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Wake at Ballinalee

My mother told of attending a wake when a child in her native village Ballinalee, where the pipes that were smoked cermonially at the wake were swiped by her and her freinds. Having no tobacco to smoke, they filled them first with turf and then with coal, only to become deadly sick. The alarmed adults didnt know what was after happening, and they were too afraid to tell due to the beating expected, a secret only told to their own children in time…

Clay pipe remnant of the kind that was smoked at an Irish funeral years  ago. Wefound tons of these in our garden in Banagher when I was a child growing up. This sample is from County Clare.
Clay pipe remnant of the kind that was smoked at an Irish funeral years ago. We found tons of these in our garden in Banagher when I was a child growing up. This sample is from County Clare.

The spirits looked down as people muttered
Gaelic and Latin prayers
More prayed some lines in English
Children played under the stairs
Some pipes smuggled out, filled with turf and coal
Lit with candle wick
They thought themselves grown up, the little fools
Before becoming deadly sick.

The adults thought they ate something bad
The children in pain puked and wept
Story not to be told till they had children of their own
The secret of the sickness from all was kept.
There was music and keening as was the tradition
With pauses from prayers to be said
For traditions sake family held the wake
Last of the old rituals held for the dead.

Glossary

*keening – crying (Irish Gaelic). The Irish had a tradition from pagan times of celebrating the dead. Frowned on by the church, women were hired to cry for the dead, the more there, the wealthier the family looked. Some say its the origin of the banshee belief.

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