The Current Turf Campaign and Campaigns of My Youth
I thought I might not have the indulgence of writing a blog at all this week since the two blazing days at the beginning of the week allowed for the resumption of the ‘turf campaign’ which brought to mind the ‘campaigns’ of my youth. I remember even around Athleague there was a period of time which was referred as the ‘beet campaign’ i.e. the beet being harvested for the Tuam sugar factory.
The annual cycle of farming was tending to the lambing season in the first months of the year. This meant nightly inspections with the storm lamp of the flock of sheep to ensure that none of them was in difficulty. This often went on for quite a while which the precision of later times condensed.
Then came the spring sowing of a variety of crops, potatoes, oats, turnips, some barley, meadow grass on some formerly tilled land as per ‘rotation’ crop practise.
The third big effort was the turf cutting which started in May and lasted for a maybe two weeks weather permitting. The saving of the turf was an ongoing process through the summer.
This led into the hay saving period. Of course all hay was cut, then allowed to dry and gathered into cocks of hay and later brought into the farmhouse haggard and made into pikes which might take twenty five or thirty field hay cocks. Many farmers of course had hay sheds or lofts over other farming rooms. Some people stacked the hay in reeks. I remember a neighbouring farmer who was very precise using the reek to store his hay and built it with great care and attention to its design and appearance. My own father was not so fussy excusing this by saying that he ‘didn’t mean it to remain there for too long’.
In late August it was time to bring home the turf with horse and cart and later with tractor and trailer. Often the route into the bog where the turf was probably ‘clamped’, was, to say the least, challenging especially in the narrow cart wheel days. The improvised bridges or keshes as they were know, often caused drama being liable to collapse.
As the Tipperary farmers slogan went it was heading towards a good Autumn when ‘the hay was saved and Cork beaten’.
Early Autumn was the time when the cycle came nearly full circle as the sowing of February/March led to the reaping of oats, barley and the digging and pitting of potatoes. There is a fine story in an old exploring English anthology about a couple of boys skiving off school to go picking potatoes. It was a job I did not like at all. But it had to be done and there was no reprieve. You did it as a matter of fact like all family members contributed to work-sharing on those multi crop farms. The grain crops went from sheaves to stooks to stacks and eventually into larger stacks in the haggard. One of the really big days of farmer’s year was the grain threshing when a meitheal of neighbouring farmers and family members attended this process. Each had a traditional role from forking the sheaves onto the receiving wing of the thresher to the key and experienced feeder of those sheaves into the machine with a couple more making the stacks from the now seedless straw. Another key operator was the man who bagged the grain. I remember vividly my father when he had, through age, graduated to supervising this role. Nearly always at the conclusion of this major and fulfilling project there was a special tea-dinner with an abundance of ham, corned beef, tomatoes, warm oven baked bread, jam galore and bottles of stout. It was a busy kitchen with loud talk and a great sense of work rewarded. A thanksgiving. Those campaigns were interspersed with fairs, school, illnesses, fishing, playing football for Fuerty and hurling for Athleague, following Roscommon, cutting timber, being in the wings when 'important' visitors came to the house and were hosted in the parlour. Being treated to a trip to Salthill by the yanks when they came home from Chicago. Leaving family members to the train as they headed for London or Manchester, meeting at the railway station when some of them came home for Christmas. And so the cycle went.
After that reverie back to the present. I had made preliminary arrangements to have what ‘dry’ turf I had taken home. So my modus operand meant that I needed to ‘bag’ it. This was done and the remainder elevated in their footings to catch the drying breezes which will hopefully come. ‘There is only place to dry turf and that is on the bog’ my uncle used to say. In a late winter quiz I asked a question; ‘What product cannot be burned?’ The answer I required was asbestos but Michael Murphy came loud and clear with ‘last summer’s turf’.
Anyway my quota of good dry turf arrived in Forest View having negotiated the traffic jam and dust on the narrow Tonroe Bog road. This gives me the prospect of winter comfort and time presently to enjoy some of what Boyle Arts Festival has to offer with a clear conscience of indulging myself there without the nagging voice in my head saying ‘don’t mind the Arts Festival bring home the turf it is more important’.
