My father told me that he attended a funeral in the parish of Tuosist, in South Kerry, at the turn of the century. As the coffin was being taken in a cart to the local graveyard at Kilmackillogue, three women keeners sat on top of it, howling and wailing at intervals. The parish priest, on horseback, met the funeral near Derreen, a few miles from the graveyard, and rode at its head along the road. As soon as he heard the three women howl loudly , he turned his horse around and trotted back until he reached them, where they sat on the coffin. He started to lash them with his whip, as the cart passed by, and ordered them to be silent. This they did, but on reaching the graveyard, they again took up their wailings, whereupon the priest forced them down from the coffin with his whip. They were afraid to enter the graveyard to howl at the graveside. This put an end to the hiring of keening women in that parish.
Ó Suilleabháin, 1973
If we can get a better ref for this, we’ll give it to you. Sent in by Phoebe Hoare, to whom we say thank you.