Farming & Fairs

The Farm House: It was a two-storeyed house. Oh, they were big rooms. There were two big rooms downstairs and three bedrooms upstairs, no bathroom. In later years, well before I went to America, we re-done the house and put a scullery and bathroom in it, so we did. There was no bathrooms in any of the houses. Some of them had an outside, dry toilet, no running water. Oh well, there was water, but you had to take it in with a pail. (Alex McKendry)
My daddy was just a farm labourer. We lived away up in the hills. It was just a wee country house, you know, just a wee plain house. There was just a wee kitchen, and a wee bedroom, and what we called ‘the laft’, the loft. You had to go up a ladder to get to bed at night. Mammy had a big settle bed, and she opened it up at night, and there was maybe two or three would be at the top of the bed, and two or three at the bottom of the bed, and then she was fit to close it up during the day and made a sort of a seat out of it. (Agnes McCrory)
We never wanted!

Nobody had money, but they had farms and they had enough to eat. I mean, we had two farms. We never suffered any malnutrition or nothing, because my father, och, he was a great man right enough. He had every vegetable under the sun, as well as potatoes and our own pigs. You killed the pigs and you had your own bacon. They got it cured and all, they hung it and you would get meat once a week. The butcher would come with meat and it was mostly soup we had. There wasn’t very much in the way of roasts, except for maybe some of the better off people, but you had soup out of shinbone; the stuff that was really good for you, and we didn’t realise it, you know. And you had your own butter, you know, on the farm. We never wanted, never. The only thing was, during the War, my father found it terrible because he couldn’t take tea without sugar. Sugar in tea, that was the only thing. But we had our own butter and everything else and we had plenty of flour. (Kathleen McAlister)

We were lucky. We really were self-sufficient; bought flour, bought sugar, tea. That was it. Because we always had to buy our cows, you know, about five or six cows, that meant we had gallons of milk. We had our own butter, and things like cream in your porridge. (Frances Duncan)
The Staple Diet

I mean the staple diet in our house was, you killed a sheep at the beginning of the winter, and you killed a pig and that was your diet for the winter. You got your bowl of porridge in the morning and then, I suppose, you got a fry whenever you got the milking done and things fed or whatever, and that done you until dinner time when you got your dinner, which was mostly bacon again. Then you got a drop of tea at four o’clock, brought out to the field to the men that was working, or ploughing, or whatever they were doing. That was my job whenever I came from school, to go to the field with the tea. And then I suppose you got your supper again at seven or eight o’clock or whatever and that was it. Nowadays if you start to eat a lot of bacon or that there, they say bacon is bad for arthritis and it’s bad for your heart, the fat. I seen my mother frying bacon there on the pan and there was maybe an inch deep of gravy on it and you went over and you dipped your piece into the pan and you would go and take a bite out of it and come back again for more. It didn’t do you a bit of harm. Yes, my father lived to be 86. (Francis Mc Caughan)
Wholesome Food

At that time everything was free-range. Everybody kept pigs, ducks, geese and hens and a couple of dogs. My father, here, he would have butchered the pigs. If somebody had pigs for killing, you know, ready for porking, he would have killed them. Then they were took down the length of the market house, where the Library is now, and was took away to, I suppose Ballymena, to Mortons. Everybody had a big beam across the kitchen for hanging them up too, and that’s where they had to be hung to make sure that they were clean, you know. And I suppose there was a bit of smoked bacon as well. There was usually a brave lot of smoke about the ould houses then, with the big open fires and the cranes and that. Like, I would say, there was none of the pig went to waste, I would think, because the livers and the heart and the fat was all used, you know. Like, they fried the livers in the pan with the fat of the pig, and the fat would have been then boiled, or fried or whatever you would say it was, and put into crockery jam pots and then kept for frying the bread and that. The fat of the pig came off, like in a sort of a web of lace of a thing, you know. It reminded me of lace, and then, if you killed a pig, you gave me part of your pig’s liver and, when we killed one, ours went to you. There was no fridges or freezers or anything. They had no way of saving anything, you know, so therefore they had to distribute them round, you know. (Francis Quinn)
First you have to kill that pig!

