St Johnston and Carrigans Donegal



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St Johnston and Carrigans in the 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 have been up to twelve shillings a week though it is unlikely any in the area earned that much!  As the area was always at a disadvantage many employers might have been struggling as well.   Wages could have been 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.  The most detested job of the times could have been making butter in a churn.  It took ages and was totally boring.  Butter milk was as popular then as a drink as coca cola is now!  

Tea was a rareity and a luxury.  Oatmeal and buttermilk were big parts of the diet.  Meat was eaten very infrequently except by the better off families.

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!  Of course the main part of the diet was the humble spud!  

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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