(réf.  Etudes Britanniques Contemporaines n° 6. Montpellier: Presses universitaires de Montpellier, 1995)


The Barracks by John John McGahern: annotation 

Michael Walsh (Université Paris 7, Institut Charles V)



Although the characters in John McGahern's extraordinary novel and the story that unfolds through them have an unmistakable universal resonance, the text is deeply rooted in its human environment and contains a great many references, particularly to the religious culture of the Ireland of the late 1940s and to the history of the country, both recent and more remote. The notes which follow are designed to assist students in an understanding of the specific nature of those local particularisms. (1)


P.7 (l. 9) the Sacred Heart lamp A small, usually red-tinted light bulb inserted into a socket in front of an image of Christ pointing to his exposed heart. Devotion to the Sacred Heart appeared in Ireland at the beginning of the 19th century. Ireland was formally consecrated to the Sacred Heart in 1873.

(10) the . . . crib of Bethlehem Even the poorest Irish households would have a small crib at Christmas time, with clay figurines of the Virgin, Joseph, the Infant Jesus, etc.

(11) their father's tea In rural Ireland, tea generally refers to the evening meal: see, for example, Reegan's meal after the Circuit Court, 64 (7);  dinner was the mid-day meal (cf 212 [7]). The usage was not systematic, however, since supper was also used, cf 23 (26) where Casey speaks of "goin' up for the bit of supper".

 P. 9 (6) press A closed cupboard used for airing and drying clothes.

(24) turf A form of fuel, also known as peat. Vast tracts of bog (cf. 29 [15]) are to be found in many parts of Ireland but particularly in the West, where the action of the novel is set. Most farmers in the West of Ireland would also have owned a patch of bog from which they extracted enough turf for the purposes of cooking and heating throughout the year.


P. 10      (4) guards The Irish police force, also known by its Gaelic form, Gardai (cf. 1l [27]).

 P. 11      (27) with its S twined through the Celtic G The official title of the Irish Police Force was Garda Siochana, the Gaelic for Keepers of the Peace. Until recently, and certainly at the time of the novel, the Irish language possessed its own alphabet derived from medieval manuscript writing, distinct in many respects from the English alphabet.

P. 14      (2) Angelus A Roman Catholic prayer said twice daily, at 12 noon and at 6 in the evening.

(21) The eternal medals and rosary beads ... Irish Catholicism is strongly Marian in character and many Irish Catholics would wear so-called Miraculous Medals, engraved with the figure of the Virgin, on chains around their necks. Until Vatican II it would have been common practice for Catholics in Ireland to recite the rosary (cf. 33 [17]) silently during Mass which, at that time, was said in Latin. The reference here is to lost medals and rosary beads being found in the Church grounds and hung on the spikes to be reclaimed by their owners.

 P. 16      (9) "I lit three candles today ..." It was, and remains, a feature of Irish Catholic devotional practise to light candles, often known as penny candles (cf. 79 [29]) at the shrine of the Virgin or of a particular saint and to impale them on spikes in front of the statue, often in the hope of obtaining a favour or wish.

P. 18      (6) to bow the knee and kiss the ring Acts that symbolise subservience to the authority of the Catholic Church (the ring in question being that of a Bishop).

 P. 20      (25) cabbage ... turnips Elizabeth had obviously been preparing Cabbage and Bacon, a staple of the Irish diet of the time, composed of cabbage and pork, occasionally, as here, enlivened by the addition of a sliced turnip, or Rutabaga, not to be confused with the English turnip, or Swede.

 P. 21      (7) the raking of the ashes There are several references to in the novel. The operation was performed twice a day: at night, before going to bed, the remains of the turf fire were smothered in ashes; the following morning, the ashes were removed, revealing the still-burning embers underneath which, deprived of air, had continued to


burn during the night. This allowed for the speedy lighting of a fresh fire in the morning.

P. 23  (8) this holy, catholic and apostolic country The qualifiers all come from the Credo or Apostles' Creed (... et unam sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam) which was usually the first full prayer of the rosary. The speaker's intention is evidently heavily sarcastic.

