‘Granny’s Christmas Pudding’ by Katherine Anne Monica McGill.

In our first blog of 2015 Katherine Anne Monica McGill outlines her project ‘Granny’s Christmas Pudding’, an installation that took place in Carlow County Museum from February to July 2014. It was previously part of a series of installations by Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT) students in Visual Carlow in December 2013.


Granny’s Christmas Pudding’ installation of White table with several items on it including two glass boxes containing leaves and an open notebooks and pen between them

View of the ‘Granny’s Christmas Pudding’ installation on the Museum’s ground floor.


‘Granny’s Christmas Pudding’ was an installation acknowledging obsolete and disappearing information and skills.  Our modern world has superseded a lot of the old ways; others are lost to us now because people – like my Granny – have gone to their eternal reward.  Such people took with them the expertise they carried so easily at their finger-tips.  With the flippancy of youth, I omitted to garner such skills before it was too late, and now I do my best to recall them from hazy childhood memory.  I imagine this is a common experience, as applicable to other people as it is to me.


Ground floor of Carlow County Museum with two glass display cases or Vitrines

View of the installation on the Museum’s ground floor gallery.


The installation itself comprised fallen leaves I collected in Autumn 2013 from beneath the trees at Carlow College (St Patrick’s College) in Carlow town, and a notebook in which I wrote the information in “joined up” handwriting.  I used an old fountain pen and ink.  It remains with Carlow County Museum for future reference. Visitors were encouraged to collaborate in the display by including in the note book any disappearing skills they recalled.  Using Gregg shorthand (itself also a disappearing skill), I wrote various data on the leaves.  Older people might remember learning this by rote in their primary school days. Younger people might be intrigued to re-discover it. Included, for example, are old conversion tables of weights and measures.  These now seem so quaint: quarts, minims, bushels, perches, roods and leagues; old legal tender (pounds, shillings and pence), Morse code (long and short sound signals representing letters and numbers), some poetry, and commonplace prayers in Latin.  This project augmented my own knowledge: how to bone shoes was definitely new to me!

Most important of all, I discovered that Carlow people of a certain age remember with affection drinking Corcoran’s Mineral Waters, so I particularly appealed for anyone who might know the recipes or their whereabouts to include this in the notebook.


A close up photo of brown leaves with writing on them, Granny Christmas pudding

Close up of the writing on the leaves.


Why write on leaves?  Because they naturally become brittle and disintegrate, so the skills and information the leaves carried are once again apparently lost.  The project also echoed papyrus (another plant leaf) used by ancient peoples to record their important information.  Even though the information has been decoded, some of it is still obtuse to us today.

On the last day of July 2014, when the New Year’s leaves were fluttering on the trees at Carlow College, members of Carlow County Museum kindly agreed to crumble the leaves of the installation at Carlow College grounds.  The process was recorded by Museum staff.  It was a fitting end to a display inaugurated in February.


Dermot Mulligan and John McDarby standing under a tree in Carlow College with their hands in the air throwing leaves on the ground

Carlow County Museum staff Dermot Mulligan & John McDarby crumbling the leaves in the grounds of Carlow College.


My heartfelt thanks are given to Dermot Mulligan, Museum Curator and the staff of Carlow County Museum for their enthusiasm for my installation; to Cora Cummins, Print Tutor at IADT Dun Laoghaire and Emma Lucy O’Brien of Visual Carlow for their initial invitation to consider a Carlow project.  Visual Carlow is thanked for lending some equipment.  The visitors to Carlow County Museum are especially thanked for their many contributions to the notebook.  Thirty pages of responses exceeded my most optimistic expectations.  I hope they enjoyed their visits to this wonderful Museum and their collaboration.

And what of Corcoran’s Mineral Waters?  All is not lost, apparently.  Unlike my Granny’s Christmas pudding, it seems there is yet someone in Carlow who may hold the precious knowledge.  Perhaps some day soon people will be able to say with relish again “Ah, Corcoran’s!”

