SINCE I wrote about pishogues a fortnight ago I have been besieged by letters concerning same.
I have also been stopped in the street and in the roadway by people who profess to be authorities on pishogues and who, by their own admission, have suffered considerably at the hands of pishogue practitioners.
“You think,” writes an Ardagh reader, “that Lisselton is bad for pishogues. Well, it has nothing on this place. It is not so bad now, but when I was a young girl, longer ago than I care to remember, there was a fierce outbreak of pishogues here, and all the priests of the parish and neighbouring parishes were powerless to do anything about it.
“Cows died and flocks of hens were wiped out. Cows were slinging by the new time, and five horses died for no reason. Thank God it did not last long. From time to time we have small pishogues, but they are very rare.”
LET US move on to Dirha, near Listowel, where there was a bad pishogue outbreak some 40 years ago. A Dirha woman told me only a few days ago that it was caused by the arrival of a huge American bacon barrel to a certain house in Dirha.
There was intense jealousy as there was great store set by these barrels in those days. One morning the owner of the barrel rose to see his prime rooster with its throat cut hanging from the top bar of a five-bar gate which led into one of his fields.
This pishogue was worked in order to bring a disease on his fowl. The American bacon barrel, which was used to trap rainwater and spare long journeys to the well, suddenly split open and the ground was covered with young green frogs.
I could never find out what purpose the frogs served. They served no good purpose I am quite certain.
I was told recently that when frogs are deposited in barrels, tanks or any other large vessels in a farmyard that the cows of that farmstead dry up.
Another person told me that when frogs are deposited the bacon hanging from the ceiling takes on a tang. The person who told me this was prepared to go on his knees and swear that what he said was the truth.
One thing is absolutely certain, however, the people who live in fear of pishogues would do well to remember it. All pishogue-laying is caused by jealousy, and here is the proof.
A man who has no bacon hanging from his ceiling need not fear a tang. This only happens when the flitches hang in profusion and so incite jealousy in a less fortunate neighbour.
It is the same way with people who have large flocks of fowl. There is often intense jealousy festering in people who have no hen, no duck or no gander.
It could be said that those who avoid ostentation are not putting themselves in the way of pishogues. By all accounts and by every tradition the worst time of year for pishogues is the merry month of May, although there are some agrestics who prefer to call it the ghostly month of May.
May is the first month of summer, the month of lengthening evenings and improved light, the month of darling buds with evidence of growth and pulsing life everywhere.
Hungry April is gone with the last winds of spring. The grass is growing long and green and the spuds are up.
May is a time of hope and renewal and consequently a blow to a man’s hopes at such a time is a cruel stroke.
However, it would seem from all the evidence available that most country people only laugh at pishogues these days, and, as a woman from Knockanure said to me recently, “the electric light did away with all those things.”
I MET my friend, Jack Wilberforce Faulkner in, believe it or not, the city of Limerick quite recently. I was up to see Ryan’s Daughter, and I met him shortly before the show.
He was on one of his rare visits to Limerick and would not have been there at all but for the insistence of a calf buyer who invited him along for company. I asked Jack if he was voting Yes or No in the Common Market referendum.
“I’m voting yes,” Jack informed me. I asked him why.
“Because,” he said, “it will do away with the Border and you’ll have no more compensation camps.”
“That’s all very fine,” the calf buyer chimed in, “but what about all those Czechs and the like?”
“A cheque is a good thing,” Jack Faulkner said, “provided she isn’t a bouncer.”
“What about the Germans and the French and the Poles?” I asked.
“For God’s sake,” said Jack, “the E.S.B. has the country covered with poles and you hear no-one saying a word.”
NOW FOR part of a letter from a reader who wishes to remain anonymous, but who hails from the glorious country near Fermoy in Cork.
“Dear Mr Keane - I am a regular reader of the Leader, and I look forward to reading your article. This week you talk about asses.
I would not like to say much to the ass. You know the great thing he done for us and why he has the cross on his back, and I suppose there was no motor car nearby at that time and I am sorry to say they are getting very few now.
“When we travelled by ass and car we were always in time for Mass, but the motor replaced him, and now we go when it’s half over. The priest might say things that would not suit.
The church might need a few slates. We would not want to hear anything about that and about the asses. I know a few houses here in these modern times that has a few asses and they need no reins.
“We live here in a very remote part of the county, four women of us, of course, one dominates us, all our heads are grey and now she says there is no need to be grey; there is a store in O’Connell Street in Limerick you can get a bottle there that will make you any colour. You know we would love to have our beauty and magic back again.
“Well she knows a lot as she has been abroad for twenty-four years. We must do anything she says, we are stupid and behind the times, myself included. She don’t believe dogs can talk either, neither can I as I pressed my dog very hard what did he think of the North. She is so smart we call her the Minister of Home Affairs. I don’t know how we got on while she was away, we thought the man from the white house would call. Can’t give my name, sorry. If you ever come to Fermoy in the County Cork I will see you, this is my first letter to you.”
The letter is signed “S”.
The late, great John B Keane was a Leader columnist for more than 30 years. This column first appeared in our edition of May 13 1972