The weather and life dictated that I couldn’t even get to the two events that I had hoped but I was very lucky to hear the lecture by Shane Lehane at Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa on ‘The Pattern Day in Irish Folk Tradition’
Much was learnt including many wells and patterns previously unknown to me – St Killian in Tousist, outside Kenmare; Muckross; Ballygarvan; Galbally, two wells at Lough Ine; and, St Brigid’s Well in Carrigaline. The well at Castlemartyr has a Sheela-na-Gig.
The pattern day was a multi-facetted day – first partaking of the religious in taking the water and ‘paying the rounds’, then the forerunner of the Ploughing Championship with tents set up for food, drink, dance and socialising. The night would generally end in a faction fight.
I remember some years ago being involved in a meeting discussing the design of a possible sporting facility where the changing rooms were to cater for a number of different sports. A query was raised as to why there were showers in each changing room as it would be cheaper to have communal showers. The questioner was quickly told that he came from a rugby background where it was permissible to take one’s anger and aggression out on an opponent on the pitch so that it would all be forgotten when the teams reached the showers – regularly together. Other sports were different and the bitterness would go unsatisfied and so it was considered best to keep the teams separated.
Shane Lehane’s description of the faction fight reminded me of that conversation nearly twenty years ago. He said that the faction fight was expected. It was looked forwarded to for the whole year. Men could spend the year crafting their cudgel or stick so that it would be most effective. Any bitterness or slight received during the year would be stored until the pattern day night; the faction fight would remove that slight; and, the following day neighbours could start again with a clean slate for another year.
After this very enjoyable and enlightening talk, we viewed the man-made Rag Tree made by Culture & Heritage students as part of their photographic exhibition.
I do really hope that Culture Night does become Culture Weekend.
I foresee a section on the website for Holy Wells around Cork and elsewhere similar to Grottos, Memorials, Civil War Memorials and others.