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Straw, Hay & Rushes

People in rural Ireland used to grow materials for everyday items like rush saddles, baskets, beehives, chairs & mattresses.


This exhibition shows the ingenuity of those who could make something from nothing when money was scarce and natural materials were more plentiful and appreciated.

  • A rush riding saddle
  • A straw hen’s nest
  • A hay pack panel
  • Baskets, beehives, mats and mattresses
  • Chairs and collars
  • Spancels and seats

The Museum curator has used an old style display case – a cabinet of curiosities – to include as many interesting objects as possible.

Is the mattress comfortable to lie on? Is the chair soft and smooth or hard and scratchy? Come and see for yourself at this wonderful interactive display.

Nest of straw

Did you know that the best way to fatten a hen is to put her in a plaited cage with no room to move around?

In Ireland we have been keeping hens for food since the 7th century AD. For many centuries plaited ‘nests’ of straw were made for the hen to lay her eggs and hatch her eggs.

Strawboys and the Bacach

Did you know that people used to dress in straw in Ireland?

In the 17th century the man known as the Bacach used to travel around from one place to the next bringing news and stories wherever he went. This man was a professional beggar and he was given food and a bed to lie on in the homes he visited. He protected himself from the cold and the rain by wearing a cloak of straw.

Did you know that Strawboys still arrive at weddings in Ireland?

To this day in parts of Sligo, Mayo and Clare the “uninvited” guests at weddings are known as Strawboys and, like the Bacach, they also wear straw clothes.

Welcoming traditions

Did you know that people used to spread rushes on the ground to welcome visitors to their homes?

In fact, this is a very old custom in Ireland. It was practised as early as the 8th century AD and survived in some areas to the beginning of the 20th century. “If I knew you were coming I would have spread green rushes for you” was a saying in many parts of the country.