St Johnston and Carrigans Donegal



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St Johnston and Carrigans in 1900's

We feel that life in the early 1900’s in the St Johnston and Carrigans area would have meant that people used their feet for transport. Donkey’s and carts were for bigger journeys.

Wages could be up to twelve shillings a week. Some people renting houses from farmers worked for the rent and sometimes got free firing. 

There were lots of children in each family house and the grandparents were often living there too. The children got the jobs of feeding hens and gathering eggs. Rabbits and hares were frequently snared and made into stews. Winters were cruel but those who had sheep had to make long treacherous and difficult journeys in the middle of winter as at other times of the year to make it to sheep fairs. 

Breakfast was porridge which was called stirabout due to the stirring it needed as the pot slowly heated up on the open fire and more often in these parts it was called brothan. Eggs and a rasher of bacon were breakfast luxuries.

Lumpers were the predominately grown potato in Ireland since the introduction of the food in the sixteenth century. The lumpers failed during the Great Famine resulting in much death and devastation. People then were so dependent on the potato that a man would have eaten a stone a day. The lumper was often boiled and other times it was thrown into the hearth to cook. The potato often didn't cook properly the whole way through due to this method. The inside which was usually a bit undercooked was always left for the men of the house. The softer parts were consumed by the children and women of the house. Nowadays it is only potatoes that taste nicer than the humble and mean lumpers that grace our tables! Even today it is no exaggeration to say that the main part of the local diet is the humble spud! This was even more true at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The most detested job of those times would have been making butter in a churn. It took ages, was hard work and was totally boring. Butter milk was as popular then as a drink as coca cola is now! 

As Derry wasn’t far away and the railway went from St Johnston and Carrigans to Derry there were some household items used here that were uncommon in other places. Lifebuoy soap which is no longer made in Europe or America for the demand disappeared a few years ago was used for washing. A lot of people found it made the hair very hard and untouchable and cracked eggs and rubbed them into their hair to condition the hair. 

Visiting, singing in people’s houses, and story telling, pipe smoking, were the pastimes of the day. 

The Parish Mission was probably an annual affair and priests visited every house in preparation for it. Probably the tradition of having Mass at 9 on a Sunday morning, the “first mass” and then having the second at 11 “the second mass” was in existence back then. People couldn’t eat or drink after midnight if they intended to have communion the next day. People intending to go to communion would have made a big effort to make the first mass because the faster they got communion the quicker their fast from food was over!

Nettles were often pulled so that the leaves could be used in soups. The boiling took away the sting. Nowadays the nettle is being recognised by herbalists as a nutritious source that benefits immunity to sickness. In the infamous 1915 flu epidemic which had taken so many lives, many thought that the powers of the nettle kept the flu at bay!

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