The novel I'm hoping to write is closely connected to the story of St. Gobnait, the local patron saint whose story I’ve always been drawn to. Of the tales that are known she always figures as a strong woman, protecting the community by throwing her stone bulla at an encroaching nobleman’s building, sending bees after cattle raiders, or ministering to their needs as a healer and also feeding and providing for the poor. She started a community of women, a convent of sorts, and it lasted well beyond her death. But it was bees and her healing honey that make her so distinct. She had several hives and used their honey for many things, primarily healing.
This past December, coincidently, the topic for the historical lecture at our local Éigse (music festival and workshops) was St. Gobnait, and with the help of a friend I was able to learn about details of Gobnait’s story and the community’s history as recounted by a late nineteenth century writer and local school master. This man, Donncha Ó Loinsigh was from Coolierher, specifically my house (well his house). His grandson was the last person to live here before we bought it. I’ve been able to glean details from this narrative and others that have been published over the years that are housed in our local library. I’ve also enjoyed and had the privilege to talk to some other local people about Gobnait’s story and the community’s past.
So, in the course of pursuing this research, I’m learning much about farming in addition to what I’ve already gleaned (note agricultural word) just from living here in a rural farming community. I now know the difference between a heifer and a cow, a hen and a chicken and that each had a specific value in Brehon law. Bees, however are tricky fellows (and gals) and so they are treated at times like livestock and others like fruit. Yes fruit required legislation. If fruit fell in a neighbour’s field then the first year 1/3 belonged to the neighbour (or something like that). So if any of you might be in a dispute with a neighbour it might be well to consult the Brehon Law. You never know there might be answers there.