Little Down Neckers Part 12 (circa 1909)

by Charles McGrath


I have read that the art of reading tea leaves was probably developed thousands of years ago in China. But it was also associated with Eastern European Gypsies, the Scots and the Irish.

When we visited my Granny at her home Down Neck she would always serve my parents tea. This wasn't Tetley Tea in the bag but rather loose Tea that was brewed in a pot. The famous common saying in an Irish home back then was "hot the pot”, which meant make a pot of tea. Everyone always wound up with tea leaves in the bottom of their cup. This was always a center point of conversation because everyone would try to read a meaning into the symbols that the leaves made.

My Granny had a friend who would periodically pay her a visit. Her name was Maggie Rogan and I think Granny knew her from the old sod. When ever she paid a visit the word went out. Many people on Vincent Street would come to see her. She was a professional Tea Leaves Reader. She worked the restaurants in Newark. She would tell everyone’s fortune. Once she told my Uncle Luke that a man at his work was attempting to do something to get him fired. He worked for Gulf Oil at that time. She told him the name of the man and also a third party who was trying to intercede on behalf of my uncle. That following Monday my uncle addressed the problem with her reading.

Sometime in the early 1940's Maggie moved from Down Neck up to Fairmount Avenue. And like so many other people just disappeared in the passing of time.

I would have loved to have an opportunity to speak to her as an adult. She had no family and I wonder if she was a Tinker. The Tinkers were a distinct ethnic group within Ireland. They had their own secret language called Shelta.

Not only were the leaves read in China but they were also read Down Neck.


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