Eating turkey Goose and Blackbirds
Interview with Pat ‘Hora, Kilbannon, Tuam, Co. Galway
1st December 2017
Eating turkey, geese and blackbirds
CD: You mentioned there about the goose and the turkey for Christmas. Did you rear your own fowl or would you have bought them for Christmas?
POH: No, usually they were bought; there was a great market in turkeys, in some times the older people who were clever would want a certain type of goose and they’d know…and sometimes your Christmas dinner would be won on a card game. There would be huge card games coming up to Christmas.
CD: And a goose or a turkey would be a great thing to get as a prize or in a raffle or something…
POH: But you didn’t want a goose that spent a lot of time on the water; that was… they were really saying that a goose kind of has to be corn fattened
POH: ….for a couple of months before Christmas and some people
CD: To have a bit of substance to him
POH: And you wouldn’t know and the goose couldn’t tell you! And another thing was the age of the goose. I remember my grandmother saying that you should be able to tear the webbing on the goose’s foot, and that must have been hard you know if the goose was you know… Now they probably wouldn’t be able to tear it, but that would determine the age of the goose, if you wanted a younger goose. So, if you couldn’t tear the webbing between the toes…
CD: So, you had to have an eye for these things?
POH: Oh, yeah they had, they had and they would have built up skills about how to…must people who were eating meat or eating game or that kind of thing would know a lot about it or be able to determine a lot about it, you know? I remember they used to tear the ear of the rabbit as well, was it a young rabbit or an old rabbit…
POH: You wouldn’t tear an old rabbit’s ear, so if you were dealing with an old rabbit you had to deal with it from a cooking point of view
CD: Cook it a different way?
POH: If it was a stew…
CD: And would you hunt much, in terms of snaring?
POH: A huge amount…I remember reading the folklore collection for Kilbannon school and there was a thing in it called, “caitheamh aimsire”, what you did in your spare time and this young lad, he started off, he fished and then he hunted and then he went bobbing for eels… and what they used to do during the winter was a thing called a cradle bird. It was a trap made from elder wood …the bird went under it and the trap collapsed
CD: And the bird was caught
POH: But what they used to do, they used to actually cook and eat the blackbirds in the orchards. They used to trap the blackbirds in the orchards because the blackbirds would be doing damage to the emerging buds, the orchard buds…
POH: I know one man; he’s dead now in the last ten year, he admitted to having his blackbird stew.
CD: Blackbirds would be fairly small though, by the time you’d …
POH: Oh, you’d have ten or twenty of them
CD: You’d want a load of them, yeah
POH: The time they’d be hunted would be the time there’d be snow in the orchard, you’d put the cradle bird in and catch the blackbirds and used to kind of say that’s terrible
CD: Because a blackbird is a beautiful bird
POH: Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie!
CD: Yeah, that has its origins somewhere doesn’t it!
POH: That was the only place I’ve seen the tradition remain and they were taken out of a orchard…all the time during snow, heavy snow because the person would have nothing to do, so he’d make the cradle. But the theme running through all these kids pastimes, was hunting.