Bowling (with the first syllable pronounced as bough and not to be confused with ten-pin bowling or indoor/outdoor bowling) is a sport that was common to this area of Clare. It was the vigorous under-arm throwing of a steel ball along the main Ennis-Kilrush road, over a two miles course. The winner was the person who covered the distance in the least number of throws.
This was a popular pastime in the old days before traffic on the road became a problem for the bowlers. However the tradition continues along country roads in some parts of the country today, particularly in the southern counties. The website duchas.ie has images and transcriptions of manuscript descriptions of local folklore gathered by schoolchildren in the 1930s. The image above is from this collection, the Kilmihil section of which can be accessed here.
Ceol Chill Mhichil
Ceol Chill Mhichil was an annual August week-end event in the parish. Musicians came to Kilmihil from all over Ireland. The Liverpool Ceili Band travelled over for the occasion, as did musicians from several other countries. The Fainne Oir Ceili Band of the 1950′s and 1960′s established Kilmihil as a traditional music centre.
The Dance Hall was a major feature of village life in the 40s and 50s, here Desmond Millican recalls those days. Thanks to Cuimhneamh an Chláir for recording this lovely recollection.
Pilgrimage & Devotions at St Michael’s Shrine
Origin of Devotion to St. Michael in Kilmihil
In 1632, reputedly, a woman from Tullycrine, a Mrs O’Gorman dreamt on three successive nights that if she came to Kilmihil church (the old church, which is now in ruins) she would find a clump of rushes on the Southern end of the church grounds and if she dug there, water would gush forth and she would be cured of the gout and other afflictions. On arriving at the church the pony that she was riding moved onto the marshy ground and pulled a mouthful of grass. The tuft came away and the pony shook the dripping grass on Mrs O’Gorman and she was immediately cured. She and her son, Tom, went to the parish priest a Father Dermott O’Queally who was also cured .
News of this strange discovery and of its power to effect cures spread far and wide and many thousands flocked to the well. The then Bishop of Killaloe Dr O’Moloney dedicated the well to St. Michael the Archangel.
For centuries Kilmihil became a place of pilgrimage to St. Michael especially in September as his feast day is on September 29th.
You can download a PDF of the round of devotions and prayers that were said at the shrine below:
Construction of the Current Shrine
In 1937 the Curate of the parish Fr. Patrick O’Reilly, organised the improvement of the well and the surrounding area. The well is now enclosed and over this building is the Statue of St. Michael enclosed in glass. Concrete paths surround the well where people can make their rounds.
At the lower end there is an altar to Christ the King where Mass is said on the saint’s feast day. In between the well and the altar which is consecrated ground, are beautiful Stations of the Cross, again enclosed in glass.
The Fair Day
Fairs were long established in Kilmihil, the last Fair was held in the 1970s.
Forgotten Ireland have a short film on Facebook said to have been taken at the last Kilmihil Fair in 1970s, well worth watching to see the shops and street, make sure to have the sound on. The song is, appropriately enough “Beidh Aonach Amarach i gContae an Chláir” (There’ll be a fair in Clare tomorrow). Unfortunately the FB format is not supported here so please use the link: https://www.facebook.com/878540765638275/videos/893472497478435/
The image above is a still from the video and the arched windows of Daly’s Bar can be clearly seen in the background.
The following description of Kilmihil given in Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of Ireland in 1837 mentions the Fair Days
Kilmihil or Kilmichael, a parish in the Barony of Cloderalaw, County of Clare and Province of Munster, 8 miles from Kildysert, on the road from Kilrush to Ennis, containing 3,794 inhabitants of which number 79 are in the hamlet. It comprises 8089 statute acres about two thirds of which consist of arable land of medium quality and the remainder of mountain pasture. There is also a considerable portion of waste and bog. Fairs are held in Kilmihil on May 19th, July 18th and September 29th and a court for the Manor of Crovreahan is occasionally held in Kilmihil by the seneschal in which small debts are recoverable. The parish is in the diocese of Killaloe, the rectory is impropriate in the representatives of Lord Castlecoote and John Scott Esq. and the vicarage forms part of the union of Kilfarboy. The tithes amount to £192 of which £62-15s-41/2d is payable to John Scott Esq. and the remainder to the Vicar. In the Roman Catholic divisions it is the head of a union or district which also comprises the parish of Kilmacduane. About 120 children are educated in two private schools. The ruins of the old church still remain in the burial ground.
In this recording of Kilmihil resident Paddy McCarthy he recalls the Fair Days in Kilmihil from when he was a boy – courtesy of Cuimhneamh an Chláir/Clare Oral History and Folklore Group.
In the townland of Knockalough the big event of the year in the early 1900′s was the “races.” These races attracted huge crowds of spectators, hawkers and traders from all over the West of Ireland. The only comparable event in more recent times was the annual Fleadh Ceoil.