Unlegendary Heroes

'Life passes through places.'

–P.J. Duffy, Landscapes of South Ulster

Patrick Farrell, of Lackagh, who was able to mow one acre and one rood Irish in a day. Tom Gallagher, Cornamucklagh, could walk 50 Irish miles in one day. Patrick Mulligan, Cremartin, was a great oarsman. Tommy Atkinson, Lismagunshin, was very good at highjumping—he could jump six feet high. John Duffy, Corley, was able to dig half an Irish acre in one day. Edward Monaghan, Annagh, who could stand on his head on a pint tumbler or on the rigging of a house.

          –1938 folklore survey to record the local people who occupied the South Ulster parish landscape.

                                                                                                                      * * *



           Kathleen McKenna, Annagola,
who was able to wash a week’s sheets, shirts
      and swaddling, bake bread and clean the house
                   all of a Monday.

            Birdy McMahon, of Faulkland,
walked to Monaghan for a sack of flour two days before
  her eighth child was born.

  Cepta Duffy, Glennan,
very good at sewing—embroidered a set of vestments
   in five days.

  Mary McCabe, of Derrynashallog,
who cared for her husband’s mother in dotage,
   fed ten children,
the youngest still at the breast during hay-making.

   Mary Conlon, Tullyree,
   who wrote poems at night.

   Assumpta Meehan, Tonygarvey,
saw many visions and was committed to the asylum.

   Martha McGinn, of Emy,
who swam Cornamunden Lough in one hour and a quarter.

   Marita McHugh, Foxhole,
whose sponge cakes won First Prize at Cloncaw Show.

   Miss Harper, Corley,
female problems rarely ceased, pleasant in ill-health.

   Patricia Curley, Corlatt,
whose joints ached and swelled though she was young,
   who bore three children.

   Dora Heuston, Strananny,
died in childbirth, aged 14 years,
  last words ‘Mammy, O Mammy!’

   Rosie McCrudden, Aghabog
noted for clean boots, winter or summer,
   often beaten by her father.

   Maggie Traynor, Donagh,
got no breakfasts, fed by the nuns, batch loaf with jam,
   the best speller in the school.

   Phyllis McCrudden, Knockaphubble,
who buried two husbands, reared five children,
   and farmed her own land.

   Ann Moffett, of Enagh,
who taught people to read and did not charge.

Mary O’Donnell, "Unlegendary Heroes" from Unlegendary Heroes.  Copyright © 1998 by Mary O’Donnell.  Reprinted by permission of Mary O’Donnell.
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