Every ‘I do’ is magical, but there’s nothing like a Hauling Home...

Ever heard of a 'Hauling Home' ceremony for newlyweds? John Arnold recalls the tradition 
Every ‘I do’ is magical, but there’s nothing like a Hauling Home...
Singer Vera Lynn.

VERA Lynn the ‘Forces Sweetheart’ was one hundred years old on Monday last. Whenever her name is mentioned one song springs to mind instantly ‘There’ll be Bluebirds Over the White Cliffs of Dover’ — she had other hits too of course but that song, though a song of wartime evokes such hope and promise; “There’ll be love and laughter and peace ever after”. The first time I heard the song sung as they say ‘live’ was at a ‘Hauling Home’ nearly 40 years ago. In olden times the Hauling Home was an integral part of the wedding of many couples. We’ve a wedding coming up soon so it got me thinking of weddings I’ve attended and the customs and practises that surrounded those couplings and how they’ve changed over the decades.

Hannah Maria Cremin was one of the five children of Daniel and Julia Cremin of Monatooreen, Knockraha. She was the third child of the couple, born in 1898. She was a young girl growing up when the First World War broke out. By 1941 when Vera Lynn had her big hit Hannah Maria was married to Jim O’Connor of Scartbarry in Watergrasshill. It was in the 1970’s that I got to know her. It was on the occasion of the Hauling Home of her late husband’s grandnephew that I heard her give a powerful rendition of ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’. Come to think of it I’d say that was really the only occasion I witnessed such a happy event. The Hauling Home around our side of the country anyway was a kind of a welcome home party for a newly married couple on their return from the honeymoon. Some say ‘tis a throwback to the time when our ancestors lived in caves. When a caveman secured a companion for life he literally ‘hauled’ her home, back to the cave — whether she was willing or not!

As a rule in the 70’s and 80’s too when we committed matrimony, couples used generally leave for the honeymoon on the night of the wedding — the idea of staying in the same hotel as your guests wasn’t the done thing. Nowadays of course wedding generally go on for two days — if not three with the newly weds still there!

Getting back to that particular Hauling Home there was a huge crowed there, the house was full and of course as per tradition the new husband had to carry the bride across the threshold of their new home thus continuing an age-old custom. We had a great party with drink and food and singing and dancing too but when Hannah Maria ‘took the floor’ in the kitchen she sang that song as well as Vera Lynn ever did, you’d hear a pin drop. When co-habitation came in a few decades ago the hauling home went out the door.

I recently was involved in a long and enjoyable discussion or debate on the pros and cons of matchmaking. If you listen to Willie Daly in Lisdoonvarna you’d think the practise is still very much to the fore but in it’s modern format it’s far removed from the wheeling and dealing of long ago. Many detractors of matchmaking would claim it was more of a commercial transaction than anything else and that love and romance were only in the ‘ha’penny place. Different strikes for different folks they say and in fairness we shouldn’t judge the happenings of a different era from our modern ‘enlightened’ perspective.

It was said that in the 1800’s marriages founded on physical attraction or ‘love marches’ were only indulged in by the landless — they had nothing to lose and little to gain! I suppose those with land or property were always on the lookout for a ‘suitable’ girl or boy — well suitable in the minds of the parents anyway. That’s why matchmaking flourished but then in today’s world we have dating agencies, speed dating, blind dates and whatever you’re having yourself!

The great Kerry seanachai Eamonn Kelly gave a great talk on the wireless about matchmaking many years ago. He said there were two main reasons why so many ‘made’ matches worked out so well. Firstly he claimed that the old adage ‘you’ve made your bed so you can lie on it now’ held sway — women in particular often entered marriages with little expectations. Can you imagine a century or two ago? ‘Jobs’ for girls and women weren’t two a penny. Marriage brought a home, shelter, companionship and a degree of financial security — long before there were pensions of any description. Kelly who was born in Gneeveguilla also contended that ‘twas on the wedding night that the romance and intimacy begun. That was almost certainly the case because as Kelly would say himself “at that time the couple would meet only perhaps three or four times before the wedding and on all occasions a chaperone would oversee the proceedings.” Changing times of course because nowadays courting couples know each other inside out and upside down long before any planned, possible or potential nuptials.

In the heel of the hunt matchmaking fulfilled a need and a void at a time when travelling was difficult and there was an urgency in marrying ‘suitable’ partners. Marrying cousins of course wasn’t unheard of — they used to say ‘a blanket is better of being doubled’!

Speaking of weddings and wedding presents we still have a few presents from over three decades ago that have still not been used! They are still wrapped — things like sets of fruit bowls and knife and fork sets. I suppose nowadays would-be guests are more practical with gifts of cash or vouchers and such like but at the same time there was a kind of time honoured ritual in looking at the presents in the weeks before a marriage. I can recall going up ‘to the parlour’ in cousins houses to see the vast array of goods. There’d be presents on the couch, on the settee, on the sideboard, on the dumb-waiter and on the floor. Bed linen, ware, canteens of cutlery, dinner sets, rugs and ornamental lamps were always very popular. No matter if you got four of the same present you wouldn’t insult anyone by changing a gift. Ah yes wedding presents were for life and were appreciated and prized as tokens of remembrance of a special day. Back then presents were generally practical as many couples were just setting up home together and when the honeymoon was over the brown paper wrappings were removed and the presents put to good use.

Strange isn’t it that despite all the social changes we have witnessed in recent years there is still something special and unique when we hear a couple pledge themselves to each other? Yes, every “I do” is magical but I’d like to be at a good Hauling Home again — wishful thinking John, but that’s what dreams are made of.

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