I remember them telling a story about a man who had a pig, and they got the butcher in to kill it. The pig was in a house with a wee low roof on it. So the man, he swung the hammer up to hit the pig on the head, and when he swung the hammer up, the hammer hit the roof, and came down and hit him on the head. So that wasn’t satisfactory! They decided that he would stand outside the door and they would chase the pig out. As it came out the door, he would hit the pig on the head with the hammer, and knock it out that way. So he got squared up at the back of the door ready to strike, and the pig came out like a shot, out past him, and he missed the head, and he hit him a crack on the rump. So the story ended there. I don’t know what way they managed to get the pig killed. (Francis McCaughan)
The Yearly Cycle

In the farming community, you see, in mid March you started to plough the ground and then in April the seeds were all sown. Corn and wheat and, one of the main industries in the farming area around this area was flax, ‘the lint’ they called it. Now it was a money-making crop because there was very little work with it. You just sowed it there, and grew it, and at the time of the war the farmer made a big lot of money with flax because it was made into canvas, and they covered the aeroplanes with the canvas, you see. Then you put in the potato crop and then there was about three weeks or a month before you started to cut hay, and in that month, that would be about the best month of the year, they cut the peat and dried it, you know. It took about a week to ten days. The seeds were all sown by June. By the end of May the seeds were all in, and then there was the peat to cut, and then they started to cut hay in about the middle of June. You know, about the third week in June you cut the hay, and then harvested from about the 1st of July to September. There was more work with the potatoes than there was with any crop, because they were all to weed, and grub and clean. The winter would have been the busy time because, you see, all the cattle was inside. You see, all summer the cattle was all out in the fields. The cows would be brought in, in the evening about six o’clock, and milked and put out to the fields and they were out in the fields all night, and brought in and milked in the morning, and then put out in the day time. But then, when it come the winter time, the cows was all brought in, and they had to be in the byre, and they were all to clean out and fother, you see. There was as much work in the winter, you know, as there was in the summer time. (Davy George McCrory)
There was different times of the year for putting in potatoes and things. In the January time of the year, well, then you ploughed the fields at that time, and then, at the end of April, the fields had to be cultivated for the crops, you know, putting in the barley and potatoes and that. And then, you see, when it come to the end of the month of June and early July, then you cut your hay. Then, when you went into August, it was the harvest time. You cut your barley and corn and all. We had two big thrashing mills in our time. (John McKeague)
Never too young to lend a hand

I was reared here, and when I was fit to do anything, I was working on the farm. I went to school and that. I was the oldest and there was always jobs every evening for feeding cattle or clearing out houses. It had all to be done by manual work. Then I thrashed the corn. Most of the ones had a thrashing mill of their own. The thrashing machine was driven by two horses round, what they called, the horse walk. That was my job, driving the horses round on the horse walk. You had to put a stack of corn into a machine there, and you got the corn off; and then the straw was for feeding cattle, and the corn that came off had to be cleaned. Whenever my father would be putting the corn into her, and it would be too heavy for my brother and me; the way we done was, we stood on this side of it and turned it with a handle. I took the handle up to the top and he took it back down to the bottom again. These were too heavy for us when we were small. In the month of April or May, we had to leave our schoolbags and go down to help. It maybe would be nine o’clock at night before we would get home again. We weren’t home from we left for school in the morning, not every day now, but in the spring of the year, like. You were learning to work pretty well before you were 14. You knew what work was. There was many a day you were kept home from school. My father got in trouble once, for my brother had too many days off, oh aye. I think maybe he mitched a time or two, when he was sent to school, and didn’t go, and then the days that he was kept at home, as well. (John Todd)
I went to the mountain manys a time to gather sheep without shoes. Yes, put off my shoes for you couldn’t wear them there, or you wouldn’t have any to go to the school, or to go to Mass on a Sunday. (Alex McKendry)
I left school at 14. Like, I was working before that, you know. You always had to work when you had a farm. There was things to be done and maybe you were working from you were no height. Well, looking after sheep and cattle you know. Putting in potatoes and all that, harvest, all that type of work you know. (Frank McCormick)
I left school when I was 14. Well, I was the oldest boy in the family and my father was a fair age, so he felt that he would just keep me at home. But I was happy enough at the time and I didn’t question why I was kept at home, you know. Well when I started off we were working with horses, we’d no tractor at that time. All the work was done by hand or with the horses. So it was hard enough work then too. Good healthy work. Then as years went on we progressed to a tractor. It was just like heaven. (Francis McCaughan)
No need for dieting!

