Saturday, 3 August 2013

Cures of Bygone Days

 Famine Walk  in Ballyshannon on Monday 5th August all welcome.

On Monday 5th August 2013 at 2.30 p.m. I will be leading a Famine Walk from the Paupers' Graveyard to the Workhouse in Ballyshannon. The meeting point is the Abbey Centre in Ballyshannon and I hope you can make it as part of the Ballyshannon 400 Week. On the Famine walk we will hear stories, songs and verses from the Great Famine of the 1840s and recall the suffering endured by our ancestors in this area. Conor Carney and Patricia Keane well known in the arts world in Ballyshannon will  sing and recall Famine memories on the walk.

The workhouse at Ballyshannon housed people from:

  • The  Belleek area as far as Churchill, Devenish and Boho in County Fermanagh 
  • Kinlough, Glenade and Tullaghan areas in County Leitrim 
  • Ballyshannon, Bundoran, Ballintra and Rossnowlagh areas in County Donegal.     

If you know anyone from the areas above please invite them to come along to remember people from their area who are forgotten today, some of whom would be buried in the Paupers’ graveyard. The walk will be at a leisurely pace. All welcome.

                                                                                                                                    Anthony Begley

Cures of Bygone Days

In the days before doctors and chemists were as plentiful as today people relied on herbs and faith healing to cure their illnesses. Below are cures which were collected by school student from the old people in the 1930s in a folklore study. Naturally today there are medical remedies and advice for patients which was not available in bygone days and the cures below are not practised today.

Ringworm:  A cure for ringworm was to pass a wedding ring round it three times, reciting the prayer, in the name of the Father of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. Another cure for ringworm was to get some clay and mix it with spittle and then make a worm crawl around it on the floor. The clay was then rubbed on the ringworm and the worm was then made to crawl around the affected part. This was done three times. This cure was handed down from a man to a woman and from a woman to a man

Sprain: A sprain could be cured with woollen thread and by saying some prayers. The thread was twisted around the part where the sprain was and this was kept there for some days. Another cure for sprain was to make the sign of the cross two or three times on the forehead, then the person rubbed their hands on the ground and then rubbed the sprain and shortly afterwards the sprain disappeared

Mumps:  If a person had mumps he went to the seventh child in a family whose mother and father had the same name. This person put a donkey’s winkers on the person to be cured and led him to the river and gave him three drops of water. This treatment was performed for three consecutive days

A Stye in the EyeIf a person wished to be cured of a stye in the eye he got nine whitethorns of a gooseberry tree and pointed them at the sky. Then he would be cured

Toothache: The seventh son cured a toothache by rubbing it with his hand. One never got a toothache if one made a promise (such as not shaving on a Sunday) and never broke it.  A visit to the dentist was only for the well off but for a severe toothache the doctors in the 19th century had to bleed the gums with leeches.

Warts:  A cure for warts was to steal a piece of meat or bacon and rub it on the warts. The meat was then burned and as it rotted the warts would disappear. Another cure for warts was to wash them with water taken from a hole in a rock

Whooping Cough: When  a child had whooping, also called chin cough, an ass’s milk was considered a good remedy

A Cold: Mary Ann Sheil wrote about cures the people had for the common cold in the 1840s when they took jam drinks to alleviate the symptoms.

Natural Remedies: Garlic was considered good for colds and coughs. The juice of dandelion was considered good for cancer.  People boiled dandelion and gave the water to a person with a sick stomach. Bogbine was used for the good of the blood. Nettle tea was given to children with measles. Celery seeds when boiled and strained and then drunk were a cure for rheumatism. Roots of parsley when boiled and drunk were good for kidney disease.  

A Men Only Cure for Cows!  When a cow lost her milk she was said to be touched by the little people. She got dull and gave no milk. To cure her a red hot coal in the tongs was brought to the byre. This was passed over the cow from head to tail and then under her, coming out at her shoulder when a sign of the cross was made on her back. At the same time three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys were said. This was done three times on three different days. Then the cow would get her milk back.  For this cure to work the cow had to be kept in the byre all the time and the cure had tobe made between sunrise and sunset and never on a Friday. Only men could make this cure!  

Next Blog

10th August "There goes a poet if he only know it,
                      Only you're an ass you'd let the poet pass!"

Lots Happening for Ballyshannon 400 Gathering 5th-11th August. Check out week of events

A New Local History Book suitable for those at Home and Away

A new book entitled: "Ballyshannon. Genealogy and History"  reveals newly researched history and genealogy of the town, extending as far as the Rossnowlagh, Cashelard, Corlea, Clyhore, Higginstown and Finner areas. Includes the parishes of Kilbarron and Magh Ene.

The genealogy material provides detailed guidelines for anyone tracing their roots in the area or anywhere in County Donegal or Ireland. 

The book contains 500 pages and is richly illustrated with stunning colour, aerial photography, original illustrations and rare photographs of the area not seen before.

Topics include: How to go about Tracing your Roots/The first settlers in the area/ Newly researched history of the town of Ballyshannon and the townlands in Kilbarron and Mágh Éne parishes/ Records of the first travellers and tourists to Ballyshannon, Bundoran, Belleek, Rossnowlagh and Ballintra/An aerial guide to place names along the Erne from Ballyshannon to the Bar/Flora and Fauna of the area/ A history of buildings and housing estates in the locality/Graveyard Inscriptions from the Abbey graveyard, St. Joseph’s and St. Anne’s /Rolling back the years with many memories of the Great Famine, Independence struggle, hydro-electric scheme, Gaelic games, boxing, handball, Boy Scouts, soccer, mummers, characters, organisations, folklore and lots more.

Book Available from Anthony Begley West Rock Ballyshannon.  Enquiries welcome for postal and other details. Also available at The Novel Idea Bookshop Ballyshannon, Ballyshannon and District Museum, Ballyshannon Tourist Office, The Four Masters Bookshop Donegal Town.

The blogs are original and are not taken from the book above.

Ballyshannon Musings:  Good to hear that people connected to the Ballyshannon area enjoyed the blog worldwide and the site received thousands of hits. The site is called Ballyshannon Musings and there are a number of back issues available on the internet. Copy this link and it can be googled at


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