The County Limerick Under 14 Cross Country Relay Team

Dermot Pierse with his gold medal for the U14 Cross Country relay team.













Athea Community Games

It was a successful day at The National Sports Centre in Abbotstown for the first weekend of the Community Games finals with five children from Athea representing County Limerick.  It is a great achievement for a child to compete at a national level and it is only after dedicated and continuous hard work and training.  Congratulations and well done to Clodagh Ahern, Sarah Morrisey and Aoibhinn Morrisey who all competed in the Gymnastics final.  Anne-Marie Pierse represented Limerick swimming 50 meters Butterfly in the Under 16 category and Dermot Pierse qualified to run 800 metres as part of the Limerick Under 14 Cross Country relay team.  After winning their first heat the Limerick Cross Country relay team fought a tight battle in the final race but they managed to get first over the line and secure a gold medal for the county.  Congratulations to Dermot and the rest of the Limerick team on such an outstanding success.


Donie Lyons from Dromreask, Glin will launch his new CD The Lovely Banks of Blaine at Barrett’s Bar Glin on Sunday May 14 at 3pm.

A Very Important Month 

Domhnall de Barra 

The month of May is one of the most important in the old Irish calendar. May 1st is one of the quarterly days and is associated with many customs and traditions. As in much of northern Europe, May Day in Ireland, was a celebration and welcome of the summer. Here, it is rooted in the pre-Christian festival of Bealtaine. Bealtaine embraces the summer, bidding farewell to the dark winter half of the year. Flowers, dancing and bonfires featured strongly in the festivities. People also sought protection for themselves, their homes and livestock against supernatural forces. On May eve it was customary to sprinkle holy water on the land, crops and animals to ward off those with the “evil eye” who, it was believed, had the power4 from the devil to take the produce for themselves. “Pisheógs” was the name given to those who practiced the black arts. Pisheog is translated as “superstition”  and I suppose much of what went on was in the mind of people who lived in fear of a particular individual. You wouldn’t hear much about it now but, when I was a lad, it was rife in the locality. We all knew of certain families who were supposed to have the power and we lived in fear of them. My mother was a strong believer and could recall many an event to back it up. My father, on the other hand,  was more sceptical and used to make fun of her fears until something happened to put a question or two in his mind. He had his own lorry and one day he did a job of shifting stones for a family who were suspected of  practicing pisheógs. Although they had only a small holding their barns were always full of hay and they had many more cattle than the land could sustain. My father had no fears about working for them despite my mother’s warnings. From the day he took the load of stones things started to go wrong. The lorry kept breaking down for no apparent reason, work dried up and he found himself unable to make any money. This went on for a few weeks until one day my mother decided to clean out the cab of the lorry. There was an old cushion on the driver’s seat, cloth covering a honeycomb sponge. When she lifted it up she found an egg underneath.  She took the egg, doused it in holy water and threw it down the mountain as far as she could. She also gave the lorry a good dousing for good measure. From that day on things were back to normal, the lorry stopped breaking down and there was plenty of work to be done. Maybe it was all a big co-incidence but who knows?  A neighbouring farmer had such bad luck that he almost was wiped out. Milk would go sour, calves would die and the hay would rot in the stack and the shed. One of the men who worked there told me that when they were drawing in the hay there would be eggs found in the cocks. They also found a salmon and pieces of  bacon. Eventually they had to bring in a priest who said a special Mass on the farm and again their luck changed and they never again looked back.  These are just a couple of incidents but there are people in this parish with many more tales to tell. To this day people will spread the holy water about on May Eve, just in case somebody is still practicing.

Since medieval times in Ireland, there has been a strong association with the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary during the month of May. Much of the traditions associated with May have been incorporated into the Marian processions found throughout the country.  To this day “The Queen of the May” sung by Fr. Sidney McKeon, is broadcast on Radio 1  on May 1st.   Flowers also played a big part in the May customs. The flowers were placed on the doorsteps of houses and on windowsills. They were believed to offer luck to the house and offer protection from pisheogs and bad fairies. It was believed that the fairies could not enter the home as they could not pass such sweet smelling flowers. May was also a time of celebration with many festivals. Many towns and villages had May bushes which were decorated and in village centres a Maypole was often erected. This had brightly coloured ribbons attached to it and young people danced around the pole. The festivities were often accompanied by the lighting of bonfires, another very old tradition.

In summary, May Day in Ireland was a festival to welcome the summer and to protect the family and livelihood of the farm from supernatural forces. It was a festival celebrated with flowers, fires and dancing and had strong links to the same holiday celebrated throughout northern Europe.