(14) Cromwell Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland from 1653 to 1658, is respected and, in some cases, revered in England but loathed and reviled in Ireland on account of his campaign of indiscriminate massacre against Irish supporters of Charles I during his Irish campaign in 1649.

(14) Get roasted alive in hell or drownded and perished in Connaught A highly idiomatic version of the slogan that accompanied the settlement consequent upon Cromwell's conquest: "To Hell or to Connaught!" The soldiers and financiers of the war (adventurers) were paid in the form of land from which the native inhabitants were driven, towards inferior land in the agriculturally poorer province of Connaught, where the action of the novel takes place.

P. 24      (36) St Therese This is Saint Th6r@se of Lisieux, known as the Little Flower, not to be confused with Saint Teresa of Avila 74.

P. 25 (12) the bare five feet nine The regulation height (lm 75, approx.) for young men wishing to become policemen.

(35) sallies The Hiberno-English for osier.

 P. 26      (9) Early York A variety of cabbage, ready for cropping, early in the season (cf. 20   [25]).

(10) ragged belt of straw The bundles of small plants, intended to be planted out at the beginning of March, were traditionally held together by a long rope of twisted straw.

(29) dresser The difference between a dresser and a press (cf. 9 [6]) was that the upper part of the dresser was open, whereas the corresponding section of a press was closed off. Both were used for storage, the dresser usually for crockery and the press generally for clothes.

(32) soda bread A very common type of white bread, made with bicarbonate of



soda, not yeast, which was usually home-made.

(34) porter A variety of black beer, of which Guinness is the most renowned.

P. 28      (19) "Thirty-six inches across the chest ..." The regulation chest measurement (0 m 91, approx.) for young men wishing to join the Gardai.

(19) a yard thick with solid ignorance A play on words, thick meaning both stupid and fat or portly.

(19) Connemara A wild and mountainous region of the West of Ireland. Casey is here the spokesman for a widespread cultural prejudice, suggesting that the inhabitants of such a region lack intelligence.

(26) the Depot The Headquarters of the Gardai.

(26) in the first days of the Irish Free State The Irish Free State was proclaimed in December, 1922.

(27) The British had withdrawn ... The British forces and administration withdrew from the 26 counties that made up the Irish Free State.

(32) tricolour … The green, white and gold flag of the Irish Free State (cf. 118 [1])

(32) a language of their own to learn The Irish language, or Gaelic, a member of the Celtic language group, to which Welsh and Breton also belong

(37) the Phoenix Park An immense public park situated some two miles from the centre of Dublin.

 P. 29 (2) Phibsboro' A suburb of Dublin to the north of the city.

(5) as they marched to Mass on Sunday mornings The vast majority of the police force would have been – and remains – Roman Catholic. The militant act of police force may be seen as a triumphalist act of self-assertion but its sectarian overtones are inescapable.

(14) creel of turf This was a barrel-shaped container of which there were generally two, made of wicker (sally rods, cf. 25 [35]), joined by a strap. When filled with turf, they were fitted on to two prongs set in parallel wooden bars that rested on a straddle on the donkey's back. The creel could also be used singly, when it would have been slung over a farmer's back by means of a straw rope.

(15) the bog Cf. 9 (24) Bog is soft, spongy, water-logged ground composed of vegetation which, as it decomposes, becomes compressed by the weight of the overlying material. These accumulations reach considerable density and, when extracted in small sections and dried, make an excellent fuel. Ireland boasts several turf-fuelled electric power stations.




(26) the concate The conceit; a transcription of the local accent.

(33) B.A. Bachelor of Arts. Degree awarded in the Arts and Humanities after three years of study.

(33) barrister In the legal profession in Britain and Ireland, the advocate who, begowned and bewigged, having received a brief from the solicitor who will have done all the research into the case, pleads the case in court before the judge and, in criminal cases, the jury.

P. 30 (37) Kelly, the Boy from Killann A popular marching song associated with the Irish Rising of 1798. The lyrics were written by RJ. McCall. The melody is traditional.

P. 32      (17) The Sweepstake programme A radio programme that advertised the Irish Sweepstake which was a form of international lottery set up in the late 40s, income from which was used, among other things, to finance the construction of hospitals throughout Ireland.

