Immortalising the Oral Histories of South Galway

South Galway Stories – Oral Narratives

Did you ever find yourself in a pub on a winter’s evening – perched at the bar listening to stories of old? Hanging on the words of a story that regaled ‘simpler’ times as the seanchaí weaved his or her immersive tale.

Such people are the real custodians of Irish history and folklore because they are part of that history themselves. They have that ‘lived’ experience and a way of explaining the past that is inimitable.

Many of these stories are as fragile as life itself. As the wheel of life turns, sadly we lose these people and consequently lose their stories too but one Galway woman is doing whatever she can to perpetuate these anecdotes and fables.

Author: Pauline Bermingham Scully

Author: Pauline Bermingham Scully

The Launch

The launch of Ardrahan native, Pauline Bermingham Scully’s third book took place in Tarpey’s Bar, Ardrahan last Saturday, 18th November. The gently packed venue was full of well-wishers and heritage buffs on the night as they came to support this important project. Pauline spoke about the inspirational people whose stories included in the publication and thanked those who gave their time and above all else, their stories and yarns.

The Book

The book is a treasure trove of memories which many Galwegians and ex-pats will easily warm to. From the nights in the Temperance Hall, the dance hall days in Seapoint and the Odeon, and the vibrancy of the fair days in Gort and beyond. This book has something for everyone.

Notably, this is Pauline’s third publication in the series South Galway Stories – Oral Narratives and following the success of the previous two volumes, it is clear this edition will do just as well. An ideal stocking-filler for Christmas perhaps?

Roisin Bermingham, Caitlin Ni Mhaoghnais, Sean Bermingham with their copies of the book

L-R: Roisin Bermingham, Caitlin Ni Mhaoghnais and Sean Bermingham with their copies of the book

Threshing with Patricia Egan

Reading the book last weekend, I found it to be a perfect ‘pick up, put down’. The tales are descriptive and put the reader in the centre of the story. For many readers it will feel as though you are sitting right beside the storyteller as they warmly walk you through their memories, lamenting the days of yesteryear. One story relates how Derrybrien native Patricia Egan experienced the annual graft of the threshing.

“The threshing was a big event, it was a big day on the farm and a big day for the village. The meiteál would come in, we would have plenty of food and drink for the workers. It was customary to have bottles of Guinness for the workers.  All the neighbours would help out on every farm as they used to say, one good turn deserves another. Helping out one another, I don’t think much of that goes on nowadays. I suppose it is not needed. Well, people are not growing much corn and everybody has their own machinery. The threshing machine was placed between two large stacks of corn, the men forked the corn into the machine. There were crooks at the back of the machine where we would attach the bags to collect the corn. We would keep the straw and make a reek, this could be used for thatching the houses, it was also used for bedding the cattle. We would sell the corn to Tom Spellman. We would also keep some for the fowl, most people were self-sufficient, and life was much easier. We had less pressure, not like nowadays.”

The Galway Eye asked Pauline why she had taken on such a behemoth of a task and why she felt it was important to gather these tales of old?

I took on this task because I love the olden days and I hate to see the way things have changed so quickly. It is so important for the younger generation to see how their parents and grandparents lived.

Where to Buy

The book is available to buy online via for €14.95 and the entire trilogy is €35 so maybe if you find yourself stuck for a Christmas gift then this would be ideal – and somewhat unique to keep them immersed over the holiday season.

If you don’t wish to buy online the books are available in:

  • Supervalu, Gort
  • News and Views, Gort
  • Quinn’s Hardware, Labane
  • Higgins Centra, Labane
  • Burke’s Londis, Kinvara
  • Londis, Kilcolgan
  • Moran’s Hardware, Moycullen
  • Charlie Byrne’s Bookshop, Galway City

About the Author

John Madden
John joins us from Athlone, not a Galwegian but close enough! He holds an MA in Advanced Social Care and he currently works as a journalist for Ireland’s Traveller centric magazine, Travellers’ Voice. He is also an editor and reviewer with the Galway-based, indie book company, The Book Hub. He has recently penned a chapter in Mental Health for Millennials, the first in a series exploring issues around mental wellness, loss and suicide. He also has a chat show on Athlone Community Radio, in which he interviews guests from all walks of life.