From Carnalbanagh, we rode to Carnlough nearly every Sunday in life. We spent a while at the harbour and rode back home again. You had to go to your work and do your work the next day, and maybe milk cows and everything. There was less beef on you! (Mary Hunter)
The notions the ould people had

All the work had to be done by hand then or with the horses. There was no tractors, or not as many then. I suppose it was in the ’40s that the tractors came into farms, you know. (Frank McCormick)
We would have took a whean of fields, you know, back and forward, and would have growed potatoes on up until the ’60s, you know. I mind the horses and the farming, so I do. We had a big horse; we’d a big black mare first and then we had a big brown horse on up until, I suppose, the middle ’50s. Well there was all wee Fergusons coming in, do you see, I suppose, in the ’50s and the old people now, were very conservative. I remember they wouldn’t, when they opened the drills for to put in the spuds, they wouldn’t have let a tractor into it. It had to be the horse. And I remember a neighbour man of us ‘drawing the dung’ as we would call it, but they wouldn’t let him go down the drills with it, it had to be dumped at the head of the field, and we had to carry it down the field with grapes or a barrow, or something like that, because if the tractor went into the drills it would make it too hard. You know, but isn’t it funny like the notions the ould people had? Everybody growed corn and spuds and lint. (Francis Quinn)
The Milkin’

Oh well, we kept some sheep, and we had eight or ten cows in them times, and you milked them and sent the milk to the creamery every day. The creamery was up to this other side, up the Ballymena Road here. It’s closed now. (Alex O’Boyle)
The milking cows – they had to be milked in the morning and night. The byres had to be cleaned out. So that was my chore, when we were small, to clean them out. I loved, when I worked on the farm, to go out with the two horses and plough. I was about 18 then. (Alex McKendry)
My father would never have drunk anything but buttermilk, but then, it was buttermilk from the butter. The buttermilk you get now is not buttermilk. It’s made from powder or something. But that buttermilk! You’d the bits of the butter in it, the wee knobs of butter, and my father drank that all the time. We had a separator that you put the milk into and it separated the cream from the milk. And the cream came out one side, and the milk came out the other, and that skimmed milk was given to the calves or the pigs and the cream was kept (it was pure cream) and that was kept for the butter, and you put that in a crock and you let it sit till you had enough, and made the butter and churned every week. (Kathleen McAlister)
Arable Farming

Aye well, in the spring time the ploughing went on, and then you got the spuds in, and the corn in and all them things. The ploughing, it was done with horses. You had two horses you see and a plough. You didn’t go far in the summer holidays! You got a job. The fields nearly all had names. Oh well, if it was a steep field it was called the ‘brae field’, and there was one that grew clover – ‘clover field’. Every one had its own name, and the ‘rock field’, there was a rock in the middle of that one. Well in the autumn the corn was to cut. It had to be mowed and sheaved and all. Some boy mowed it, and then the next boy come and lifted it, and put it in sheaves, and then it was stooked up, dried with good weather, and then when it was dried, in maybe a fortnight or that, it was put in, what you call, cuts. It sit for maybe three weeks in that, and then it was put into stacks for the winter. When you got your stack built, you cut grass and thatched it over and that turned the water off it. You just had to know your job. Well in them times, you see, there was no reapers or nothing to cut it. You done the cutting with a scythe. You cut the hay with a scythe, and the corn. The hay, well in July, generally, it was cut. You cut it with a scythe and then you shook it out with a fork. You done it all by yourselves in them times, with forks and rakes, and then when you got it dry, you put it up in rucks, and let it sit maybe about a month or that and then you put it into pakes. You put 10 or 12 of them rucks into a pake, in near the house, and then in the winter time, you had to pull the pakes, take the hay out of them, and battle it and take it into the cows, and so on. So it kept everybody busy winter and summer. (Alex O’Boyle)
Now that place down there below me was a corn mill for crushing corn and making meal. Now they had to dry the corn for making meal, and then grind it down there and all. It was burned at a time. The whole place was burned. Everything was burned down. (John Todd)
The farmer’s feathered foes

Whenever you put in a field of corn, in the ’50s or ’60s, you had every crow in the country. Like, there was nobody else had any. Every crow in the vicinity landed with you, and between tearing, well they ate the corn and they tore out the spuds, and that’s why people stopped, you know. It was a different thing when everybody was doing it, then, as well as that, I suppose, if the old people seen a magpie, they shot it. Aye, because they ate the eggs. The hens were free-range, do you see, and the magpies, they just watched where the hens lay. Oh aye, if there was a magpie appeared at all, the gun came out. That’s what has happened to the wee wild birds today, I would think. The magpies are robbing the nests. (Francis Quinn)
Another two-legged egg thief