 P. 33 (7) beads The rosary beads.

(13) Franciscan brown The shade of brown of the robes worn by Franciscan monks.

(17) "Thou, 0 Lord, ... And my tongue..." The opening responses of the rosary, the most common form of collective Catholic worship in Ireland after the Mass. It consists of the Creed, followed by five decades, each consisting of one Our Father, ten Hail Marys and one Gloria, after which there were optional appendages, most noticeably, as in the Reegan household, the Marian Litany and, possibly, a series of prayers of a local or personal character.

 P. 36      (24) Mystical Rose... The Marian litany, which followed upon the five decades of the rosary.

(33) "The Dedication of the Christian Family" A certain number of prayers, inspired by the local parish clergy, or of more personal intent, could be appended to the rosary. At this period, a movement had been launched, spearheaded principally by Canon Fulton Sheehan, to encourage the saying of the rosary by the whole family.

(35) The Canonization of Blessed Oliver Plunkett (1629-1681) Archbishop of Armagh, thus head of the Irish Church. He was falsely accused of plotting to bring 20,000 French soldiers into Ireland to overthrow English rule. He was hanged, drawn and quartered. At the time of the action, he had been beatified (hence the Blessed).



He was canonized in 1976.

(37) Drogheda After a siege, Cromwell (cf. 23 [14]) and 8000 soldiers stormed this walled town, situated some thirty miles north of Dublin and then slaughtered 3000 defenders and townspeople, in September, 1649.

 P. 37 (6) 0 Jesus, I must die... The concluding prayer of the rosary.

(28) official green thread Again (cf. 47,35 the green mail car), a reference to the national colour.

 39 (22) When I rake the fire (cf. 21 [7])

(34) sods of turf The turf is dug out in rectangular lumps, known as sods with a spade-like implement called a Steeveen (there is no English equivalent). The lumps vary in size but would have measured approximately 0m50 long x 0m15 wide x 0m 15 deep on average.

 P. 41      (13) the Circuit Court A local court with a civil competence to deal with matters involving sums between £5000 and £50,000 and a criminal competence to deal with offences of a certain gravity that do not, however, extend to rape and murder.

(34) Woodbines A brand of cheap cigarettes, occasionally sold in boxes of five.

 P. 47      (35) the green mail car Mail vans were, and still are, painted green, the "national" colour of Ireland. (cf. 118 [1])

(36) the cylinders of paper Newspapers, of which there would not have been more than a dozen or so for the small town in question, used to be packaged, not in bales one on top of the other, but rolled up in cylinders.

 P. 48      (1) council quarries Stone quarries belonging to the local, here probably Roscommon, county council.

(5) Shannon Ireland's main river, 161 miles (258 km) long, with its source in Co Cavan and reaching tidewater and the Atlantic at Limerick, navigable for light vessels over much of is length.

(7) wanted any messages done This is a typical Hiberno-English formulation of wanted him to run any errands.

(8) The Express An English daily newspaper.

(8) The Independent Properly The Irish Independent, one of the three national dailies with The Irish Press and The Irish Times.




P. 52      (15) First Mass (18) Second At the time of the action, roughly 95% of the inhabitants of the Irish Republic were Catholics and a large percentage practised their religion regularly. Thus, even small rural parishes would have to organise several Masses each Sunday morning.

(19) at the rails The action precedes Vatican II by more than ten years. At that time, communicants would have received the sacrament of communion kneeling at the altar rails.

(24) Woman A popular woman's weekly magazine.

 (17) Fogra Tora A police publication containing information about individuals wanted in connection with various criminal activities. The title literally means Notice of Felony

(35) Skerries A coastal town in north county Dublin.

(3) "… I couldn't meet me Waterloo" An idiomatic expression, derived from the Battle of Waterloo and meaning to be defeated. Here, in jocular mode, Casey indicates that Mrs Casey bested him in a purely amorous contest.

(8) Pavilion the name of the local dancehall.

(16) Red island An island off the coast of north County Dublin on which one of the first Holiday Camps was installed.

