Friday, 17 March 2023

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Many parts of Ireland lacked electricity even into the 1970s, so many older Irish remember a world where people created their own entertainment during Ireland’s long winter nights, when neighbours walked to each others’ homes to play music, dance and tell stories. 
“It was huge in the country,” an elderly neighbour named Mary told me. “There was an institution called cortorach, Irish for visiting, and the people would visit each other’s houses.”
“... they’d have dances and do the reels and the Irish dancing. and the women would drink tea and the men would drink porter,” she said. “And they would have a sennachai [pronounced shanakee] – a storyteller – and he’d be spinning great yarns and tales, some of them the old, old stories. Some of them might be two thousand years old, really stories from prehistory -- stories of Cu Chucullen and Meave, stories from long, long ago. Shana is the Irish word for old, so the sennachai was telling the old stories.”
When I asked how often this happened, she said “Oh, good Lord -- at least once a week at least, and nearly every night at times. You can imagine it ... a turf fire, and very warm, and the people gathered around listening to the sennachai telling his story. A lot of ghost stories, as the Irish are really into ghost stories. And the children were supposed to go to bed but were allowed to stay up, and would listen to the sennachai, their eyes wide like saucers.”
Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone.

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