It's Us They're Talking About: Margaret Mary Comiskey

Margaret Farren

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"But if you were looking for old cures, Dr Waters was the boy! Some of his cures were wonderful! [laughs] I remember a man came in to the district nurse one time with a very sore hand. It was septic and when she went to dress the hand what had he on it only a poultice of goose dung! That was a general cure at the time, because the goose would be eating all these herbs in the grass that were supposed to be good for you. But sure that wouldn't do him any good! The nurse nearly killed him. [laughs] She had to clean it out and your man fainted.

"There were a whole lot of general cures. A man up in Mindoran had a cure for 'the rose'. Doctors and nurses did not approve of it. There was lots of herbs in it and it ws mixed up with salt and butter and other stuff I think. The rose was like a red swelling and Hannah Farren had it very bad on her head. Dr Dan Doherty and the nurse were attending her, but our Hughie Farren got impatient and went up to Mindoran for the cure. Dr Dan came in while he was away and asked one of the younger ones where their father was. 'He's away for the cure for the rose,' says she. The doctor and nurse curtailed their visits after that. [laughs]

Margaret Mary had few added responsibilities when it came to the collation of the material for the Folklore Commission.

"Mary Doherty from Cloughfin and me were the two that wrote it into the big books. We had to collect our own stories as well, it didn't get us out of that. Our handwriting must have been that wee bit better .

"But sure you got the knuckles battered off you for bad writing. There was a book of headlines and it had to be copied exactly. Blueband margarine had a national competition and you had to write out an essay and there were prizes for the best handwriting. Sarah Duffy was a beautiful writer and she always got the prize. But everyone who entered got a pencil and a Blueband ruler. Rulers weren't too plentiful and if you got a Blueband ruler you were landed!"

The innocence! At this point we are interrupted by Margaret Mary's granddaughter, who has some urgent business for her granny to attend to (not involving a Blueband ruler, you can be sure) and it's time once again for me to push off. Unfortunately, it was also time for me to push off again from the peninsula for a couple of months and I had to forego the chance of interviewing any more scholars this trip. A pity .I thought I was beginning to get quite good at it. Or maybe my subjects were more loquacious than anyone was prepared to give them credit for. How do they rate themselves against the wise old storytellers of '38, I wonder. Since my old man was the most reticent of the group, I'll honour him with the last word.

"Randal Joseph and myself were driving along in his car one time, he was getting me to do a job for him someplace and the cold weather was just coming in and I said to Randal 'You know the way they say you should check on the old people when the cold weather comes on, and see to their shopping and check they have enough heat and all that... well, would you ever think of doing it?' Randal looks at me and him laughing away and he says 'For God's sakes oul' Farren, do ye not know it's us they're talking about!"

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