(16) Mick Delahunty A popular dance band of the late 40s and 50s. Dance bands were frequently referred to simply by the name of the lead singer or player.

(18) he was mad for a court Idiomatic expression meaning He was very anxious for a session of kissing and cuddling (nothing more intimate).

(31) as the fit hur As the effort of such laughter gave her a pain in her side.

 P. 55      (14) curly cabbage A variety of cabbage with curly-edged leaves, sometimes also known as curly kale.

(17) potato ridges Potatoes were set, three or four across, in rows, or ridges, or varying length (cf. 131 [25]).

(20) water sally A variety of osier.

 P. 57 (4) meal This is animal feed, flakes or granules of oats or imported maize.

(16) soda and salt and sour milk The ingredients of soda bread, the natural accompaniment of savoury dishes, such as eggs and bacon, for instance (cf. 26 [32]).



 P. 58 (14) a dipping-place for sheep A place where the sheep was completely immersed (dipped) in a disinfectant chemical mixture as a prophylactic treatment against scab and parasitic infection.

 P. 59      (10) The Last Post The military salute, generally on a trumpet, played over the coffins of dead soldiers.

 P. 61      (15) G.A.A. The Gaelic Athletic Association. A country-wide sports association founded by Michael Cusack in 1884 to combat what was seen by nationalists as the pernicious influence of foreign (i.e. English) games such as soccer and hockey. The association sponsored a specifically Irish form of football and an Irish form of hockey, called hurling.

(16) Michael O'Hehir The best-known Irish sports commentator who specialised in Sunday afternoon direct broadcasts of football matches from the GAA Stadium at Croke Park in Dublin (Pairc an Chrocaigh – see following note)

(17) "Bail o Dhia oraibh go leir a chairde Gael o Phairc an Chrocaigh" This is the only phrase in Gaelic in the entire novel. The sentence that follows it in the text is a correct English rendering (Hello everyone ... ) but a literal translation breaks down as follows :

                  Bail (substantive)                                              Blessing
                  o (preposition)                                                  from
                  Dhia (substantive, ablative)                               God
                  oraibh (preposition+pronoun, ablative)             on you
                  go leir (adverb)                                                all
                  a chairde (substantive, vocative)                      friends
                  Gael (adjective)                                               Irish
                  o (preposition)                                                  from
                  Phairc an Chrocaigh (2 substantives,              Park of the Croke
                                    ablative and genitive)

 P. 68      (31) Review A police periodical containing articles of a professional character and news items of individual and local interest.

 P. 76      (23) All Ireland Final Each year, the 32 counties of Ireland compete, first on a provincial basis (there are four provinces: Connaught, Leinster, Munster and Ulster) and then in 2 semi-finals, and an All Ireland Final for a National Gaelic Football



trophy (known as the Sam Maguire Cup). A similar competition is organised for the sport of hurling.

(23) Mooney's A celebrated pub in Dublin situated almost opposite Wynn's Hotel (cf. note 27 infra)

(23) Abbey Street A thoroughfare in central Dublin.

(27) Wynn's Hotel A large hotel in Abbey Street, particularly favoured, as Mullins says, by a clerical clientèle from the country.

P. 77      (12) whiskey Note the e. which differentiates the drink from the Scottish whisky. Both are derived from the gaelic uisge beatha, literally water of life or ... eau-de-vie.

(30) Carrick Street The reference is to Carrick-on-Shannon, the biggest town in Co Leitrim.

(32) Dr. J. Ryan, M.B., N.U.I. The initials after the name stand for Medicinae baccalaureus (Bachelor of Medicine), and National University of Ireland.

 P. 78 (15) this ex-garrison town During British rule, and particularly throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, British troops were stationed in a great many large and medium-sized towns in Ireland so as to be readily available to crush rebellions when they occurred.

(17) Browns and Gatebys and Rushfords ... All English names, of families whose ancestors would have been tradesmen and artisans connected to the British garrison and who felt at least vestigial loyalty to the old Imperial power (see following note).

