another where the pooka would be sighted. Each place, however small, had a name, and each name involved a story. Indeed, sometimes we see that fanciful beliefs were firmly held about the origins and sources of such matters.

The extracts reveal that unbaptised children were buried seperately in a lisín, though that custom was changing. Along the coast, people earned their livelihood by fishing and by picking winkles on the shore. Glenascaul folk were still referring to the two parts of their village as 'baile thoir' and 'baile thiar' and neighbours used to gather into each others' houses for country dances and 'raffles'. They still had great veneration for their holy wells, going there on pilgrimage on the specially appointed feast days. While the vast majority of houses had thatched roofs in former times, some were now being slated. Not long before this, many villages could boast a full range of skilled craftspeople, making them self-sufficient to a large degree. However, by this time, a lot of houses were empty or in ruins, due to many migrating and emigrating in search of employment.

Life was beginning to change in the late 1930s. Collecting this folklore gave the pupils a wonderful opportunity to become aware of the small complexities of their own place, just before the emergence of a modern, technological, rational and global culture. Born in the late 1920s, the world they faithfully document here would have changed out of all ken by the time they reached maturity, never mind how it would look in their old age.


The Claddagh (NB)

The Claddagh fishing village is situated to the west of Galway overlooking Galway Bay. The history of this village may be traced back for centuries. It is only in recent years that the Claddagh people practised the habits and dress of people living outside their own circle.

(S31: 27. Martin Browne. I got this information from Mrs Browne, Fair Hill, Galway.)

Lochatalia (NB)

A giant was once supposed to live near Loughatalia. He was able to throw large rocks about half a mile away. One time another giant wanted to fight him and he was called Fiachail. They met and they had a great fight. The first giant put the second one, Fiachail, to flight and he was supposed to jump from Loughatalia to Renmore. That was known afterwards as the Giant's Leap. This lake is so called because the seawater comes into the sea lake, Loughatalia, sometimes.

(S31: 137. Patrick Doyle, from Mrs Doyle, 39, New Docks, Galway, 25 April 1938.)

An Cladach [The Claddagh] (NB)

Tá mé i mo chónaí ins an gCladach. Is é an t-ainm atá ar an bparóiste seo ná paróiste Naomh Nioclás. Fadó bhí a lán seantithe ins an gCladach ach tá siad leagtha anois agus tá tithe nua ann. Seo iad na hainmneacha is coitianta ins an gCladach: Ó Maordha, Ó Flaitheartaigh, Ó hÁirt agus Ó Cuirrín. Tá cúigear ins an gCladach atá os cionn 70 bliain. Tá a lán Gaeilge ag gach duine acu agus tá siad in ann scéalta a insint freisin. Chuaigh a lán daoine ón gCladach go hAimeiriceá fadó.


I live in the Claddagh. This parish is called St Nicholas'. Long ago there were many old houses in the Claddagh but they are demolished now and new ones built. The most common names in the Claddagh are: Moore, O'Flaherty, Harte and Curran. Five residents are over 70. Each of them has plenty of Irish and they can tell stories too. Many people from the Claddagh went to America long ago.

(S31: 104–5. Máirtín Mac Coitigh.)

Naomhphátrún an Cheantair [The Local Patron Saint] (NB)

Is é Naomh Nioclás an t-ainm atá ar naomhphátrún an cheantair seo. Ní raibh mainistir nó cill nó teampall ag an naomh nó ag a chuid manach. Tá scéalta deasa ar an naomh sin againn. Tugtar Santa Claus mar ainm eile ar Naomh Nioclás. Bhí croí maith ag an naomh agus bhí sé go han-mhaith do na daoine bochta. Théadh sé ó theach go teach, bia agus féiríní aige le cur faoi na doirse. Creidtear ann ón lá sin go dtí an lá atá inniu ann.

Tá áiteanna ann agus tá siad ainmnithe as an naomh: Sráidbhaile Naomh Nioclás, Sráid Naomh Nioclás, Séipéal Paróisteach Naomh Nioclás, Teampall Naomh Nioclás (Protastúnach). Níl aon tobar beannaithe tiomnaithe don naomh.


The local patron saint is Saint Nicholas. The saint did not have a monastery or a church here, and neither did his monks. We have nice stories about him. Another name for Saint Nicholas is Santa Claus. He had a kind heart and was very good to the poor people. He'd go from house to house putting food and presents under the doors. People believe in him from that time to this.

Some places are called after the saint: St Nicholas' village, St Nicholas' Street, St Nicholas' parish chapel, St Nicholas' church (Protestant). No holy well is dedicated to him.

(S31: 122–3. Pádraig Ó Dubhghaill. Fuaireas seo ó Bhean Uí Dhubhghaill, 39, Na Duganna, Gaillimh.)

An Cladach [The Claddagh] (NC)

Insan gCladach fadó bhí rí agus banríon ina gcónaí. Chuala mé seanbhean ag rá lá amháin go raibh ór le fáil insan gCladach agus is é an áit a bhfuil sé le fáil ná i gCeann Láimhrighe.