Katherine Anne Monica McGill under took this installation as a 3rd year student on the Visual Arts Practice course in Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology (IADT). The aim of this four-year course is to educate and inspire student artists through an integrated and multidisciplinary experience, helping them to create a comprehensive portfolio of work, tested against ‘real world’ situations. Carlow County Museum was delighted to host Katherine’s work.


Five Carlow County Museum staffs and Volunteers standing in front of a big glass display case holding leaves in their hands

Museum Staff and volunteers with Katherine at the instillation of the exhibition. (L to R) Brid Brett, Liam O’Rourke, Katherine Anne Monica McGill, Deirdre Hennessy and William Fallon.


Carlow Traveller Pride Event 2014 by Niall Morris, St. Catherine’s, Carlow.

The 2014 Carlow Traveller Pride event was organised by St. Catherine’s Community Services Centre and the Carlow Traveller Network (CTN) with the support of Carlow County Museum. Our aim was to showcase and celebrate the rich cultural heritage of the Travelling Community, their talents and history to both the Travelling and settled communities.

Video shows Navan Travellers Workshop members Michael McDonagh, guide and Tom McDonnell demonstrating the art of tinsmithing.

The event was held in St. Catherine’s, St. Joseph’s Road, Carlow town on the 17th of June 2014 and proved a great success with an estimated 400 plus people attending over the course of the day. The event was particularly popular with children from the Travelling and settled communities who were particularly interested in the barrel top wagons along with the stories of the people who lived and grew up in them as well as the demonstration of tinsmithing.

A group of children looking at three green barrel top wagons outdoor, with a clear blue sky on a sunny day

A view of some of the barrel top wagons on display.


Navan Travellers Workshop (NTW) brought their Traveller Living History Exhibition to Carlow for the event. This included a traditional Barrel top wagon, shelter tent, photographic exhibition, encampment, tin smith and storyteller. Local Traveller families also brought in their decorated barrel top wagons as well as handmade flat carts and sulkies. Michael McDonagh from NTW told the story of how Travellers slept – with no beds, washed – with no bathroom, cooked and ate – with no kitchen, stored things – with no fridge, earned a living – with no social welfare and bartered and traded without money. Tom McDonnell set up his workshop and gave demonstrations of tinsmithing throughout the day with newly made mugs and other items available to buy.


Tom McDonnell wearing stripped blue shirt wearing glasses tinsmithing with group of children around him

Tom McDonnell demonstrating the skill of tinsmithing to pupils from St Joseph’s National School.


The event also included a photographic exhibition of Traveller life from the 1940’s through to the 1970’s. The bulk of the photos are taken from a vast collection of photos taken by the American anthropologists, the Gmelch’s, who travelled with the Travelling community in the 1970’s. There was also:

• Performances of traditional Traveller songs
• A video on the Traveller language, the “Gammon”
• Samples of Traveller crafts including handmade copper pieces from a fireside set by the local master craftsman Paddy Donohoe
• A video on horses and their importance to Traveller men
• A display of poems by the local Travellers

A white table with several items on it including two photo frame, a pot of different coloured flowers and three copper items made by Paddy Donohue

A selection of copper wear made by Paddy Donohoe.


Carlow Traveller Pride Day provided a unique opportunity for members of the settled community and younger Travellers to ask questions and talk directly to other Travellers about their lives, history and culture. The event helps to break down barriers between people and foster greater understanding and value on Traveller culture as well as instilling more pride in the Travelling community.
The event was organised by St. Catherine’s Community Services and supported by Carlow County Museum, HSE Social Inclusion, TUSLA, Carlow Traveller Interagency Group, and the Department of Justice, Equality & Defence.

Outdoor photo in a car park of a tent and chairs and tables in front of the tent

Part of the Navan Travellers Workshop ‘Traveller Living History Exhibition’


This blog was written by Niall Morris, Director of Services at St. Catherine’s Community Services.
St. Catherine’s Community Services Centres’ Traveller programmes focus on achieving social change and justice for the Travelling community in Carlow and improving equality outcomes. Their programmes focus on community and personal development, family support and improving health outcomes for Travellers. They also support the Carlow Traveller Network, a developing representative body for the Travelling community in Carlow.