• Tommy Hourigan, Raheen, Limerick

Article from the Grange Parish Book suggested for reading this week (week 11)


Farming in the Past This week (week 11) the suggested article for reading from the Grange Parish Book provides insightful and fascinating accounts of farming in the past. Austin Cregan and Tom Casey combined to bring the reader right through from the 1940s into the 1960s, charting the farming methods, challenges and the advances of the times.

Austin provided a detailed account of farming routines and practices during the 1940s and 1950s, including the utilisation of and advances in farming technologies. He lauded the men and women, assisted by great workhorses, who undertook back-breaking work that was performed before the arrival of the various machinery and, of course, electricity. He also pointed to the tremendous impact that more available education had on rural and farming life. Tom provided a fascinating account of local hay saving and harvesting during the 1950s and 1960s, an enjoyable reminder for those of us who lived in those times and experienced hay-saving first hand. Those of you of more recent generations may find the ways and methods of those bygone days to be almost incredible! The following is an extract from Austin's recollections of past farming methods:

"New Tractor - In 1947, my father bought a Fordson tractor from McCarthy's Garage, Charleville, and Jack Quain was dispatched by bus from Croom to collect it.

The tractor was green in colour and with iron wheels which were fitted out with rubber bands to allow it to be driven by road to Manister. Because of its iron makeup and its sheer bulk, the maximum speed was extremely slow. Consequently, the tractor and its driver had only reached Banogue by nightfall, where they had to park for the night. By the time the tractor arrived in our yard the next day, some excitement had built up – we were now the proud owners of one of the first tractors in Manister and certainly the first green one!

To be honest, there were a lot of problems with it from the outset. It could hardly be used at all in wet conditions because of its extreme weight, which bogged it down quite quickly. It was run on kerosene but had to be started on petrol and anyone ‘taking on’ the starting handle would need to be in the full of their health and God help you if it ‘back-fired’. There were stories of broken hands everywhere but I think, on reflection, they were only stories. I would venture to suggest that until the little Ferguson superseded this tractor, the horse was well able to hold its own with it."

The following is an extract from Tom's account of hay saving and harvesting:

"Until the hay in a wynd settled down, it was a somewhat loose structure. Therefore, it was necessary to tie down each wynd by two ‘ropes’, each called a “sugan”. This


word is, most likely, derived from the Irish language (súgán, possibly). A sugan, about two inches in diameter, was constructed from the hay itself by adding and twisting hay until it was of sufficient length to reach from the bottom of a wynd over the top and down to the bottom of the wynd at the far side. The ends of a sugan were pulled as tightly as possible by a man at each end and were secured to the wynd by winding the sugan ends around hay in the bottom of the wynd. Usually, two sugans crossing each other at the top were required to adequately tie down a wynd. There was a skill involved in the construction of a strong sugan. With the passage of time, the sugan method became redundant as hay twine became available.

Hay made into wynds before it was dry enough would heat, and it would be of very poor quality as a result. Saved hay was left in wynds in the meadow for several weeks, so as to season and dry out further. During this period, hay was being saved in other meadows.

The farmer took great pride in the appearance of the wynds that stood in his meadow. The day after wynds were made, the men would return to the meadow to pull loose hay from the bottom of each wynd. This hay was forked on to the top of the wynd to form a pointed top. It was at that stage that the sugans were made and tied. This process was known as 'pulling the butts and heading the wynds'".

The full article Farming in the Past may be read HERE. Next week (week 12) we will suggest another article for reading. Kind Regards to All.

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