Bellaghy Historical Society – November 2003

The November meeting of the Bellaghy Historical Society was addressed by Mr. Alec Blair, well known historian and broadcaster, on the subject of Past Entertainments and Diversions of the Ulster countryside.

Always amusing and informative on any subject, Mr. Blair did not disappoint his audience as he relived the days of the ceili houses where people (always men) gathered in certain houses for the exchange of news and views on farming, market prices and general country topics. Clay pipes would be supplied and the smoke of these mingled with the smoke of the turf fire without any recorded detriment to the health of the participants.

Houses were not picked for their size but rather for the charisma or scholarship of their owners. Mr. Blair recommended that the location of the ceili houses of Bellaghy should be recorded before this information was lost for ever. Wakes gave a great opportunity for the same type of gathering but if drink was introduced (and it usually was) and music (which sometimes was) they became so rowdy that the churches had to admonish their members to try to bring an end to this practice. Food and tea were made in large quantities by the women of the house for this type of hospitality.

This was also the case when Harvest time came and morrowing began, when neighbours helped each other with the crops, going from house to house until all was safely gathered in. There was great conviviality also at Fairs where both men and women would go to sell their beasts or produce and much liquor was consumed, the navigating of the journey home being left very often to the horse which drew their vehicle. Murmuring at Halloween where a little play was enacted, and visits for New Year were further occasions for merriment in those days before television brought an end to conversation.

Mrs Mary Breslin, Chairperson, thanked the Speaker for his very entertaining talk, so well illustrated by his frequent quotes from poems and written accounts of these forms of hospitality. She reminded members that a few copies still remained of the reprint of the Societys book Life in the Past which would make an ideal Christmas present for relatives who lived abroad. The speaker for the December meeting will be Mr Roy Kirkpatrick who will relate many amusing anecdotes of his time as a country Veterinary surgeon.

Mr-Alex-BlairMr. Alec Blair, well known historian and broadcaster, who was the guest speaker at the November meeting. Mr Blair spoke on the subject of Past Entertainments and Diversions of the Ulster countryside.

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