The first ‘run’ of poitín was held by many in high regard for the cure of many diseases of farm animals such as a chill in newly calved cows, in young calves, colic in all animals, swollen joints, ‘ferse’ in horses, pneumonia and internal parasites.
It was also used by people as a cure for rheumatism, chilblains, and pimples – it was rubbed into the skin. Frequently in animal medications, cloves of garlic were put in a bottle of poitín to enhance its curative properties.
The first half-pint was left aside as ‘the fairies treat’ which was a useful superstition as the first drops of the ‘run’ are thought to be poisonous. [Alternatively, the first glass was spilled on the heather so that the fairies would give warning of the Revenue men. That warning was invariably a gun shot.]
It might be suspected that many of the ghosts that roamed through our area in days past and many of the ‘quare’ happenings that are said to have taken place, may have their origin in an over-indulgence of poitín.
[Many stopped producing it when it was banned by the Catholic church.] Poitin makers, naturally enough, have developed a suspicious nature in view of the nature of their activity. So our ‘informants’ on these matters took some coaxing before divulging their secrets!
‘You’ll have to tell us about this making of the mountain dew now…we’ll have to hear that.’
‘Would I be summonised for it now?’
“Ah aye, anything you say ‘ill be taken down in evidence and may be used agin ye!’
Patricia McSorley then concludes her history lesson on poitín by relating a story.
‘Well, there was an oul fellah beside us used to make it in a kettle and another man used to help him. Any how he took a half pint home – he’d only to cross a couple of fields.
That night he must a had a notion that the police was about for he hid the half-pint in a ditch in one of the fields. And the next day or so he went back to luck for it but he couldn’t git it. And he sarched for it for years after, time and again, and niver gat it.
After that he left the place to yer man O’Neill. And O’Neill was ploughin’ this field and he went up to face the ditch and he come at the half-pint. Well it might have been twenty years after it – it might have been more. But he gat it and he knew what it was – he’d heard tell of it do you see?’
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