When we bought the farm down there, we had hens, free range, and they were in some of the houses and they were doing well. One of them, or some of them, started to lay out on the side of the railway. They had a nest, and when my sister would be going down, my mother would ask her to get the eggs from the nest in the railway, because I think there was quite a few laid in it. But one day there was a grading on, and there was two engines on the train. If the train had a big load of cattle on, maybe up to 12 wagons, she needed another engine at the back pushing. The other engine behind wasn’t hooked on, it was just pushing, and then, whenever it liked, it could stop. They went up past, and when the extra engine was going down by, my mother heard it stopping. She went out to see what was wrong, and there was the fireman coming out from the hen’s nest and going up into the engine, because, you see, there was nobody on the engine but the two crew and they were going back down into Ballycastle. They put it in the paper about the train stopping to rob a hen’s nest. (William Glass)
The spuds

Well you see the potatoes, they were put in, in the Spring. Oh yes, we had to plant them too, with an apron, and the potatoes in it, and you dropped one, about every 12 inches. Then the elder brother come along with horses and the plough and covered them over. When they come up, we had to weed them then. The weeds would come up in them. Around October we had to dig them. We were lucky, we’d a digger that horses pulled, and ah, what did you call it now, oh it spun around and threw out the clay and the potatoes, and then you gathered them and put them in pits. But a good many fields was too steep down there, do you see, to do anything and you had to dig them up with the grape, so you had. Some dug them with the spade and some liked to dig them with the grape. There was a lot more work on the farm then, than there is today. They wouldn’t go out to dig their dinner of potatoes today. You grew potatoes; you grew turnips; you grew corn. We don’t call it corn in America. Corn is the corn you eat. It’s oats we call it in America. (Alec McKendry)
The Lint

During the war there was a great price for lint, which flax was made out of. It was a big ‘go’ during the war, for there was a good price for it. We grew a lot of lint. After it was pulled, it had to go into a big dam. You would think it was nearly to rot it, but it was to take the husks off it, to get to the lint that was inside, in the middle, and then after it was taken out of the dam, it was spread in the fields to dry. It was long thin stalks. And you had to take it to the scutch mill, Carey’s Mill was just down the road. Scutching takes all the fibres off the outside of it. What was left was the lint, and the lint you took to the market in Ballymena and sold it there. (Alec McKendry)
Pullin’ lint

My grandfather always had flax as well. I remember ‘lint’, as they called it then. You would see, you know, the men, all out in the field up there, flax pulling. There was always communication between the different ones. You went to the neighbour to their pulling and they come to you, so that you had eight or nine men to attend and to pull it, all in one day. That was to get it all ‘dubbed’, into the dub to ret it. It had to go in evenly, you know. You couldn’t put a wee bit in today and a wee bit in tomorrow. It had all to go in at once or you would get discolouration in your fibre. (Annie McKillop)
It wouldn’t do to cut the lint, it had to be all pulled out by the root. (George McCullagh)
To wet your whistle

Any flax that was to pull, usually they had a case of Stout. I had a bottle of Stout to drink now and again. I did flax pulling at home, You pulled it into your arms and tied it in a sheaf. They carted it away to, what you call the dub, and it sort of half rotted it, for five or six weeks. It was a bad, bad, a rotten smell, and then letting out the dam water killed fish in the rivers. You caught the fish before they were dead and put them into fresh water and then you would eat them. You spread it and dried it and then they would take it to the mill and that was it. (Charlie McAlister)
I never pulled lint. I made the bands for it. I think the last lint to be grew here was about 1955 or ’56. They had to take a big long sprit, like a type of a rush you know, and there had to be bands made to tie the beets. (Francis Quinn)
I worked at the lint too. It was heavy work but, och, you enjoyed it. You gathered up maybe four or five people working together and pulled the lint by hand, and put it in the dam, and took it out and worked it all. (William Glass)
Spreading it

We had to do all that there and then spread it when it came out of the dam. Even before we left school, before we were 14, we were out at the lint. It had to be all taken and spread in a grass field, every beet had to be opened out, and spread out there, to get it dried. You got them dried, and you tied them, and put them into rucks, and thatched them to keep the rain from coming down through, until you took it to the flax mill, to get it scutched. (John Todd)
A wild dirty job

