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

September derives its name from the Latin word ‘Septem’ which means seven. It was the seventh month in the old calendar before January and February were added. The Romans believed that the month was linked to Vulcan, the God of Fire, so they expected fires, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes – not a very cheerful combination, it should be said.

The Anglo-Saxons called it ‘Gerst Monath’, i.e. the Month of Barley, because that is when most grain crops are harvested. In the fifties, barley would probably come after oats and wheat in the list of grain crops that were grown locally.

Its sheaves were short so it was less likely to lodge than oats or wheat. More sturdy selections of seed are on the market now so lodging is less of a problem than it was years ago.
In this part of the world generous quantities of rain are expected but they don’t always materialise. The 21st. marks the autumn equinox and there is a strong possibility of stormy weather at this point.

September was the least popular month for us as children. It was the time we returned to school after the summer holidays and there was little on the horizon by way of treats. Of course it was the thought of returning to school that bothered us rather than the actual event itself.

After the first week, we had shed most of our regrets and we realised that we quite liked being back. This was something to which we would never admit, not even to ourselves. Being in tune with our companions, we conformed to the accepted viewpoint, showing scant sympathy for our educators; condemning school and teachers in strong terms whenever the topic was broached.

There was no real reason why we should have disliked school. The fact is that we had two pleasant teachers, Mrs Cogavin and Sheila Cloonan (Bellew), who were interested in our education and treated us with care and kindness, but as the late Brendan Behan once remarked, “You might as well be out of the world as out of fashion.”
Mrs Cogavin cycled the best part of three miles to school each morning but Sheila stayed with the Ford’s, who lived a few hundred yards from the school. Bicycles were scarce and most students came to school on foot. Distances varied. Some had to travel a six mile round trip on their daily quest for knowledge. We had only about a third of that mileage on our trips to school.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own