Folklore

Deaths

WARNINGS OR SIGNS

  1. If a picture fell off a wall of its own accord the old people used to say that it was a sign of a death.
  2. Before the deaths of members of certain families the 'banshee' was heard by neighbours in the locality. The banshee is supposed to be a bird but some people say that it is ' a woman. The voice of the banshee is like a young baby's lamentable cry.
  3. Lights are often seen by neighbours in a locality where a person is about to leave this world. Lights are connected with certain families.

THE WAKE:

The corpse was never touched for four hours after death. It was believed that the dead person was making peace with God. After this period of time the corpse was washed and put 'over board' by two neighbours. Candles were lighted and then the wake com­menced with the recitation of the Rosary. During the wake tobacco, clay pipes, snuff, food and drink were distributed to the people who came to the wake.

 

Women used to snuff throughout the night. If the dead person was old some of the people sang or told jokes but if it was a young person or a sudden death they declined to sing or joke.

 

A story is told about an old man who was very stooped. He was tied down in the bed to straighten him before he was put into the coffin. Some of the 'good' boys cut the rope and the man sat up in the bed. People were really frightened and rushed to the door. When it was discovered what happened the people returned to the wake.

 

Another custom at wakes but which is now extinct is that of the visit of the 'keeners'. Certain women came and cried for some time over the corpse. The corpse was kept for two nights in the home and then brought to the chapel for Mass and burial afterwards. In later years the wake lasted for only one night. The body was brought to the church and left there the second night.

 

Funeral Mass and burial took place the following day. The neighbours who put the corpse 'over board' also put the dead person into the coffin. The relatives put tobacco in the coffin with a male and a grain of snuff with a female. Then four relatives of the same name, e.g. four McGoverns carried the coffin outside and fixed it on two chairs. A decade of the Rosary was recited. Then the coffin was lifted on to the men's shoulders. The chairs were turned upside down. The journey to the church began. The coffin was lowered to the ground upon leaving the townland where the dead person lived. The pall bearers were charged along the route. The home was not closed. Some kind neighbouring women stayed behind to tidy up the house and keep the fire alight.

 

After the funeral Mass the 'offerings' were collected. Householder paid two shillings or a half-crown each. This collection was divided among priests of the parish - two-thirds to the P.P. and one-third to the curate. This custom is extinct. Another custom which is also extinct was the 'comora' - a contribution which was paid to the people who had the funeral occasion to defray the funeral 'charges'.