 (21) Monty's Rats and in Normandy as their fathers had been at Mons and the Dardanelles Some of the Browns and Gatebys etc. would have fought in the British Army, for example with Field-Marshal Montgomery in World War II (Monty; his troops were referred to as Rats since their greatest achievements came in the desert campaign against Rommel), and in the Allied invasion of Normandy, just as their forbears had in World War I (Mons was the scene of a famous battle, the first involving the British expeditionary force, which took place on August 23, 1914; the Dardanelles Campaign was an Anglo-French operation against Turkey in 1915 intended to force the Dardanelles channel and occupy Constantinople).

(28) With holy-water bottle and stole ... The paragraph describes the arrival of the new, nationalist Irish régime. It is significant that the new dispensation is presented in the first instance in terms of a religious (Catholic) benediction (apart from being a woman's wrap, a stole is also an important item of priestly garb consisting of a long strip of material hung round the neck symbolising a priest's official function).



(29) Soldiers of Old Ireland are We A line from the Irish National Anthem, The Soldier's Song.

(29) Wellington Parade the English name, after the Duke of Wellington (1769-1862), gave way to that of an Irish heroine, St. Brigid (died circa 524-528), the second Saint in the Irish Pantheon; green is the national colour (cf. 118 [1])

(32) Ulster Rifles and Iniskilling Fusiliers Irish Regiments in the British Army.

(36) The Word A religious publication of a missionary character.

 P. 81      (17) Mullingar G. C. The initials stand for Golf Club. Mullingar is the County Town of County Westmeath.

 P. 83      (1) the National Health The system of free medical service introduced in Great Britain by Aneurin Bevan in the Labour administration of 1948.

(8) The County Hospital One major hospital was located in each of the 26 counties in the Irish Republic, generally in the county town. It was to these hospitals that most serious cases were referred. Where cancer was concerned, however, serious cases were referred to the newly established St. Luke's Hospital, in Rathgar, Dublin.

P. 96      (24) the Protestant Church Although only 5% or so of the population of the Irish Republic belong to one or other of the Protestant faiths, most Irish towns still boast at least one Protestant, usually Church of Ireland, or Episcopalian, Church, relies of an age when the Protestant community in southern Ireland was larger and when, in any case, the Church of Ireland was the officially Established church of the country.

 P. 99      (5) Show Dance in Sligo A dance coinciding with an agricultural show in the county town of the neighbouring county of Sligo.

P. 107   (11) eyes The beginnings of the bud of the potato.

(13) splits Seed potatoes were split in two, each "split" containing an "eye", which meant that two stalks grew from each seed tuber.

(17) conacre A form of land rental. Leases were of eleven months, from January 1 to November 30, so as to prevent the leaseholder from acquiring automatic entitlement to a renewal of the lease.

(26) Chief Super The Chief Superintendent, hierarchically superior even to Quirke.

 P. 108 (10) Sports Stadium A popular sports programme on Irish radio.



P. 109   (8) small holdings Small farms, holding in this context is a synonym for farm.

(13) a nation once again The refrain of the popular ballad which bears the same title. The lyrics are a poem written by Thomas Davis (1814-1845), and the melody is traditional.

(14) a flying column This consisted of a small number of highly mobile armed guerillas operating in familiar terrain whose preferred tactic was to lay in ambush, engage the British Army squadron, then melt into the surrounding woods and hills.

(16) The Irish Free State The Irish Free State was proclaimed in 1922 after a period bloody guerilla warfare between the Irish Republican Army, and the British Army which had drafted in, as auxiliaries, a force of Irregulars, known as the Black and Tans, renowned in Ireland for their cruel and barbaric methods.

(19) the Civil War After the proclamation of the Irish Free State, Civil war broke out almost immediately between two factions within Irish nationalist ranks; the irredentists who wished to hold out for a 32-county Republic, and the others for whom independence for 26 counties was at least a basis upon which to work for independence for the whole island.

(23) the day he threw them his medal After independence, those who had been actively involved in the armed struggle were awarded medals and, in many cases, a pension. Reegan's gesture indicates profound dissatisfaction with the way the successors to the British had managed the affairs of the country.

