John Corbett presents a selection of memories of life in the Irish countryside during the month of May


Historians tell us that May is named after the Greek Goddess, Maia, who was identified with the Roman Goddess of fertility, Bona Dea. A festival in honour of the latter was held at this time of year.
When Christianity was established, the Church dedicated the month to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

“You’re welcome as the flowers in May,” was a well-known saying in the past and there’s no doubt but a vast array of them can be seen when the month arrives. My parents believed that the countryside was more colourful in May than at any other time of year and few of us would disagree with that.

The cuckoo, always a welcome visitor, was in full voice. Seniors used to bless themselves and recite a Gaelic phrase ‘Go mbeirimid beo ag an am seo arís’; ‘That we may be alive at this time again next year’ – on hearing the cuckoo for the first time in summer, an indication of how much the appearance of this distant traveller meant to them.

The lark, thrush, and a selection of other birds were also providing lots of music. Although they were to be heard throughout the day, perhaps early morning or twilight time offered the best opportunity to tune into the singing of these delightful creatures.

Bees were busy gathering nectar from the flowers, and like the cuckoo, they became increasingly active as the weather grew warmer. We relied on Mikie Blehein from Shanballard and PJ Ruane from Skehana to fill us in on the work and the wonders of these marvellous creatures, who are so important to the environment and to the survival of humans.
Our local beekeepers made wooden hives to store the honey provided by the bees and this was highly regarded by friends and neighbours. PJ and Mikie were often called upon to remove bees that appeared uninvited in local houses.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own