To lift the Winter gloom a little I thought I’d take a whimsical glance back at some doings in days of yore by way of a few stories that caught my fancy or whatever. The first one is a story from the Cork Examiner of August 1938-yes we do delve deep for our research! This almost falls into the ’believe or not’ category, but note I say almost. I quote: There are several young girls and boys going in for Commerce degrees and the positions they are filling would be worth something like 24/- or 25/- a week, showing that this is a blind alley form of education. There is no market for it in this country,” said Rev F McCarthy PP, Chairman of the Cork County Vocational Committee when referring to the fact that there was no applicant for the position of fulltime domestic economy instructress at Castletownbere.
It was easy for a girl to get qualified in domestic science as it was to get a commerce degree and possibly easier said the Chairman. There was also another aspect of the question, one to which the people of the country were not fully alive, and it was that the domestic economy ladies were very often taken into married life. “the young men of the country”, continued Fr McCarthy, in addition to having an eye for the beautiful and the aesthetic, are also influenced by what is useful in a prospective wife, and there is no better training for a wife and for a future housekeeper than a training in domestic science.” So spoke the reverend gentleman, I’m saying nothing!
Walking the land
Well do any of my readers remember this one or any talk of it? It may well have been the next step in the marriage prospects of the suitably trained domestic science instructress as described above.
Walking the land was a pre-nuptial activity ( no, none of that tumbling in the haystack carryon!) whereby the father and the brothers of the party marrying- in to the farm- bringing a dowry- would inspect the land, livestock and equipment to ascertain that the dowry suggested was worth paying. The term ‘seeing the land’ was also used. Perhaps, on the deal been done and the marriage bond forged, she might have qualified for membership of the Kutu-Kutu Club
What’s that you may well ask? I was taken aback myself when I first came across it or rather more like stumbled over it. It’s an account that goes back as far as 1820 in the Kingdom itself no less. It is described by a Professional Gentleman on a visit to Kerry in 1820 as a social club for vigorous frog-dancing, the mind boggles at the prospect! Kutu-kutu was the glorious and prevailing fun by night. Galops, polkas and waltzes were not invented then; but they to the other amusements I have mentioned, are innocent indeed. I’ll describe it all as shortly and plainly as I can, first promising, in honour of the virtuous virgins of that day, that none but married ladies were members of the Kutu-Kutu Club, who had for partners young and old married and unmarried men.
The lady first led off, and crouching on hunkers, she place under each knee-cap a hand, and then hopping around a room as best she could, a gentleman followed in her train as speedily as possible, and overtaking her, jostled against her, when both upset and went sprawling on the floor; and this exciting play was not confined to a single pair, but twenty couples at a time would become engaged therein.
So folks, maybe that’s a clue to the progenitors of all these Gaelic footballers – who said our ancestors didn’t have fun and well ahead of raves and dance clubs!
Dreaming of Tara…
This last piece appertains to the Hill of Tara which was the subject of great controversy in relation to the route of the M3 and the feared impact it would have on this most ancient of sites. But controversy is nothing new when it comes to the Hill of Tara and last time out- just over 100 years ago, believe it or not, it centred on the Ark of the Covenant no less!
“ Between 1899 and 1902 the Hill of Tara became the focus of a series of clashes between cultural Nationalists- notably Maud Gonne and Arthur Griffith- and members of the British-Israel Movement, an association founded in the UK by a retired Anglo-Indian judge, Edward Wheeler Bird. The British-Israel Association of Ireland was established in Dublin on 17th March 1897. Members believed that the Anglo-Saxon race was descended from the lost tribes of Israel and that it was the members’ duty to retrieve the Ark of the Covenant, which had been buried on the Hill of Tara, according to them the new or ‘resusicated’ Jerusalem. The local landlord, Gustavus Villiers Briscoe, turned a blind eye to the excavations of the British Israelites.
For cultural Nationalists Tara was symbolic of a native high kingship; it was described by Douglas Hyde, George Moore and WB Yeats in a letter to the London Times, as ‘probably the most consecrated spot in Ireland’. Maud Gonne and Griffith visited the Hill of Tara on Christmas Day 1900 to survey the extent of the damage done by the excavations and Maud Gonne wrote in a subsequent article to the United Irishman: “I seemed to see shuddering, misty forms gazing curiously at us. Weird processions wound round the raths where palaces had stood. Some tossed white arms as they moved in rhythmic circles”.
The case became a cause celebre; the press in Ireland joined with the professional archaeologists and cultural Nationalists to oppose the excavations of the British Israelites. In the end, the latter were obliged to desist.
Fascinating is it not? Yes, indeed, a weird and wonderful world.
Go Seachtain Eile, Slan