Pattern Day in Ireland

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An Irish ‘Patern’ at Balla County Mayo – The ‘Long station’, engraved by Eugène Froment, in The Graphic 11 (23 January 1875).

The word pattern is derived from the Irish Patrun or English Patron and most Irish parishes had a patron saint. On the saint’s feast day, parishioners celebrated what was known as a Pattern Day at a holy well or another holy site.

Devotions at holy wells began with making what was called ‘the rounds.’ The people would walk around the well a certain number of times while saying special prayers. Part of the ritual included drinking the water and bathing with it. It was thought that water from a holy well had healing powers and some wells became famous for curing specific ailments.

Patterns were a common part of Irish rural tradition until the reforms of Cardinal Paul Cullen in the 1850s. The clergy had opposed the excesses of these celebrations – the (faction) fighting, the drunkenness, and the immorality. They also criticised the popular belief in the magical powers of holy wells and other holy sites.

This opposition had gained impetus in the late eighteenth century and bishops began to issue edicts forbidding the people to participate in such festivals. Pilgrimages did decline but this was due to the Famine and social change. It also coincided with the opening of schools and a decline in the Irish language. As the Irish language and culture waned, the traditional lore and rituals faded as well.

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Ireland, 1835. Faction fighting has left the parish of Doon divided between the followers of the Bradys and the Donnellans. Caitriona Brady is the widow of John, the Brady champion, killed two years ago. Matched with John aged eighteen, Caitriona didn’t love him and can’t mourn him. Now John’s mother is dead, too, and Caitriona is free to marry again.

Michael Warner is handsome, loves her, and he hasn’t allied himself with either faction. But what secret is he keeping from her? Is he too good to be true?

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Excerpt:

As Father Liam Warner celebrated the Mass, he stole glances behind him and noted two things. His brother and Mrs Brady were kneeling very close together and almost all the men in the congregation had blackthorn sticks at their side. His heart sank twice over.

Once the Mass ended, he watched as Michael and Mrs Brady returned to the rock on which they had been sitting before. He then turned as the rest of the congregation parted into two distinct groups – the Bradys, in honour of Mrs Brady’s late husband – and the Donnellans – in honour of Malachy Donnellan – their leader and champion. Once the alcohol started to flow there would be trouble, he knew it, despite all he had warned them.

He wearily turned back to Michael and Mrs Brady. It was clear they were attracted to each other and he grimaced. He didn’t want his brother to become involved with a woman whose name was synonymous with violence and death in the locality. Soon after his arrival in the parish, he’d had to bury three men who had been battered to death by the Bradys. Then, he learned what had happened to John Brady himself two years ago. Oh, Michael, he thought angrily, don’t be a fool and get involved with her, no matter what she says about her hating the fighting. She’s dangerous, even if she doesn’t realise it herself.

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Photo credit: The British Library via Foter.com / No known copyright restrictions
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