Boyle Arts Festival Opening
Former President Mary Mc Aleese
A fine crowd was present at the official opening of Boyle Arts Festival by former President Mary Mc Aleese accompanied by her husband Martin. Mary McAleese is no stranger to Boyle and is a great friend to this part of the country. Her ‘gifts collection’ titled ‘Intertwined’ in King House is something that I highly recommend for your viewing and we are so lucky to be the custodians of it. The former president in opening the festival spoke informally and humorously touching on a number topics. She paid a high an deserved tribute to the organising committee and to their year- long work of planning, financing and constructing a fresh festival each year as has happened for 27 years now. She referenced Discover Ireland’s validation of Boyle arts Festival as, ‘a magnificent gem of a festival’. She commended again the efforts of the committee on putting together such impressive programmes. The former President related some anecdotes from her adolescent years when she visited her ancestral home and of shopping trips to Boyle on her bicycle. She defended the rain shower that interrupted the possibility of being outdoors with a story from an official trip to a desert location in Uganda where it hadn’t rained in 20 years until the very day of her visit. In that context it was a blessing she suggested.
The Two Arts Collections
I only had a cursory glance at the King House collection and was pleased to note exhibits by Boyle people I know including Niall Sheerin with his titled ‘Warm Whiskey Winds’ with Naomi Draper’s ‘Companion’, Vera Gaffney’s ‘Celestial Blooms, Wild Raspberries & March Bog Blooms’ and Matthew Gammon’s ‘Sand Currents’ .
In the Parochial School there were works by local people I know also with Sian Costello a U 25 winner with her picture titled ‘The Construction of Wigwams’ and also displaying an impressive portrait of her dad ‘Monday Morning’. Also exhibiting was Roseanna Callan with ‘Self –Portrait-Gymnast at Sunset’ ; Joe Kennedy and Margaret Mulligan photographs; Ann O’Hara Conroy, Sally Walsh and Susan Mannion. Amongst my favourites here were two Galway streetscapes by Mary Theresa Keane depicting Cross Street and Kirwan’s Lane with which I was very familiar when a student in the City of the Tribes. A feast of a picture is ‘Raspberries’ by Josephine Keane while ‘Rockingham Gate in May’ rarely looked so well as in Holly Hersey’s picture.
Tonight I will visit two Leitrim people in the Church of Ireland, ‘Carole Coleman in Conversation with Paul Williams’. I don’t know if they will have anything to say about Carole’s native town of Carrick-on-Shannon.
What seemed almost like an impossibility a year ago has moved closer as Donald Trump has been nominated by the Republican Party in the United states to be their candidate for the U.S. Presidential election in November. Trump tells people what they want to hear and plays on their fears. He is against immigration and the U.S. being the world’s policeman. I suppose that is not surprising in the run up to an election. People in many parts of the world are tired of the old politics or continuous establishment politics. He claimed he would be the voice for those who ‘work hard and do not have a voice’ so championing the everyman. Someone said that ‘short of genius a rich man cannot truly imagine poverty’. In a speech full of rhetoric he said that ‘I will restore law and order …we will make America safe and proud’ and ended with ‘I love you’. He reminded me of the image we see of a Roman Emperor! One delegate when asked what she felt about him after his speech answered ‘He seemed very presidential not really crazy’. That’s pretty reassuring! It’s a bit of a stretch from the first Republican President which was Abraham Lincoln.
Buying a New Home
Sometimes what looks like a good idea begins to creak when given air. Minister Coveney’s idea of giving first time buyers a grant of €10,000 seems appealing at first but the question arises what will that do? The emerging consensus it that it will go to the sellers thus increasing the cost of the houses by most of that 10,000. Now I have a question; What about those ‘first time buyers’ who buy a second hand houses? Are they not entitled to some consideration if the scheme IS helpful?
The Connacht Final
I’ll say very little about this topic. Like all Roscommon supporters I was very disappointed after Sunday in Castlebar. That is a given. However it has to be said that the people who were most disappointed had to be the players and those associated with the team. So I really feel for them and all they have put into this journey. Saturday is chance to regain some confidence so I hope they are able to rise to the occasion. I know that will be difficult after six days. So the best of luck to all involved. I intend to be there. Oh yeah, great credit is due to Galway who played a fine game and great football. Fair play to them, they could go a long way with performances like that.