Making a match in times gone by

Posted on: 6th February, 2017

Category: The History Corner

Contributor: Patrick J. Mahoney

Patrick J. Mahoney studied cultural history at NUI Galway’s Centre for Irish Studies, and now teaches in the department of history at Sacred Heart University, Connecticut. He is interested in the study of emigrant narratives, and the Irish historical experience as it relates to those in the United States and Britain. This column highlights the stories of significant people and places with West Cork connections, throughout the world.

Valentine’s season is upon us yet again, and as such, florists rejoice and couples the world over take a moment or two to show a bit of appreciation for their partners. Undoubtedly, the day serves as a time for such couples, whether they’ve been together for ten months or ten years, to think back on their respective histories together (for better or worse!) Yet, far from the flowers, heart shaped boxes of sweets and romantic gestures of the current climate, one can’t help but think back to a time in the not-too-distant past when matches weren’t based solely on love or attraction. Rather, couples came together through the skilled negotiating of professional matchmakers, the likes of which were known in every locality across West Cork.

Shrove Tuesday, the eve of Lent, was traditionally the day for matchmaking, during which romantic intermediaries would discreetly call upon homes with females of marriageable age, attempting to strike up a lasting connection with a potential local suitor. It mattered little if the potential couple had ever met previously, or whether there was a spark when they eventually did, for from its inception, the union was based more on convenience and status rather than love. If, upon learning more about their potential son-in-law, namely the extent of his landholdings and suitability to provide for their daughter, the girl’s parents were agreeable, a meeting would be arranged. The venue for such further negotiations was typically the parlour of the local pub, where drink flowed freely to aid in the process. The skill of the matchmaker was often pivotal at this stage in the game to make suggestions and curtail the many difficult questions that might make or break a potential deal. Despite the progress that might be made during the session, matches were rare on the first go around.

Further confirmation of the various claims that had been made during the previous session were often needed, and sought, by having a ‘walking of the land’. As such, male members of the potential bride’s family would visit the gentleman farmer’s property and take inventory of all that was contained there within. However, much like the online dater in today’s day in age that seeks to bend the truth in order to attract a potential mate, it wasn’t unheard of for a cooperative neighbour to lend a cow or two to the suitor in question on the day of the visit to boost his stock! Assuming all was in order during the walk about, further negotiations began.

At this advanced stage, a bottle of whiskey was brought to the house where the match was now all but guaranteed. With an agreeable dowry set, typically paid by the bride’s family in two installments, the first upon the marriage and another upon the occasion of the birth of the first child, the match could be finalised. As such, the hob was struck and the matchmaker would say, “Would you let this girl be buried with this man’s family?” With an “I would” from the girl’s father, the matchmaker’s job was done, and preparations for the impending wedding could be made!

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Bandon Walled Town Festival in looking for new ideas!
Would you like to get involved in the 2018 Festival?If you yourself would like to be involved in big or small way
email bandonwalledtown@gmail.com
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11th October, 2017  ·  

Submarines, American Sailors, and the Underwater War in Irish Waters, 1917-1918
by Dr John Borgonovo in The Parish Centre, Clonakilty
on Thursday Oct 26 2017 at 8.30 pm

In 1917, unrestricted submarine warfare by German U-boats brought the United States into WWI and created a crisis in Britain. To defeat the submarine menace, an American naval fleet was dispatched to County Cork, bringing about 10,000 sailors with it. This talk will explain the circumstances of this extraordinary event, and how Cork residents dealt with their unexpected American guests.

Dr John Borgonovo is a lecturer in the School of History at UCC. His publications include Spies, Informers, and the 'Anti-Sinn Féin' Society: The Intelligence War in Cork City, 1920-1921; The Dynamics of War and Revolution: Cork City, 1916-1918; Exercising a close vigilance over their daughters: Cork women, American sailors, and Catholic vigilantes, 1917-18; Something in the Nature of a Massacre: The Bandon Valley Killings Revisited (with Andy Bielenberg). His latest publication (with co-authors John Crowley, Donal Ó Drisceoil and Mike Murphy) is the highly acclaimed and magnificient Atlas of the Irish Revolution. In July of this year, he organised a very successful conference on Winning the Western Approaches - Unrestricted Submarine Warfare and the US Navy in Ireland 1917-1918.
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11th October, 2017  ·  

Apple Juicing Day in Clonakilty next Sunday Sept 30th. All welcome to bring their apples from 2-6pm to the Clonakilty Community Garden (on entrance road to Clonakilty Lodge).

Building on the success of its inaugural 2016 event, local voluntary environmental organisation Sustainable Clonakilty invites people to bring along their apples and press them to extract their own juice to take home, using the group's Apple Press.

Volunteers will be at hand to assist in the procedure. Bring along your apples washed; clean containers to freeze your juice (milk/juice bottles or cartons, plastic bottles with caps); clean, sterilised glass bottles to pasteurise with swing caps or suitable for 26 mm diameter metal cap.

A limited number of new 3 litres juice bags that are suitable for freezing and pasteurising, can be purchased for a nominal fee on the day also.

This is a free community event and donations will be welcome to cover costs.

For further information, please contact Xavier at xavierdubuisson@gmail.com or text at 086/0476124.
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26th September, 2017  ·  

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