23rd August 2017 – Fingal in Ten Items

Heritage Week: Fingal in Ten Items

Skerries Historical Society’s contribution to Heritage Week was from Geraldine Clarke who spoke at the Fingal In Ten Items event held in Malahide under the auspices of Mayor, Mary McCamley and Heritage Officer, Gerry Clabby.

The theme this year was our natural heritage and Geraldine used Terry Wheatley’s 1985 paper, A Hedgerow in Skerries, as the basis for her talk. Hedges have been around for a very long time. Indeed, the word ‘hedge’ derives from the Saxon word ‘haga’ meaning hawthorn which was and still is commonly used in hedging.

The various species encouraged to grow in the hedgerows all had their uses. Willow could be used for basketry, oak was used for cartwheels with hornbeam for the central hub of the wheel and ash for the rims. Ash also provided broom handles with the bristles coming, unsurprisingly, from the broom plant. Maple and holly wood could be whittled into spoons while yew, famous for its flexibility, was made into the archer’s bow.

Some of the smaller species found in the hedges were medicinal plants such as Comfrey for healing broken bones and Woundwort for sealing cuts. Eyebright was, of course, good for the eyes while Fleabane would banish fleas.

But not all the uses were so clearly practical. Holly might make great spoons but it was also supposed to give one foresight. Mistletoe was an aid to fertility and warded off evil. Evil was certainly lurking in the hedges if any unwary girl was unwise enough to pick hazelnuts on a Sunday – the devil would take the form of the girl’s boyfriend and leave her with a hedge-got baby.

There were a total of nine talks ranging from one about an Edward VIII coronation mug, never used due to the abdication crisis, to Peadar Bates reminding us that Seaweed Wars were not confined to the Skerries and Balbriggan coastline but were also prevalent in Donabate where one combatant declared ‘I’d rather die than give up my seaweed’.

Pat Kelly brought a beautiful piece of embroidery detailing the history of Lusk while Neil Dunne recited a poem on the Flora and Fauna of Fingal. Jim English of Birdwatch Ireland discussed the Birds of Rogerstown Estuary. There was a fascinating appraisal of the life of botanist Robert Lloyd Praeger while Una O’Brien discussed agricultural techniques in Fingal from the Middle Ages through to more modern times. More aquatic talks included Paddy Reilly talking about Malahide Oysters and James Bennett and Bernadette Marks giving a detailed description of what is to be found along the banks of the Broadmeadow river below Lissenhall Bridge.

All in all we had a great evening, being entertained and informed by local historians from all over Fingal.

Report by Oona Roycroft

Geraldine Clarke of Skerries Historical Society with Mayor McCamley and representatives from the other historical societies in Fingal.
Click on image to enlarge.