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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West Cork Flag Day Collections
in aid of Cork ARC Cancer Support House

Cork ARC Cancer Support House’s annual West Cork Flag Day collections are set to take place in Bandon on Friday 21st April and in Castletownbere, Bantry, Ballylickey, Skibbereen, Clonakilty, Kinsale and Macroom on Thursday 27th April, 2017.

Hilary Sullivan, Head of Fundraising / Corporate Affairs at Cork ARC Cancer Support House says: “Please remember on our annual Flag Day collection that all our collectors are volunteers, giving their time freely to raise funds and increase awareness about our cancer support services at our West Cork centre.” Acknowledging the ethos of volunteering being the driving force behind the charity’s work in the community, Hilary also says, “As all of the services at Cork ARC Cancer Support House in West Cork are supported by a large volunteer base, we hope that our volunteer collectors’ generosity of spirit will be rewarded by a warm reception from the public despite the difficult financial conditions experienced by so many people.”
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19th April, 2017  ·  

ECCLES Hotel Glengarriff to host April 30th Wedding Showcase – Newly refurbished ballroom and bedrooms on show – Tasters of Chef Nick Davey’s delicious menus

ECCLES Hotel in Glengarriff has been helping guests to experience West Cork in all its serene beauty for over 250 years. And with the Eccles Team now being led by General Manager Aileen Hanley, that tradition is set to continue.

Aileen joins the historic West Cork Property from Sheen Falls Lodge, Kenmare where she held the position of Sales & Operations Manager. Firmly re-establishing the award-winning property, during her tenure, along with her husband Patrick (now Park Hotel Kenmare General Manager) Aileen plans to continue her success and work her magic at ECCLES Hotel, along with a dedicated team to bring it back to its former glory and re-establish its place in the local community.

Aileen and the team at ECCLES Hotel will host a wedding showcase on Sunday April 30th from 12 to 5pm. The showcase will present the refurbished Ilnacullin ballroom to couples. The ballroom which can comfortably host up to 320 guests, will be set up in all its splendour to help couples visualise their wedding reception at ECCLES Hotel. Some of the hotel’s newly refurbished bedrooms with stunning bay views will also be available to view on the day.

Rose O’Sullivan, wedding coordinator at ECCLES Hotel said, “As well as larger weddings ECCLES Hotel is a wonderful venue for more intimate wedding celebrations too as well as civil ceremonies and blessings. Couples can come and see all we have to offer and enjoy a prosecco and canape reception at the showcase, to give them a flavour of our delicious new wedding fare by Head Chef Nick Davey.”

For more information visit www.eccleshotel.com, call 027 63003 or email weddings@eccleshotel.com
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19th April, 2017  ·  

Clonakilty Cruinniú na Cásca event

As part of the “Cruinniú na Cásca” initiative, Dúchas Clonakilty Heritage has organised a complimentary guided historical walk of Clonakilty town starting at 12.00 noon at the Michael Collins statue on Easter Monday.

The event is totally free and the walk will be led by Dúchas Clonakilty Heritage committee member, Fachtna McCarthy.
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13th April, 2017  ·  

The Peninsula Players' stage their new play "The Cripple of Inishmaan" on April 28th & 29th in the Beara Bay Castletownbere. Tickets at the door. Unsuitable for younger audiences. Not for the faint-hearted! ... See MoreSee Less

10th April, 2017  ·  

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