In these unusual times where we are all under the same roofs, why not try and recreate these old time story houses and add in a bit of a splash with your family's own personality along the way?
The only rules are that for the duration of the Rambling House, the only modern technology allowed are the laptop for the Zoom call, the old style microphone and maybe a quick snap or two on a camera to capture the evening for your family album. Get into character and be transported to a bygone era.
So do a bit of preparation on your party piece, help bake a cake for the break, go fancy and dress up for this is a mini party when you're in a time machine back to an age before even your grandparents' time. Come on in to the Lockdown Rambling House - you're as welcome as the flowers in May!
Rambling House seeks to recreate how our forefathers entertained themselves in days gone by. A world without nightly soap operas, football or a film for enjoyment may seem hard to imagine, but perhaps we are the ones who are lacking proper homespun entertainment?
Back then, long nights in Ireland were passed by ceilidhing (or airneal/scoraíocht) in what was known as a rambling house. This was a house where people gathered for gossip, storytelling - and perhaps the odd song and dance late into the night.
These houses served an important function in the days
before radio, television and modern transport; we have rambling houses to thank
for ensuring a lot of traditional lore, stories and music were passed on from
generation to generation.
“It's not magic that takes us to another world
– it's storytelling.”
Eamonn Kelly, the famous seanchaí, who hosted the 1950’s RTE Radio 1 series, “The Rambling House” described a rambling house as being a place “where the affairs of the day were debated, where entertainment mingled with education”. That programme began with the invitation:
”The ricket is thatched, the fields are bare,
Long nights are here again,
The year was fine, but now ‘tis time,
To hear the balled men,
Boul in, boul in and take a chair,
Admission here is free,
You’re welcome in the rambling house,
To hear the Seanchaí”
Some years back, Racontour Productions created Rambling House with a six-part series of hour long programmes on local station Inishowen Community Radio conjuring up a treasure trove of stories and lore about the unique area that is the Inishowen peninsula, as told by some of its most colourful local characters. These stories have been passed on to these locals from generation to generation and we were delighted to have been able to archive this material - before it is lost forever.
Rambling houses may be a thing of the past, but it is comforting to think that in a handful of places around the country, with a bit of meitheal around the kitchens of Ireland, their spirit lives on for the future. Perhaps when the Lockdown is over, you can help your locality set up a rambling house to record the very best oral material on offer?