JOHN CORBETT with a selection of memories of life in the Irish countryside during the month of May


May, the first month of summer, brings lots of promise with it – flowers and shrubs budding and new crops appearing over ground. The cuckoo combines with a variety of song birds and can be heard early in the morning and late in the evening.

We were still at school in May and would remain there for a few more months longer but our play time was extended thanks to the bright evenings.

Fires for cooking were still needed but were reduced in strength for the greater part of the day. Lamps were seldom lit until late in the evening and visiting hours were shorter than they were in previous months, although they still continued to take place regularly in our village. The same applied to music sessions.

I often wonder how many areas were as fortunate as ours? Local musicians and storytellers abounded and didn’t hesitate to share their talents with the rest of us. Jimmy Dwyer, the Smiths, Kilkennys, Mitchells, Brodericks, Kennys, Kellys, Quinns, Lallys and the Hessions, called frequently to our house.

One of the biggest disappointments was when Jimmy Dwyer left for England. The only consolation was that other musicians arrived on the scene to lessen the impact of his absence. On rare occasion relatives from Clare joined us. They found travelling easier at this time of year.
The O’Connells, The Stephens and Helen Duffy from Labasheeda, treated us to delightful music whenever they came.

Our cottage resembled a mini-fleadh as the performers assembled there and our biggest concern as children was, would we be permitted to remain up until the sessions ended?

Of course it wasn’t all entertainment. There was plenty of farming tasks to be dealt with too. Once grain crops had been planted no further work was needed once the ground had been rolled. It was up to Mother Nature after that.

Things have changed dramatically in recent years. Nowadays grain crops are monitored and sprayed at regular intervals throughout the growing season.

Root crops were different. Carrots, turnips and beet had to be thinned and weeded after being planted. Weeding was generally done on one’s knees and was a slow process. The exception was the potato crop where weeds were removed with a special plough called a Scuffler.

We considered ourselves lucky because we didn’t sow beet and the amount of vegetables on our farm was small. The situation was different in neighbouring parishes like Menlough, Skehana and Monivea, where acres of root crops were planted and processed each year.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own