Music and Dance

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

"Traditional Musicians"

This card is not dated and is obviously well past the time the Walsh/Langan ancestors left Ireland. It is, however, the only thing I have found so far to represent traditional music which was and is a very important part of Irish life.

"The ould Irish jig"

Post marked 1903

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

"The Irish Jig- Leading of Double"

No postmark

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck

"The Irish Piper"

No postmark

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck

The Graphic

October 4, 1884

Text is missing.

Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Illustrated London News Dec. 6, 1879


Festivities at

"A "pattern fair" or local Saint's day festival at a place celebrated for the mystic virtues of its "Holy Well""

See The Fair at Muff

Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck

The Dancing Master painted by H. Helmick from The Magazine of Art, date unknown

Howard Helmick (American 1845-1907) was born in Zaneville, Ohio and studied in Paris. In 1876 he moved to Galway, Ireland where he painted many scenes of Irish life. He returned to America in 1888.

This image was also in the Bay View Magazine April 1, 1901 labeled "Arrival of the Village Fiddler"

Print from Tales of Irish Life and Character with Pictures by Erskine Nicol First Edition. Book collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Irish Merrymaking

Photo collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Crossroad Dancing was a popular pastime in rural Ireland. Crossroad dances usually occurred on a Sunday evening. Parish priests disapproved of these gatherings and eventually they were banned by the church.


Print from Tales of Irish Life and Character with Pictures by Erskine Nicol First Edition. Book collection of Maggie Land Blanck

A Card Party


The Graphic, April 28, 1888. Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Horse racing was a popular "sport" in Ireland. In 1774, 1775 and 1777 LOVELY MOLLY (a bay mare foaled in 1768) won 50l at Ballinrobe. In 1852 Ballinrobe hosted a three day race on August 26th, 27th and 28th that included a 2 mile sweepstakes, a mile and a half selling stakes and a handicap sweepstake. In October 1873 Ballinrobe hosted a 3 mile Hunters' Plate over a steeple chase course. See Old Images of Ballinrobe

Fortune Telling

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Irish Colleens-Fortune Telling


Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

The Pub

Magazine collection of Maggie Land Blanck, 2012, Bay View Magazine, April 1901

An Old County Inn (image by Mr. H. Helmick)

The Pub was a place for "laboring" men to meet, have a porter, smoke a pipe and discuss politics and farming around the peat fire.


Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Harpers Weekly Feburay 12, 1870


Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Illustrated London News, January 3, 1852

New Year's Eve — Baking the New Years Cake

Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck

This fine old festival, whose origin is lost amidst the Pagan darkness that surrounds so many of the customs of this country, and yet render dear to its inhabitants by the joyous association of childhood, like many others, is now passing away not only from the practice but also from the recollection of the people; yet they delight to talk of those times when the worthy good man, either in "the big house' or the "good woman" was to have her New Years's eve Cake; and the sly invitation was sure to gather all who cherished genuine wit and humour to witness the making of the cake — that important portion of the meal — to enjoy the drollery of him or her installed as high priest, and to sing the required incantations to secure the success of the charmed cake. This, having been once fairly placed on the griddle, (in those days our forefathers knew little of the oven for such use) became an object of interest to more than one, and many were the sly colleens who, when the lad of there choice placed in the fire a sprig of the still verdant holly or ivy that decorated the kitchen, would adroitly steal in another little sprig to the blazing pile, to see if her fortune burned and kept pace with his; if it did so (like the burnt nuts of All-hallows's ever) a smooth current of happiness for the coming year was indicated.
Those were, indeed, days of simplicity, when the baron and the peasant met alike under the same roof; when even the humble itinerant fiddler who played his way through the country was expected to witness the next aspirant to manhood lay hold of the well-made and substantial cake, and, with his mimic strength, dash it against the door, when it was shivered to pieces, whilst the assembled witnesses of the scene offered up in spirit an humble but fervent prayer that cold, want, or hunger might not enter that door for the ensuing year. The fragments of the cake were then scrambled for, and certain was he or she who succeeded in securing the first fragment that touched the ground, that they too, would have a home and a New Year's Cake ere the next year was out.
To this succeeded a scene of romping, eating, and drinking, dancing and singing, such as can only be witnesses in Ireland; and the mirth continues up to the hour that marks our passage from one year into another, when a fervent prayer is offered up to Him who that brought us thus to a new year, and enabled us to light another.
We recollect, when a schoolboy, thinking with delight over our promised enjoyment of a New Year's Cake, and of all our schoolfellows having the same promise of enjoyment held out to them; whereas we believe that the practice is now only carried out in the more comfortable and wealthy home of the south and midland counties of poor old Ireland.

Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Illustrated London News, March 19, 1859

Chalk Sunday in the County of Kilkenny, Ireland

The First Sundy in Lent is styled "Chalk Sunday" form a custom indulged in by the village belles of Kilkenny of chalking all over the clothes of inveterate bachelors who have eluded the trammels of Hymen during the preceding Shrovetide, which season is looked forward to by the unmarried portion of the Irish peasantry as the period of the year in which those who are inclined to commence housekeeping are induced to make up their minds on that important subject ere the commencement of Lent; for during that season all matrimonial transactions are suspended; and those who allow Shrovetide to glide by unheeded generally remain "in maiden meditation fancy free" until that time twelve months, when another opportunity of committing matrimony is afforded them. When an unlucky wight of the bachelor genus appears abroad in his Sunday suit on this day, on his way either to or from church, he is sure to be surrounded by a group of mischievous merry maidens each armed with a lump of chalk. Resistance is useless, for should he escape one party he is certain of being caught by another; until, at last he is striped all over in such a style of variegation as might excite the envy of a harlequin. This operation is intended to mark him out for the special example of the class to which he voluntarily belongs and to afford amusement to the neighbors. Our engraving is from a Skethc by Edmond FitzPatrick.

Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Illustrated London News, March 19, 1853


Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck



On page 181, we give an allegorical representation of the celebration of this famous day — the birth-time of the patron saint of Ireland. On the left of the engraving is seen a picture of St. Patrick himself, represented as banishing all the reptiles and unclean animals from Ireland. On the right, we have a view of Father Mathew delivering a temperance address to the people, in whose ranks banners are waving, and happy faces smiling. In the centre piece, surrounded by a garland, we have a miniature representation of the birth of Christ. On the left, at the bottom of the page, we have a view of the fruits of intemperance. On the right, in contrast—the peaceful products of temperance and honesty. To correspond with these ideas, on the left the sun is hidden behind a cloud; on the right it is bursting forth in clear effulgence. The lofty regions of the left represent ruins. On the right, we have a happy village with its steeple rearing its head towards heaven. The picture is full of suggestion and a very fine one in all of its characteristics.

Gleason's Pictorial Drawing Room Companion - No date

Father Theobald Mathew, one of the greatest temperance speakers of all times, started preaching in Ireland 1834. He later preached in England, Scotland and America.

See Library Ireland, Theobald Mathew

Print collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Illustrated London News, November 6, 1858

Accompanying text

"All Hallow Eve (1st of November) being between All Souls and All Saints Day is the night of all others on which the Irish peasantry believe that ghosts, witches, and fairies, but especially the redoubtable phoca, are so industrious in playing pranks on unwary travelers, and that supernatural events narrated by such adventurers form themes for gossip and many a cottage fireside for many a long night afterwards. It is, therefore, not surprising that this evening should be spent in a more festive manner than any other by this imaginative people, as from its associations, it had lost none of its pristine interest, whilst most other national customs seem gradually to have vanished from amongst the. On All Hallow Eve a number of the younger peasantry from the adjacent neighborhoods assemble at the house of some old farmer who in his youth had been the gay leader of every merrymaking throughout the country, and still took delight in seeing others enjoy the sports he was no longer capable of partaking. A collection being made, the merry party are soon supplied with plenty of eatables and the indispensable mountain dew in profusion, for the occasion; the scaltheen or cross sticks, being then suspended from the roof and decorated with apples and lighted candles placed alternately on its points, and, being kept twirling round, invited many a candidate to complete for the ruddy prize, but singed hair or eyelashes, together with the pleasure of being laughed at, is often the reward of this exertions. As a cooler to this amusement, diving for money in a tub of water is next resorted to, and many a fair mountain nymph forsakes her native element for a while and bears from beneath the pellucid water the shining silver between her teeth, which rival it in whiteness. Burning nuts, fortune telling, and stories are next engaged in all of which are wound up with a dance, until the time arrives (one o'clock) when the enchantment of the night is broken, and all may return, unmolested by fay or phoca, to their respective homes.
Halloween customs as described in the The Graphic, November 12, 1881


Hallow'en is a great yearly festival with the Irish Celt. He does not stop to think whether the 31st of October is a special day of vigil for the souls of the departed or not—his Reverence the Priest will talk about that to-morrow at Mass—but he does pause to remember that the time has come when he may seek for charms, peep into the future, converse with fairies, who as Mayo men and women know, are dancing on every rath, and—most important of all—steal his neighbors cabbages. It is this cabbage stealing, a custom good-naturedly winked at by householders, which is "the event" of the night."

While their "fathers and mothers are smoking by the great peat fire" boys and girls "steal" cabbages from their neighbors plots. The object is to pick a cabbage with one's eyes closed.
"If the plant is an almost perfect circle, with each leaf overlapping firmly round its comrade, the fortunate possessor may be certain of a handsome spouse; but if, on the other hand, it is broken crooked, or has draggling untidy leaves, a humpback, ill-favored, and bad tempered husband or wife will result. A cabbage that has been eaten by caterpillars is also very unlucky, as it foretells a small-poxed lover."
The cabbage head is taken home and "placed on the dresser in the kitchen". The first person to enter the cottage the next day is said to become the spouse of the individual to whom the cabbage belongs.

Another custom was for young girls to eat a whole herring, bones and all, without being observed. Around midnight the young herring eater would climb out of bed and peer into the looking glass to catch a glimpse of the young man who would be her husband before the next Lent.