Nuair a bhí Cromail ag teacht isteach ar an trá chuir na daoine an tór insan áit sin. Shíolraigh muintir an Chladaigh ó na Spáinnigh agus mar gheall air sin bíonn fáinne speisialta acu. Sé an t-ainm atá ar an bhfáinne sin 'Croí agus Lámh'. Tá dealbh i dteampall Naomh Muire agus chuir na daoine an dealbh sin freisin insan talamh nuair a bhí Cromail ag teacht isteach.


Long ago a king and queen used to live in the Claddagh. I heard an old woman saying one day there was gold in the Claddagh. Ceann Láimhrighe is the name of the place.

When Cromwell was coming ashore the people buried gold there. Claddagh people are descended from Spaniards and so they have a special ring. It is called the 'heart and hand'. There's a statue in St Mary's church and they buried that too when Cromwell was coming.

(S31: 167. Máire Ní Iarnáin a fuair ó Stofán Ó Siúrtáin, An Cladach, Gaillimh.)

Glenscaul (O'm B)

The name 'Glenascaul' means the 'valley of the shadows'. There are twenty-one houses in the village now. Long ago there were fifty houses there. There were two weavers in the village, Seamus Coirc and Patch Coirc. There was one carpenter. His name was Lackey Cuniff. The ruins of their houses are still to be seen. There was a tailor in the village named Brian Ruane and his wife's name was Cáit Ireland. They all had thatched houses and the thatch was tied with straw ropes. The most common surname is Mc Grath.

There are two graveyards in the village where the unbaptised children were buried. There are three wells in the village. One of the wells is called Tobar Bun an Stábla. The farmers in Glenscaul bought their farms under the Ardilaun Act.

(S32: 363. Written by Seán de Búrca, Gleann na Scáil, Uarán Mór.)

Ceantar Cheathrú an Bhrúnaigh [Carrowbrown District] (C'b)

Sé an t-ainm atá ar mo cheantar Ceathrú an Bhrúnaigh. Sé an chiall atá le 'ceathrú' píosa mór talaimh. Bhain an píosa talaimh seo le sliocht de na Brúnaigh fadó. Chónaigh siad sa seanchaisleán atá in aice na scoile.

Sé an t-ainm atá ar mo bhaile ná Baile Dubhlaoich. Tá seanchaisleán sa mbaile agus deireann na seandaoine go raibh dream ann fadó agus sé an t-ainm a bhí orthu ná Dubhlaoich. An Casileán Gearr an t-ainm atá ar mo pharóiste. Tá go leor tithe agus daoine i mo bhaile. Bhí seacht dteach fichead ann fadó. Níl ann anois ach aon teach fichead.

Tá mise i mo chónaí i gCoill Uachtair agus i bparóiste an Chaisleáin Ghearr. Bhí cnoc mór ann agus bhí go leor crann ag fás ann. Tá teach is fiche i gCoill Uachtair. Ta dhá theach cheann slinne ann agus naoi déag de thithe cheann tuí.


My district is called Carrowbrown. 'Carrow' means a big piece of land. The Browns owned this land a long time ago. They lived in the old castle beside the school.

My townland is called Ballindooly. There's an old castle and the old people say that people called Dooley used to live there. My parish is called Castlegar. There are plenty of people here. There used to be twenty-seven houses and now there are only twenty-one.

I live in Killoughter, in the parish of Castlegar. There was a big hill there and many trees growing on it. There are twenty-one houses in Killoughter. Two houses have slate roofs and nineteen are thatched.

(S30: 192–3. Stiofán Ó Briain, 62, Ceathrú an Bhrúnaigh, Gaillimh. Feilméara, 30 Márta 1938.)

Roscahill (P)

When we came from America first we went to live for a year in Roscahill near Uachtar Ard. We lived very near the castle of the great O'Flahertys, kings of Connaught. And strange to say, the house in which we lived had recently been owned by a Miss O'Flaherty, a direct descendant of the family of O'Flaherty.

Of course, we heard some interesting stories from the people in the neighbourhood, one of which I remember very well. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the O'Flaherty clan were most ambitious and one lady of the family sent word to the queen that she would govern the district on condition that Elizabeth should make her a captain. The queen, unaware that the personage was a lady, granted the request.

The castle is a lovely sight with its towers and ramparts and beside it flows a little river, which wends its way gently into the Corrib. But strange to say, beneath that smooth surface, on the sandy bottom, lie the countless bones of the enemy who were let drop through a trapdoor at the bottom of the castle into the river.

At the mouth of this river, there are a number of little islands and as the legend goes, since the O'Flahertys died, every year amidst these islands appears another island.

(S30: 440–1. Imelda Donagh, Grattan Terrace, Galway. 11 years. I got this story from my father who heard it from the villagers.)

