As we bid a fond farewell to summer and the holiday season, but with agricultural show fever still with us, we’ve been reminiscing at the Roscommon People – with the help of some well-known locals – on happy childhood memories of summers on the farm…!
Farmyard ‘an animal kingdom’
Roscommon People Editor
For a while – when we were kids – we were city slickers. In Dublin city in the early 1970s, we were surrounded by buses, people and big buildings. It was a black and white world, or certainly a greyish one.
Animals? We hardly ever saw any! Well, there was Skippy (The Bush Kangaroo) on television, I guess. And there were occasional trips to the Zoo or the circus.
We amused ourselves with the toys of the era and with two-channel tv, where ‘Top Cat’ and other great cartoons came to us via the rabbit’s ears, the popular if informal indoor television aerial. There was no wall to wall Spongebob Squarepants, the norm in our house now; Squarepants wasn’t even in short pants.
Everything changed when we made our trips ‘to the country.’ Cavan felt like another world, not because it was Cavan, but because it really was ‘the country.’ On the car journey, urban life faded at the same rate at which rural life evolved before us. We always looked forward to visiting our relatives, excitement levels rising as the now-familiar landmark towns and villages came into view. When we got to our destination, near Ballyjamesduff, an adrenaline rush always came when we spotted the long driveway that led to our grandparents’ house.
The farmhouse, typical of its time, was wholesome and homely, where there was a long tradition of ramblers calling. The hospitality was fantastic. There always seemed to be baking or cooking going on, and the spreads of wholesome food that appeared on the big, sturdy kitchen table were, on their own, well worth the trip from Dublin.
For children, the adjoining farmyard was a captivating, even mysterious, arena. It was almost as if we had stepped into the set of a movie, admittedly a movie about mad-cap poultry. Clucking hens scurried in all directions! And there was the wonder of seeing eggs being laid! The opportunity to feed calves! This insight into farm life fascinated us. The hen houses, the sheds, the smells, an animal kingdom on your doorstep. Of the farm machinery, the favourite of course was the tractor.
We got to feed the animals, to ride on the tractor, to help in the fields. It was always very enjoyable. I reckon if my later life took a different course, I would have been quite happy toiling in the fields and the farmyard! Mind you, not getting into farming didn’t protect us from visits to the bog. There, often in sweltering heat, we crouched for hours in monotonous ‘homage’ to turf, bereft of ‘Top Cat’ and indeed all hope, as time suddenly seemed to stop still.
The bog, we could take or leave, but summer visits to our grandparents’ farm in Cavan, with its special scents and its clucking hens, remain a very fond memory of our youth.
Innovation (of sorts) on the bog!
Jigsaw Roscommon & Roscommon Leader Partnership
Back in the day a trip to the bog involved tea in a bottle, banana sandwiches and the ever-reliable handmade wheelbarrow. This was predominantly made from timber and three bicycle wheels (without tyres) fastened together.
On the day in question, we loaded the turf on our trusty wheelbarrow, polished off the sambos and tea and headed for home. Unfortunately we got stuck.
However, between the six of us (aged between 8 to 14 years of age) we came up with a plan! We would tie my sister Ruth to the front of the wheelbarrow through the belt loops on the back of her jeans. She was then supposed to run while my brothers were to push the wheelbarrow at the same time. Ruth was supposed to add more power to the wheelbarrow by pulling and keeping it from sinking in the bog. This didn’t happen. Ruth did run and then she jumped, losing the back of her jeans to the wheelbarrow and falling straight into a bog hole…needless to say the wheelbarrow didn’t move an inch!
‘Making hay, feeding lambs’
I have very fond childhood memories of life on the farm and going to the bog. I’ll be the first to admit that I was never the most helpful person to bring farming, but we always had great fun. These memories are a far cry from the glamour of the Rose of Tralee, but my childhood on the farm has made me really appreciate growing up in the countryside.
Some of my favourite memories are of the long summer evenings when my father would be making hay and silage. Even though I was always a real ‘girly girl’ growing up, I enjoyed sitting on the tractor while dad made bales, listening to the sound of the wrapper hard at work.
Another fond memory is of feeding ‘Frisky’ to the pet lambs. I could never understand why my father and brothers didn’t want any pet lambs, but each spring I would hope for a pet lamb to have the chance to feed them through a bottle. This is the only job I would still do on the farm!
Going to the bog was a job I was never too happy about. I think the fact that I hated frogs had something to do with that! Each time we’d go to foot the turf or bring it home, my older brother would arrive behind me with a frog in hand. Needless to say, I don’t go to the bog anymore!
Even though times are changing, I think life on the farm is still very important for children. I see the joy my niece and nephews feel as they help my older brother with farming duties. My niece, Abi, now takes on the role of mother for pet lambs as she makes bottles for them and ensures they are kept safe. Moments like this are valuable life lessons for children as they learn to look after vulnerable animals and take responsibility for caring for others.