 P. 113 (17)         Westland Row At that time,the main railway station in the city of Dublin.

(23) the little boat train The train that connected with the passenger boat.

(27) the last eight miles ... (33) Holyhead ... (34) Dun Laoghaire The boat referred to in the previous note, known generally as the Mail-boat, plied between Dun Laoghaire, a coastal town and ferry port some eight miles from the centre of Dublin, and Holyhead, on the north-western tip of Wales.

 P. 115 (16) The hospital was in its own grounds This would have been the newly-opened St Luke's Cancer Hospital, in Rathgar, Dublin.

P. 117 (4) the Pillar Nelson's Pillar, somewhat similar in appearance to Nelson's Column   in Trafalgar Square, London. It used to be a popular meeting-point in the centre of Dublin's main thoroughfare, O'Connell Street

(5). It was blown up by the IRA in 1966.

(19) Findlater's Church, Dorset Street... Landmarks on his bus journey.



(22) the Wellington The Wellington Monument. An obelisk situated in the Phoenix Park, commemorating the deeds of the Duke of Wellington (cf. 78 [29]) which has not yet been blown up.

 P. 118   (1) the strip of green and gold with the white between The flag of the Irish Republic, known as the Tricolour. The colours have symbolic value: green is the colour of southern Ireland, gold (or orange) represents the allegiance of the Ulster Protestant community to the Prince of Orange, the future William III of England, and white the peace and harmony which ought to reign between the two parts of the island.

(3) Eire The Gaelic word for Ireland, more widely used to refer to Southern Ireland   at the time of the novel than at present. The term still figures on Irish postage stamps and coins.

 P. 123   (7) the Stations of the Cross A religious ceremony of the Catholic Church which consists in retracing the steps of Christ's agony from Pilate's House to the entombment of Christ. A series of fourteen pictures representing the principal episodes of the Passion are usually arranged around the walls of the church. It is a popular devotion to visit the stations in order, reciting prayers and meditating on each incident.

 P. 125   (33) banks Turf can be dug out from ground level to depths of up to 18 feet (approx. 5,5 meters) before the bedrock of gravel is reached. Once the digging area has been established and reached a certain depth (of, say, a yard, or about one meter), it is referred to as a bank.

(34) to save the turf To save is the verb used to encompass the entire operation of digging the turf, spreading it out to dry, assembling, it into piles and transporting it to the home. It is also used to signify the overall operation of cropping hay and cereals such as oats and barley (cf. 173 [36] ... they were saving hay or some other work ...).

 P. 126   (21) sods ... windrows ... clamps Once the sods (cf. 39 [34]) have dried out to a fairly solid state, they are assembled (the verb is to foot) into piles of 6 to 8 sods arranged in long rows known as windrows. Later on, when they've had time to dry even further, they are built up (to re-foot) into bigger piles, or clamps.

P. 128 (7) Kerr's Pinks ... Arran Banners ... Champions Varieties of potato.

P. 129 (21) mould Very rich powdery alkaline soil (cf. 213 [23]).




P. 131   (24) drills These were a type of narrow row in which potatoes were cultivated, but whereas potatoes were set three or four across in a ridge (cf. 55 [17]), only one was set in a drill.

(32) we'll he seeking professional status The gardai was, of course, already a professional force at the time of its creation, composed almost exclusively of members of the previous, English-administered force, the RIB (Royal Irish Constabulary). Quirke's complaint must therefore be seen as indicating, a desire for long-er training, greater professional prestige, and more consideration from the general public.

(35) Sodality Confessions Sodalities were groups of pious lay people within the Catholic Church that met for Devotions once a year.

 P.  138 (35) The Council ambulance Less well-off patients, who would not easily have been able to afford the train fare, were entitled to transport in an ambulance subsidised by the County Council. Although she may not have been entitled to it, strictly speaking, Elizabeth would have had no difficulty in availing of the service in the easygoing country that Ireland then was.

P. 143   (23) penal stations up in Donegal The reference is to remote police stations to which indelicate or undiplomatic gardai were occasionally exiled and also to the existence of an island prison off the coast of Donegal, on Tory Island.

