Following on from The Colour of Life, my father-in-law Geoff Cronin wrote two more books with stories of life in Waterford and Dublin from the 1930s. He collected the stories on his travels, swapping them with others in return for his own and then treating us to the results of the exchange. Geoff also added some jokes overheard just for the Craic…Over the next few weeks I will be sharing selected stories from Milestones Along the Way.
As a young boy I was intensely curious about everything and anything and one day I came across a man I knew digging a hole in a field.
When I asked him what was the purpose of the hole he told me he was digging a well to provide water for the owner of the field. After watching for some time I asked him how he knew where to dig and he picked up a fork of whitethorn which he had cut earlier and said, “I use this”!
I was fascinated as he explained all about water divining saying it was also called dowsing and how in ancient times water diviners were regarded by the church as being in league with the Devil. I picked up the twig and he showed me how to hold it, waist high and with the apex of the fork facing away from my body, and my hands with the palms facing up.
As I stood by the hole, holding the twig as instructed, it began to twist in my hands and ended up pointing down into the hole. It was a very weird feeling and the man laughed when he saw my face. “Be God boy you have it” he exclaimed. “You have a rare gift so you have. Now you know how to find water and it’s not everybody that can do that”!
A water diviner at work
A divining rod.
How to hold a divining rod.
I was elated and he gave me the whitethorn twig to keep and I couldn’t wait to tell my mother and the rest of the family. They all tried to do it and not one could succeed so I became a diviner and dowser through no fault of my own and enjoyed mild celebrity for a while.
Water divining became my party piece and though I never got anyone to “dig a hole” I could find existing water pipes, mains etc. It was many years later, when I put my talent to the test. It happened that my daughter bought a piece of land with the intention of building a house on it and she asked me if I could locate a source of water there. So I cut my twig and walked the land from all angles and located a strong reaction repeatedly in a certain spot which I marked. Subsequently a hole was bored there and a good source of water was found. So I was fully vindicated.
Over the years, I bought books on the subject of dowsing and discovered that builders, before excavating on a site often engaged a dowser to make sure there were no water tanks or reservoirs buried beneath the ground. They also got people with metal detectors but since these could not detect plastic pipes the dowser had the last word.
On a visit to Washington DC I wandered into that city’s biggest book shop – it was as big as a football pitch – and there I encountered an immaculately dressed manager, complete with sharkskin suit and rimless glasses. I asked him where I might find books on water divining.
“How’s that again sir”? He asked.
“Water divining” I repeated.
And he replied “all the new religions are down at the far end of the store”. I had to smile!
©Geoff Cronin 2008
Geoff Cronin 1923 – 2017
About Geoff Cronin
I was born at tea time at number 12 John Street, Waterford on September 23rd 1923. My father was Richard Cronin and my mother was Claire Spencer of John Street Waterford. They were married in St John’s Church in 1919.
Things are moving so fast in this day and age – and people are so absorbed, and necessarily so, with here and now – that things of the past tend to get buried deeper and deeper. Also, people’s memories seem to be shorter now and they cannot remember the little things – day to day pictures which make up the larger canvas of life.
It seems to me that soon there may be little or no detailed knowledge of what life was really like in the 1930s in a town – sorry, I should have said City, in accordance with its ancient charter – like Waterford. So I shall attempt to provide some of these little cameos as much for the fun of telling as for the benefit of posterity.
I hope you have enjoyed this weeks stories from Geoff and I hope you will pop in again next Saturday. Thanks Sally.