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Recalling a time in Irish rural life when man and horse worked in unison

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A time when man and horse worked together to break the soil.

MARK McGAUGH, a staunch Mayo man from Ballycurran, Headford (postal), put pen to paper in recalling an era of Irish life during the ‘40s and ‘50s, when man and horse came together to ‘break the soil’ in springtime for the planting of the crops. His story, The Ploughman, is one of a number included in a new book entitled Around the Garden Gate Collection just published.

BY the time I left Ireland for foreign shores, the tractor had commenced to gradually replace the horse as the preferred method of ploughing and carrying out lots of other farm related work, but I will add that we did not have a tractor on our land at the time of my departure in January, 1960.

So it does not surprise me when I think of the days I spent on the farm, that my memory recalls the time I spent with the horse ploughing, harrowing, drilling, and scuffling the beet. We were part of a team with the horse playing the leading role, and a working relationship was established which was based on trust, kindness, and the will and desire to finish the job in hand.

Perhaps it is in the springtime from March/April onwards when those visions were most crystallised, and among the memories is the first ploughing day of spring. I pictured the cold morning air when the horses were taken from the stables, and they almost appeared to be looking forward to the day’s work ahead. They were alert and frisky with their heads held high, and the sparkle on their coats gave the impression that they are eagerly awaiting the task of ploughing the land.

There was an age difference in the two horses, with Fanny barely two years old, and she had only been broken in the previous autumn, while Blackie was an experienced six-year-old who had done every job expected from him on the farm. These tasks included pulling the common and spring harrow once the field was ploughed, the smaller plough for drilling the field where the various seeds would be sown at a later date. The horse’s work was seldom finished as throughout the spring and summer and into the autumn the horse was always in demand.

One clear memory I have is from the first ploughing of the spring time when there might be still some slight frost on the ground. There was a great deal of preparation to be done beforehand. The old Pearce manufactured plough had to be prepared, with both wheels being oiled, the cross checked, with a touch of paint added to give the impression to the neighbours that it was a very useful and important piece of equipment.

The horses employed might be Clydesdale or Suffolk, but they also required some serious preparation for the long hard days ahead. We had a blacksmith named John Molloy in the village who had carried on the traditions of his father and grandfather before him, of turning long metal rods of iron into properly fitting shoes for the horses in the local villages, and many a happy hour I spent pulling the bellows in order to get the necessary heat up for the making of the shoes.

I recall the aroma when ‘the smithy’ first tested the red hot steel on the horse’s hooves to ascertain the correct fitting. The properly fitted steel shoes were essential for the horses to get a grip on the soft soil as they trudged along turning the deep heavy soil onto its side. The ploughing was normally done in co-operation with another relative or more often with a neighbour as very few farmers had more than one horse, and two horses were needed to pull the heavy plough.

Connacht Tribune

Locals thanked for demo backing

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Anne Mitchell: Great local support.

GALWAY IFA Chairperson, Anne Mitchell, has thanked the people of Athenry and surrounding areas for their support during Friday’s Action Day protest.

She told the Farming Tribune that the demonstration was planned to cause ‘absolute minimal disruption’ to the people, schools and businesses of the town as well as being conscious of Covid restrictions.

“We really didn’t want anyone on the streets because of the Covid situation and we also advised that where there was more than one person in a vehicle, and not from the same household, that they would wear masks,” said Anne Mitchell.

She said that they were also acutely aware of the fact that the Leaving Cert examinations were going on in schools around the town which dictated their decision to stage the protest between 11am and 12 noon.

However, one concerned parent who contacted this newspaper, said that the honking of horns could be heard by those who were doing their Leaving Cert geography exam on Friday.

“While I do understand the reasons behind the protest, I just think that the honking of horns should have been left out it, while an exam was in progress,” he said.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Athenry’s action day a wake-up call for the West

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The tractorcade is ready to roll in Athenry on Friday in the IFA protest over farm viability and the Climate Action Bill.

AN estimated ‘200 plus’ tractors, cars and jeeps took part in Friday’s IFA ‘Action Day’ protest in Athenry aimed at highlighting major problems coming down the track with the ‘new CAP’ and the Climate Action Bill.

Connacht IFA Chairperson, Pat Murphy, said that they were delighted with the turnout and also with the positive reception they received from the people of Athenry.

“If farming and agriculture go to the wall in rural Ireland it will sound the death-knell for our provincial and villages too.

“We really do need our politicians to wake up to the fact that decisions made over the coming weeks or months could decide the future of rural Ireland as we know it,” said Pat Murphy.

He said that an agenda being driven by the Green Party to drastically reduce the numbers of suckler cows, dairy cows and cattle across Ireland would have a catastrophic impact on Irish agriculture, unless amendments were made to the Climate Action Bill.

“If Irish farmers are prevented in producing the food that’s accepted as being probably the most environmentally friendly and traceable product across the world, then that gap will be filled by countries like Brazil where rain forests are being cut down every single day of the year,” said Pat Murphy.

He also said that the negotiations on CAP coming up at the end of this month would also have huge implications for farming and especially so in the West of Ireland where farms were so dependent on direct payments.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Minister outlines ‘tough road ahead’

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Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue

A CRITICAL part of the eventual CAP deal for farmers will rest with the flexibility of the Irish Government to make its own decisions on where the money will be allocated, Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, told the Farming Tribune last week.

During a whistle-stop tour of a number of agri-related projects in Galway last Thursday, Minister McConalogue said that as things stood, the major stumbling block to an agreement was the European Parliament.

“There are really two aspects of this deal which will be of vital importance to Irish farmers over the coming years – the flexibility to make our own decisions and the percentage of the funding to be spent on ECO schemes,” said Charlie McConalogue.

He said that while some progress had been made at the end of last month’s Trilogue negotiations [EU Commission, Council and European Parliament], it had not been possible to reach an agreement.

“As things stand, what’s blocking a final agreement is the European Parliament part of that Trilogue. We are trying to reach compromises on the issue of convergence, and the ECO scheme element of the payments, but this hasn’t been possible with the parliament so far,” said the Minister.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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