It's Us They're Talking About: Liam Grant

Margaret Farren

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Having touched upon my father's side of the family, Liam stops for a while to ponder on mother's side. One of the more interesting characters he remembers is an uncle of my mother's who was known for cures.

He was some boy! He'd have us when we were wanes, pulling up a nice round bush - Jenny Pus you called it - a wee round bush that grew very low to the ground. Whatever way he dosed it up, he put so much of the different herbs and things through it, and he'd have all them oul' women 'round him in Derry looking to buy it off him the minute he got off the bus. There was a lot in them oul' cures. Nearly everything that was growing could be used to make your own bottle of stuff.

But there's one thing not used half enough and that's garlic. Put four pieces of garlic to a five naggin bottle of water and leave it there for a week and every night when you're ready to go to bed, get a half of whiskey and put the garlic through it and you'll have no cough during the winter.

My father was 84 years of age and he had a cough so bad he could hardly sleep at nights. I said I think I can fix you up with that cough and made up that concoction with the garlic and the whiskey and gave it to him. I had to hide the whiskey of course because he never broke his pledge since his confirmation. I'd heard tell of a cure that involved boiling up lemonade and putting a goodle of sugar through it. So I told him it was lemonade. Well, he thought it was the best stuff ever he took and never coughed during the night.

"I had a sister married in Culdaff and didn't she land one day and when she was redding round didn't she come on the whiskey. My father had been telling her about the remedy and she says 'I doubt you were getting more than whiskey' and she showed him the bottle. Well, if I was to go down on my knees that man would never take anything off me ever again, and what did he do only go away and tell Fr. Douglas. Fr. Douglas wanted to know if my father had permission from the doctor to take this remedy, and my father explained that I had just gone away and made it myself. 'Oh I don't know now', says Fr. Douglas, 'the pioneers are very strict.' Sure that was no harm for a man of 84 years to get a night's sleep and it was no harm for me either. If there was any sin, it was me the sin was on."

Liam Grant has the greatest respect for his father both as a father and as the man who gave him most of his material for the Folklore Commission.

"My father could sit there all night telling stories and was full of oul' sayings and cures and all that. And he was very smart. If you were reading out of the paper, he could check you and tell that you said something wrong, and him that never was at school.

"Him and Pat the Yankee and Willie John McGrenna would be over digging prudies. Wee Pat would be wil' to hear the news, but he couldn't read. But no matter what you told him he could remember it. They'd get the papers down in the station in Cleagh and the three of them would go up into the brook and my father would read the paper for them. Wee Pat's memory was amazing. I remember too that no matter what he'd heard up in Gracie's on the radio he'd sa he 'saw it on the radio over at the foot of the road'. I often wondered what he would have made of TV if he'd been alive to see it." Another story about Liam's father ushers in a subject that was very dear to the Folklore Commission's heart, and that is "the gentry", or the fairies.

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