Oranmore [Fuarán Mór na Féinne] (O'm B)

The village of Oranmore is situated about six miles to the east of Galway city. It is named after the great cold spring called Tobar na Caillighe, from which the people got their supply of water. It's said that the Fianna often drank from this well, hence the name.

The story concerning the well runs as follows. Long ago there was a small house situated where the well is now. There were two old women living in the house and one night, as they were sitting by the fire, the water began to come up through the floor and they were compelled to leave their home and seek shelter elsewhere. Another story says that the older women of the village congregated here every evening and spent the evening, chatting and gossiping. Hence the name.

Now, there are some fifty houses in the village of Oranmore. Judging from the ruins of houses, there must have been some seventy houses here formerly. Formerly, the village had its own boat maker, tailor, saddler, hatter, and weavers and carpenter. There are the ruins of an old mill which was occupied up to fifty years ago.

The people from the various villages within a distance of two or three miles used to gather into the houses at night and amuse themselves by raffling some animal, usually a donkey. They then travelled from village to village for the raffle. As a rule there was a dance in the houses where they congregated. More often than not, when the winner of the raffle went to look for the donkey, there was none to be found.

Years ago in Oranmore village, several people living there derived a living from the sea. Many families spent the day picking winkles. Those winkles were taken, by donkey and cart, to the market in Loughrea (some 18 miles away) and to Tuam (about 18 miles from Oranmore).

(S32: 369–71. Taken down by Caomhghin Ó Treabhair, Rinn Mhíl, from his mother.)

Frenchfort (O'm B)

The fort in Frenchfort, Oranmore, is a circular fort. There are bushes growing beside the fort. Once a man living in Frenchfort started to dig the fort in order to level the land. He got a very bad pain in his finger. The finger became bent and he never could straighten it.

(S32: 467. Written by the teacher.)

A Fairy Pig (O'm C)

About 300 years ago a fairy pig lived in Antrim. She was a little bigger than every other pig and was very black. The Antrim people were afraid of her. She lived in a glen in Co. Antrim called 'Gleann na Muice'. She used travel great distances around the glen. About eight o'clock every evening she used appear.

One evening, no one in the place saw her and soon after she was seen in Oranmore. About 200 yards below Oranmore is a place called Glenascaul. She was rooting for two hours there until she had a big deep glen rooted. The people of the village were very much afraid of her. No one in the village went to bed that night on account of her appearance. The glen is there yet and a horse and cart of hay would fit down into it.

(S32: 537–8. No name given.)

Rinnville (O'm C)

There was a ledge of rock jutting out at Mine Hill, down at the back of the wood near the sea at Rinville. Long ago a witch lived there. She began to make a quay across the tide to Rosshill. When she had it half made a Connemara man passed one day in his turf boat. He said, 'God bless the work'. The witch was carrying a stone several tons weight. As the words were spoken, the strings of her apron broke and she went into a cloud of smoke into the air. There the stone lay from that day to this.

In the year 1839 came a big storm which was followed by a big tide. This tide came up to Rinville and up to Oranhill on the other side. It stayed for a week and people were picking fish for a week.

(S32: 538–3. No name given.)


Glenascaul (O'm B)

There is a hill in Glenascaul called 'cnocán'. It is situated in the middle of the village. Beside it is a stream called 'lochán', supposed to be rooted [up] by the wild boar that was in the village long ago. This stream hardly ever dries up and it supplies the houses and cattle of the village with water. Sometimes the main road is flooded with its overflowing. On the hill there are many heavy big rocks stuck in the ground. Under one of these rocks it is said the wild boar was buried.

There are many names on the fields, such as 'páirc cill' meaning deer park [?], where a lot of deer were reared long ago. 'Leacán' got its name from the number of big stones that were in it. 'Gort Buí' gets its name from the yellow furze covering the field long ago.

The people of the village call the eastern side of the village 'baile thoir' and the western side 'baile thiar'.

(S32: 394–9. Written down by Micheál Ó Seachnasaigh, Gleann an Scáil, Uarán Mór, Co. na Gaillimhe.)

Galway City (NB)

Fair Hill got its name because of the important fairs that were held there long ago. The Battery got its name because sailors were trained there. A battery is a place where guns are kept so that is how it got its name. Grattan Road was called the 'tenpenny road'. It got that name because that was the wages the men got per day. The Spanish Arch got its name because the Spaniards always occupied that place when they were in town. Gentian Hill got its name because the old people thought that the fairies lived there. The fairies are always called the gentry. Taylor's Hill got its name because of the amount of tailors that lived there long ago.

(S31: 62–3. Martin Browne. I got this information from Mrs Raftery whose age is about 78 years. She lives in Fair Hill, 24 January 1938.)


Excerpted from "City of Streams"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Caitríona Hastings.
Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
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Table of Contents

About the Author,
Short History of the Galway Schools,
1 My Home Place,
2 Hearth and Home,
3 Beliefs and Customs,
4 Oral Literature,
5 Prayers, Poems, Proverbs and Riddles,
6 Local History,

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