(4) in the box in the Review Box here refers to a column or page set aside for commendations of local achievement. For Review, cf. 68 (31).

 P. 147   (8) Arigna and the pits This was the location of Ireland's sole coal mines.

 P. 148   (36) Mullingar, Athlone and Kinnegad A recital of important towns on the road from   Dublin to the West of Ireland.

 P. 149   (6) the Liffey The river that flows through Dublin.

(7) stout A strong variety of porter (cf. 26 [34]).

 P. 152   (36) push-halfpenny A children's game, consisting in pushing coins round a table with a comb.




P. 154   (3) Danny Boy An extremely popular melancholy romantic ballad. The words were written by Frederick Weatherly in 1913. The air is traditional and probably much older.

(17) Strandhill A seaside resort in County Sligo, not far from the small town in which the action takes place.

 P. 161   (36) pitch-and-toss A game that consisted in throwing (pitching) a coin towards an immobile object, then in placing the closest coin on the outstretched thumb and flicking (tossing) it in the air, having taken wagers on whether it would fall heads or tails up.

P. 163   (2) the Legion of Mary A lay movement within the Catholic Church that engaged in various charitable activities, founded in 1921 by Irishman Frank Duff and which subsequently spread throughout the world.

 P. 166   (6) "We brought the lazyman's load ..." A lazyman's load suggests transporting, a very great deal in one journey whereas it might have appeared more logical to undertake several journeys with lighter loads.

(13) an old Volunteer The Irish Volunteers were a militia force set up in November, 1913 as a response to the Ulster Volunteers, founded in January of that same year to try and forcibly dissuade the British Government from awarding a form of limited independence (Home Rule) to Ireland. Reegan had evidently been a member of the Irish Volunteers.

 P. 172   (27) Act of Contrition A short prayer uttered, particularly in an emergency or when death seems dangerously close, by a Catholic to absolve him/her from the sins of his/her past life.

 P. 173   (18) Knock A small town in County Mayo in the West of Ireland, where Catholics believe, the Virgin appeared in 1879. The spot quickly became a place of pilgrimage for Irish Catholics and attracts thousands of visitors each year. Although the Irish Catholic Church gave the place, and the tradition of the apparition, its blessing, they did not receive the more treasured imprimatur of the central Church aurthorities in Rome until the present Pope visited Ireland – and Knock – in 1979.

(27) the Papal Nuncio A professional diplomat, enjoying the status of an




ambassador, the representative of the Papacy in countries that have diplomatic relations with the Vatican.

(30) Matt Talbot (1856-1925) A Dublin worker and reformed alcoholic who, when he gave up alcohol, became obsessed with religion. After his death, he was discovered to be wearing a chain tied twice around his body, hung with religious medals.

 P. 177 (18) At eleven they had started to clear the pubs At the time of the action, Winter Closing Time was 10.30 p.m., so Reegan is showing a certain grudging generosity on the occasion of the festive season.

(27) I'll summons An order to appear in a magistrate's court, here for the offence of drinking after hours.

P. 178 (25) tannin' Beating.

 P. 186 (4) the wren boys Also known as Mummers, these were groups of children who, as the text says, went in rudimentary disguise from house to house on December 26, singing, dancing and playing instruments for which they were rewarded with small sums of money.

(13) On the sixth of January The Feast of the Epiphany, after which the festivities of the Christmas season are traditionally deemed to be at an end.

(35) the little Yiddish Theatre Situated at 133-139, Commercial Road, the Grand Palais functioned as a full-time Yiddish Theatre from 1935 until 1970.

 P. 191 (27) reapers and binders These machines cut the wheat/oats/barley and bound it into sheaves that were then collected and fed into the threshing mills (28) where the cereal was separated from the straw.

 P. 193   (35) the District Court A local court, immediately below the Circuit Court (cf. 41 [1 31) in jurisdiction, with competence to deal with civil matters involving sums of up to £5000 and, in the criminal sphere, with misdemeanours and minor offences.

P. 194 (8) to be signed with the Cross The Ash Wednesday ceremony in the Catholic Church involves kneeling at the altar rail to receive the imprint of the cross on one's forehead.