"But Hallowe'en has another and more weird significance for the Celt. On this night he supposes that souls of unbaptised babies, whose bodies lie in unblessed ground, come sobbing round their lost homes, praying for deliverance from the fairies who have forced them to join their bands in the raths. Many a lonely mother sitting sadly by the fire starts as a bird taps at the window, or a leaf is blown against the pane. It is her dead baby, she knows, freed for these few hours from the thraldom of the "queer people", who has come to gaze hopelessly in at the warm kitchen and the mother from whom it was so rudely torn, while it shivers and wails in the cold. Then she will make the sign of the cross and and weep, but dares not offer up a prayer for the doomed soul, which, she believes, must wander lost and hopeless for eternity."

Note: The fairy rath was a mound or hill on which the fairies danced.

Print collection Maggie Land Blanck, 2012, Illustrated London New's Nov. 4, 1871


November Night is celebrated in Ireland on November 1, the eve of All Souls Day. The festivities included games such as as bobbing for coins or apples, chestnut roasting, and fortune telling.

The image depicts a fortune telling game. Four bowls are set on the table: one contains a ring which denotes marriage, the second contains a lump of clay wich denotes death, the third contains water which denotes emigration, and the last contains salt which indicates that the person will be spared all of the other fates during the coming year. The player is blindfolded and the bowls are shifted around. The first bowl the player touched indicates his or her fate for the next twelve months.

St John's Eve Bonfires

The ancient custom of lighting midsummer bonfires was wide spread throughout Europe, including Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland. Bonfire night in Ireland was on the eve of the feast of St John (June 23).

Charlotte Elizabeth Tonna (nee Browne) (1790-1846) an English evangelist and writer lived in Ireland from 1818 to 1824. In Irish Recollection, first published in 1841, she gives a wonderful account of a bonfire in rural Ireland. Much of the rest of the book is an anti Catholic diatribe.

"It is the custom at sunset on that evening to kindle numerous immense fires throughout the country, built like out bonfires, to a great height, the pile being composed of turf, bog-wood, and such other combustibles as they can gather. The turf yields a steady, substantial body of fire, the bog-wood a most brilliant flame; and the effect of these great beacons blazing on every hill, sending up volumes of smoke from every point of the horizon is very remarkable. Ours was a magnificent one being provided by the landlord as a compliment to his people, and was built on the lawn, as close beside the house as safety would admit. Early in the evening the peasants began to assemble, all habited in their best array, glowing with health, every countenance full of that sparkling animation and excess of enjoyment that characterize the enthusiastic people of the land. I had never seen anything resembling it, and was exceedingly delighted with their handsome, intelligent, merry faces; the bold bearing of the men, and the playful, but really modest deportment of the maidens; and the vivacity of the aged people, and wild glee of the children. The fire being kindled, a splendid blaze shot up, and for a while they stood contemplating it, with faces strangely disfigured by the peculiar light first emitted when bogwood is thrown on: after a short pause, the ground was cleared in front of an old blind piper, the very beau ideal of energy, drollery, and shrewdness, who seated on a low chair, with a well-plenished jug within his reach, screwed his pipes to the liveliest times and endless jig began.

An Irish jig is interminable, so long as the party holds together; for when on of the dancers becomes fatigued, a fresh individual is ready to step into the vacated place quick as thought; so he other does not pause, until in liked manner obliged to give place to a successor. They continue footing it, and setting to one another, occasionally moving in a figure, and changing place with extraordinary rapidity, spirit and grace. Few indeed, among even the very lowest of the most improvised class, have grown into youth without obtaining some lessons in this accomplishment from the traveling dancing-masters of their district; and certainly in the way they use it, many would be disposed to grant a dispensation to the young peasant which they would withhold from the young peer.

"But something was to follow that puzzled me not a little: when the fire had burned for some hours, and got low, an indispensable part of the ceremony commenced. Every one present of the peasantry passed through it, and several children were thrown across the sparkling embers; while a wooden frame of some eight feet long, with a horse's head fixed to one end, and a large white sheet thrown over it, concealing the wood and the man on whose head it was carried, made its appearance. This was greeted with loud shouts as the "white horse;" and having been safely carried by the skill of the bearer several times through the fire with a bold leap, it pursued the people, who ran screaming and laughing in every direction. I asked what the horse was meant for, and was told it represented all cattle.

......... While I looked upon the now wildly-excited people with their children, and, in a figure, all their cattle, passing again and again through the fire."

To see images of the 2004 Saint John's Bonfire in Mohorra, Shrule Parish, Ireland go to Mohorra

For more information on St John's bonfires click on the image of the bonfire.

Tom and I were in Oros, Brazil in June 2009 for a wedding. Part of the wedding festivities was a St John's bonfire. No one jumped over the fire but me. The Brazilian tradition was to roast corn over some of the embers to bring good fortune to the bride and groom as corn is the symbol of life and fertility in Latin America.

Oros, Brazil, Feast of St. John, June 2009

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©Maggie Land Blanck - Page created 2004 - Latest update May 2012