• Morgan Fagg

Lockdown Voices Number 7 HANK

Updated: Apr 29, 2020

Today I am taking a look at a wonderful Facebook post by Hank Lockman who writes and shares fascinating snippets of Irish culture and traditions.

Hank shares some of these insights through the Athlone Down Memory Lane Facebook group.

These are all wonderful descriptions and as Hank was a manager for Delorean in the past, maybe he has learnt some of these interesting details while test driving the futuristic Delorean DMC-12.

I have copied and pasted from Hank's page for Lockdown Voices as I think it is a great appreciation for the past as we encounter a modern-day plague like the Spanish Flu but with the full comfort and luxury of Skype, Zoom, Facebook and Facetime, Messanger, Twitter, Wi-fi, Netflix and 24 hour News. Not to mention running water, shampoo, and central heating.

Life In Ireland Long ago,,,,,,

Next time you start to complain about your lot, think of your ancestors, who had things a little rougher than we have today..

The next time you're having a shower and can't get the temperature right, think about how things used to be...

Here are some facts about life in times past:

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odour.

Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.

Hence the saying, “Don't throw the baby out with the Bathwater.”

Houses had thatched roofs,thick straw, piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying, “It's raining cats and dogs.”

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house.. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection.

That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, “Dirt poor.”

The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entranceway.

Hence the saying, “A thresh hold.”

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme, “Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.”

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, “bring home the bacon.”

They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and “chew the fat.”

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the "upper crust".

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of, “holding a wake.”

In some areas, the local folks started running out of suitable places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave.

When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive ...

So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night to listen for the bell.

This was “the graveyard shift.”

Thus, someone could be "saved by the bell" or was considered a ...”dead ringer.”

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