and phrases of the last century
was great religious favour in the middle of last century.
Religion was the central core of daily existence. Pictures
of the Sacred Heart and the Blessed Virgin hung in every
Roman Catholic house and the family rosary was recited
every night. Greetings, goodbyes, general comments and even
blasphemy had religious overtones.
1) The following are some phrases and words gone from rural
speech through lack of usage, and due in no small part to
the departure of the Latin Mass and the fall in attendances
at religious ceremonies:
a) Blessings and general comments:
It'll be Saecula Saeculorum before I see a penny of it back.
"Amen" to that (it's settled)
The blessings of God on you! (Thank you very much)
Ah! The poor man, I just gave him something small to help
keep body and soul together. (To keep him alive)
God save all here! (On entering a house)
God be with you! (said to a person setting out on a journey)
See you soon again, Please God!
The Lord between us and all harm! (Expression prefixing
a frightening story, eg "It was a ghost I saw that
Yes! I'll do that with the help of God.
I'll do that with the help of God and 40 policemen. (Granny's
comment-inferring that prayer alone wasn't sufficient to
get things done).
Thou art steward no longer. (You're fired - Grandad jocosely
quoting Luke Chapter 16, to his grandson)
I wrote them a letter of complaint; a right epistle, it
was too! (A long letter).
b) Swearing and irreverent comments. (Venial signs)
Christ! Why did you do that?
Jesus, Mary and Saint Joseph! - you put the heart crossways
in me with the hell' ova fright you gave me.
Go to hell! (Get lost. What you ask is out of the question)
Go away with you; go to hell out' a that. (You're only joking)
You haven't a snowball's chance in Hell.
I'd swear to it on a stack of bibles.
It's the gospel truth.
For the love of Christ! Would ye go away and leave me alone!
Mother of Divine Jesus! Clear off out'a that, the lot of
I'll be playing for the bike till Kingdom come. (bought
Heavens' above! Do you tell me that?
He washed his hands of it (Wouldn't take responsibility
- Like Pontius Pilate)
It's in immaculate condition. (Car salesman describing a
banger; the word 'immaculate' usually associated with the
Blessed Virgin Mary).
c) A rhyme some senior boys told a lad he must recite for
the Bishop on getting a stroke upon the cheek at Confirmation:
Ashes to ashes and dust to dust
If God doesn't take me; the devil must.
Setting out for home or short journey.
It's time I hit the road (time for me to go home or journey
on -- from the Irish buail se on bothar)
I must be on the road (time to go - a long walk home).
Most conversations, particularly between women, had religious
overtones; women prayed a lot, attended evening devotations,
were members of sodalities and listened attentively to the
priest's prayers and sermons. Subconsciously, they emphasised
points in their conversations by using words from the gospels
or prayers. These Bible quoting discussions were at times
overheard by children and caused them serious confusion.
a) The following conversation between three women over heard
by a young lad subsequently caused him doubts about Christ's
Mrs. Finnigan: "Well! according to Mrs. Reilly, John
Magee went to a Dance in Blacklion on St Patrick's night
without his Mary and him going with her for the last six
years; and what's more, he was seen dancing with young wans..."
Mrs. McEntee: "Now! According to Mrs. Magee, and she
swears it's the gospel truth, ...it wasn't to Blacklion
he went at all; it was across the border to a dance in Killesher."
Mrs. McIntyre: "Well, according to the Schoolmistress,
the young wan who's spreading these stories, is a trouble
maker and a word out of her head, shouldn't be believed."
The young lad's father advised him not to believe what he
had overheard saying ... "the women are just repeating
rumours and gossip; everything they say, is according to
this one, that one and the other one". The lad has
religious doubts on the following Sunday when he hears the
priest quoting the Gospel, saying "And according to
the Scriptures, on the third day Christ arose, glorious
and immortal, from the dead". The lad wonders if he
should clarify the matter with Mrs. Reilly, Mrs Magee, or
with the Schoolmistress; no! Perhaps, just with Mrs Magee
... She was speaking the Gospel truth.
b) A child's confusion on hearing his teacher elaborate
on the Powers of Angles and Saints:
"Angels and saints have great powers, said the
schoolmistress, addressing her class of 8 year olds. "Their
powers are supernatural" she continued, "they
don't have to open doors - they can pass through them or
through walls; they don't have to take a bus or car or an
aeroplane to get to where they are going ... they can instantly
appear there; they can appear in several places at once;
now when the Blessed Virgin appeared to the little children
at Fatima, and to Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes, she didn't
have to go to those places by car or by bus or by aeroplane.
Like all of us humans beings would have to do ... she just
appeared at those places; No human being has got such power
... only the Angels and Saints have this power ... Do you
understand?" A small hand shot up at the back of the
class; "you're wrong Miss," said a small boy,
"Maise McDaniel (famous singer) is a human being, and
she can do it; I heard her say on the wireless that she's
appearing in the Lilac ballroom in Enniskean on Sunday night
and in Saint Brigid's hall, Gowna on Monday. Me father says
she must be some sort of saint because she's "appearing"
all over Christ's Own Creation."
e) Some of the late Michael O'Heir's exiting radio commentary
descriptions of GAA football matches... (Now gone from usage,
due to changes in rules - crowding of the player in possession
and man in possession allowed to charge, etc)
He sidesteps one man, and another.
He's sandwiched between two (opposing) players ... a foul,
a foul, a foul.
He sells a dummy, sends a high lobbying ball that's dropping,
dropping, dropping right into the square.
Up they go for it, caught by the Gunner who sends a long
high ball away up the field.
Up they go for it: John Joe O'Reilly goes highest of all,
down he comes with it; kicks a long ball towards Tighe who
has wandered to the right away from his marker, finds him,
and off he goes on a solo run, dummies past one man, sidesteps
another, passes to Stafford who avoids a hard tackle and
sends a low rasping shot into the back of the net.
A high ball away down the field; it's taken out of the clouds
by Victor Sherlock. And the ball has gone wide; as wide
as the proverbial gate.
A right shammozle has developed in the centre of the field.
By Brendan Murray