(10) thumbed ... with the ashes of their mortality The impression of the cross, in a mixture of ashes and water, applied by the priest's thumb, would, at the time of



the action, have been accompanied by the Latin prayer: Memento, homo, quia pulvis est et in pulverem reverteris (Remember, Man, that dust thou art and into dust thou shalt return).

(18) Lenten Devotions Devotions referred collectively to a variety of forms of communal prayer, generally, with the exception of Lent (as here), on a Sunday evening.

(18) Benediction A Catholic ceremony, lasting a quarter of an hour or so, consisting, at the time, of three or four hymns chanted in Latin during which the host, housed in a monstrance, was exposed for worship by the faithful.

P. 204   (33) the black harp The harp is the national emblem of Ireland (it appears, for example, on all Irish coins). It was the preferred musical instrument of the ancient Bards.

P. 208   (27) to ever want to see Ireland First This probably refers to a campaign by the Irish Tourist Board to See Ireland First!

(31) pig-in-the-kitchen A deprecatory stereotype of the Irish rural family as living in filth, with, notably, a pig housed in the kitchen.

(37) the Shelbourne Hotel At the time of the action, the most luxurious of Dublin's hotels, situated on St. Stephen's Green.

(38) gentry The social class immediately below the aristocracy. Of particular resonance in Ireland, where the term referred to the descendants, English, Anglo-Irish, and even native Irish, of those most closely associated with English rule.

P. 212   (7) dinner In rural Ireland, dinner almost invariably refers to the mid-day meal; the evening meal, rarely taken later than 6 p.m., was referred to as tea (cf. 7 [11])

P. 213 (23) The green rushes Symbolising the first flowering of nature in spring.

(23) Our Lady's Eve Traditionally, the month of May was known as Our Lady's (Mary's) Month, so this feast day would have been at the be-inning of the month. It was, however, a locally celebrated feast and does not appear in the Irish Liturgical Calendar.

(27) cotton This is bog cotton, a white, fluffy flower that resembles raw cotton.

 P. 216   (1 1) Extreme Unction In the Catholic church, the ceremony which prepares the dying to meet death by absolving them of the sins of their past life.

(13) the yellow oil Chrism, the consecrated oil used to anoint the dying in the Catholic Church.


(33) Oil of olives ... The composition of Chrism, as outlined in the Easter prayer that follows.

 P. 217   (6) Confirmation One of the sacraments of the Catholic Church which, as its name implies, confirms the youngster in his/her membership of the Church.

 P. 219 (23) turf mould The upper layer of dry humus which is shovelled away to expose the surface of wet turf underneath.

 P. 221 (36) habit The formal garb in which corpses were dressed before being placed in the coffin.

(36) whiskey ... Preparations were afoot for the wake during which the friends and neighbours of the deceased came and kept vigil around the corpse. Food and drink, especially alcohol, were traditionally provided.

 P. 223   (24) the King-Harman plot ... before the New Ireland had edged them out Cf. 78 (17) and 109 (16).

(27) Nash, John, 1752-1835. One of the foremost English neo-classical architects who designed many mansions in England and Ireland. His masterpiece was Regent's Park, in London and the Royal Crescent, Bath.

(30) burned to the ground A great many Great Houses belonging to the gentrygwere burned down by the IRA during the Irish War of Independence.

 P. 224 (7) the three baronets' headstones An ellipsis, the reference must be to the tombstones of three members of the King-Harman family, baronets, but with no narrative link to the Thomas Edward or the Edward Charles whose Gravestone inscriptions Casey has just read.

 P. 231 (4) I wore the Sam Browne too A type of military belt, named after the English General who invented it, supported by a strap across the shoulder to the waist into which the wearer can tuck a gun.

(37) "I never saw the bate of this mornin' ..." Bate is a transcription: the local pronunciation of beat; I never saw anything to beat what happened here this morning.

 P. 232 (8) Cuchulainn A hero of ancient Irish epic poetry.

 (réf.  Etudes Britanniques Contemporaines n° 6. Montpellier: Presses universitaires de Montpellier, 1995)