It may be interesting, at least to the younger
generation, to learn something of the living conditions and customs of the
pioneers, as well as the social relations held among them and their
families in early years. At first, the dwellings of the pioneers were
separated by two or three miles; the farms were only cleared in spots, a
footpath through the woods led from one home to another, but they visited
on another frequently.
Their only entertainment was the friendly
conversation indulged in during these visit. It was nothing for one to
visit another at night and travel several miles through the woods for that
purpose. The other was then bound to return the visit without fail, as
soon as possible.
was no backbiting of neighbours then neighbours were too few and too
precious. Though not be blood related, they were as brothers all, by
the kindred tie of voluntary exile to a land unknown but in name; an
unpeopled wilderness to be converted into a prosperous country, now
amongst the happiest on the continent, if not on earth.
continuous labour and a sufficiency of lifes needs, they were
contented, they were happy. There was no craving for wealth, no
almighty dollar craze, no get rich quick schemes, nothing but a good
days work, a pleasant meeting of near neighbours in the evening and
good nights rest, to resume the same thing over again on the next day.
Their only care was to place their sons on farms of their own, as near
to the parental home as possible, and they started them at an early
age. There was yet no thought of any other vocation than farming, no
professional or easy life held in view, farming was the mainstay of the
place; it is today, and so far as I can venture to predict, it will
continue to be the noblest pursuit on earth. Naturally enough, these
good people needed their periods or relaxation from strenuous work.
grand season for social gatherings and celebrations was Christmas, and
it was observed from December 25th until January 6th,
which was called Old Christmas. In each district, every home was to be
visited by neighbours on some night during this period, the man of the
house, in his turn, being the host, and the good neighbours his guests.
The best in the house was prepared for them, including, of course, Mac
An Toisich. Songs, old folk lore, and anecdotes were more on the
program than dancing, and at a seasonable time they went to their hones,
to continue the good work by visiting the next house the following
Year varied the program somewhat. The last night of the year was called
Opidche choinnie or Oidhche Challain. Every window in the house
was lit with candles till after midnight, likely to lead the New Year
in. On this night every house in the district was visited. The doors
were supposed to lock. The men in the company carried clubs, camian,
and made known their presence by vigorously beating the outside walls.
The man inside said, Gabh do dhuan, whereupon the leader outside
repeated a verse or two of Duan Callain a New Year poem. It always
ended with a request to be admitted to the hospitality of the home, upon
which the door was opened, and the company cheerfully treated to
refreshments. They remained but a short time in a house, as every home
in the district had to be visited. It would be considered an insult to
occasion generally fixed for social gathering was a night or two before
Lent, during which the same big-hearted hospitality and simple joys were
indulged in. But during the whole year, and particularly during the
long winter nights, these good people visited one another regularly.
These neighbourly visits were called ceilidh. A night visit was
ceilidh oidhche. On a dark night the visitor carried a firebrand, aithinnie,
to light his way. This he swung right and left in the air to keep it
blazing. This was before the introduction of lanterns and it served its
purpose admirably. The conversation by the fireplace was generally
Scottish folklore, stories about brave warriors of the Highlands. They
also had weird stories about ghosts, hobgoblins, bocain, and what-not,
from the Old Country. Hair-raising stories about the antics of an
unearthly Bocain called Colain gun cheann, held the young
breathless, and often caused an uncomfortable shifting of chairs nearer
to the company on the part of their elders tool. Thus, these pioneers
passed their days in toil unremitting, and their nights in harmless
amusement. Would it be to God that the same standard of morality, the
same lofty ideals, the same undaunted courage, and tireless perseverance
remained with their successors.
from pages 72 74. Cuir is Buain A genealogical History of
Glendale and Neighbouring Communities. Compiled by the Glendale Gaelic &
Historical Society. Cuir is Buain means what you sow, you reap.
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