The Darker Side of Life
Death and Customs
Clocks were stopped at the hour of death proving that the deceased did not die unnoticed.
Mirrors were covered so that the spirit leaving the body would not be reflected.
If the dead person was young and unmarried, the hearse driver had a white plume on his hat. Girls and boys walked in pairs in the procession. Young, shy lads who didn’t want to pair off with a girl were seized by a self appointed master of ceremonies and paired off with one of the girls left when older lads had had their pick.
Offerings were collected in the Church. Near relatives and the head of the household paid more than average. Offerings are said to have been started as a collection at the graveside for the poor and destitute family of the deceased of which there were many at that time. A responsible person or the pries generally oversaw the collection. Some were too proud to accept charity so they thanke the people but gave the money as a present to the priest. This practice continued until the late 50’s.
Quote from Revd. J. E, McKenna
“It was custom, when funerals are going to graveyards outside the precincts of the parish, to stop the procession just before crossing the border of the parish, it is leaving, while the funeral offerings are being collected. The origin of this custom is interesting. In Penal Days, the Protestant ministers throughout the Diocese of Clogher, not content with turning their guardianship of the old cemeteries to their profit, by charging a substantial fee for Catholic burials, insisted upon getting their share of the funeral offerings, just as they insisted upon getting a fee when the priest baptised a child or assisted at a marriage within the ambit of their jurisdiction. In order to defeat this intolerable exaction the offerings were, when possible, collected outside the jurisdiction of the minister who was legal custodian of the cemetery.”
They used to have hand spokes for carrying the coffins and I heard them say that when they were coming from Tychany and Beltony they’d stop at Nugent’s Pub and lave the coffin on the street. They’d drink to his health for a good while and then the coffin would have a wobbl enough carry down to Eskra!
Several people recall a spoke coffin being carried from Aughafad on a snowy day. When the funeral procession arrived at P. A. McCarroll’s, they left the coffin on the bridge and went in for a drink to warm their stomachs. When they came out they had bother finding the coffin as the snow had been falling steadily for a couple of hours.
Departure from this life:
“He died in the best of health. If he’d lived another week his wife would have been a year dead.”
Looking for a ‘wake house’ – “is this where the dead man lives?”
“If Packie was alive the day he’d turn in his grave.”
“A certain man was being waked and he had four sons. This old fried and colleague stood by his coffin, shook his head and said. ‘There’s not one of his sons with the head to fill his shoes.’”
I mind Ellen, she had come home from America and she hadn’t the same ways as us. If someone died she wouldn’t say, “Sorry for your trouble”, like the rest of us, she’d say, “Thanks be to God.”
So when Mick died she said to Biddy, his wife, “So Mick’s dead, thanks be to God.” And Biddy just turned on her and said, “What do you mean by that?” Ellen said, “I say that because you and me, Biddy, are as well as we are.”
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