Oh the smell was wild altogether. You know, it was nearly, like, embalmed, coming out; fermented, I suppose. Like I was at the spreading of it, you know, but Oh God, it was a wild dirty job and nobody had any baths or anything then. There was a lot of work with it, and then it had to be dried, and then you needed dry days for to get it properly well dried, and it had to be lifted again, and tied, and put into stooks and then into winrows. We used to love the winrows because they would be put upright, you see, and you could have run down through the centre of it. It was a good place for hiding. Then it would have to be stacked and then they would come and take it away. (Francis Quinn)
I was spreading lint, and pulling lint, when I was only 11 year old. It was hard work. That was when I took rheumatic fever. I was lifting lint when I took rheumatic fever, and then, in them times you had to pay for a doctor and you didn’t get a doctor until you were dying. (Mary McCurdy)
The Scutch Mill

I worked a wee flax mill that was beside me, almost. Careys rented the mill. There was rollers in the mill and you took a bit of handful of flax and shoved it through these rollers. Then it was taken up, round to the scutch end. It was a dangerous caper. It scutched all the seed and dirt and things off it, until it was pure and white and clean. I didn’t do any of the scutching but I was doing the rolling. You got a handful of flax and you put it through the rollers. You had to have no buttons on your clothes, for it would catch in the flax, and it would pull you into the rollers. They scutched it all during the war. The flax mill was driven by water, from a wheel. There were a bench for ‘stricking’, what you called putting it up in the rows. After the scutching they sold it to the linen mills. They sold it in Ballymena, on the Fair Hill. I done a good bit of scutching, I done nearly the whole winter. I liked the work all right. I worked from about eight o’clock to five and I got a lunch break. (Charlie McAlister)
A lot of dust

Them flax mills and all, there was a lot of dust. It wouldn’t do for me to go into it with my lungs. I had to stay out in the open air, that was the doctor’s orders. (George McCullagh)
Going to the Moss

You bought no coals in them days. It was all peats that was burnt. We got out of school at three o’clock and went up to the moss, and the tea was ready for us in the moss, and we wheeled peats from that until maybe seven o’clock at night, and walked home from the moss. (Davy George McCrory)
The mountain air – I loved that
.

We always cut a good big bank of turf, a place down by Glenmakeernan Mountain. We carted them down with a horse. And then, when them was all taken home, they were built into a big stack, all winter. Boys I loved that. I loved that working in the mountain. Now here’s one I can tell you. Oh there’s nothing like the sea air for the youngsters, and the mountain air was ten times stronger and better for you than the sea air was. Oh aye. The smell of the moss, you know. It was the greatest thing in the whole world there, when you would be up in the mountain there, when you heard tell of footing the turf and castling it. Well the skylark lived in the mountain. A lovely wee brown bird, and they would have their nest in among or below the footings, four or five nice wee brown eggs, and on lovely warm day there, they would rise from these footings and they would get high up, high up to sing. Them birds were singing there, and they would dive down a bit and then up again, and that would go on nearly all day, if it was sunny weather. It took three workers. A man to cut the turf; a man to take them from him and put them in the barrow, and a man to wheel them out. Oh there was women at it too. They would fill the barrows. If you had a good summer there for the peats, if they were out there for about three days and got no rain, they were easy dried, you see, because a black turf has a skin, just like your hand there, and if it got hardened up, the water would run off it. (Jimmy Davidson)
Everybody had a bank in the moss. We cut ours nine miles away from the house, and you cut the turf and spread them out all over your lot. You got half an acre or an acre, or whatever you wanted, and spread them over there. We cut about a load of turf for every week of the year and that done, you had 52 cart-loads in them times. You cut the turf for a whole year just in a fortnight. Then you put them in a stack and you drew them home. You drew them home at your leisure, when you got time, and put them in a shed, put them in a stack. That was Capanagh we went to. There was a very big moss, 1600 hundred acres of it. There was plenty of moss for everybody. (Alex O’Boyle)
The right tools for the job

You had a spade and you pared all the banks ’til you got the sod off. You turned it with the spade. One man cut the turf and threw it out and another forked it and spread it out to dry. (Charlie McAlister)
Well there is one or two would do it by hand yet, with a peat spade, a spade with a bend on it, very few. Now they have a machine that cuts them. (Alex O’Boyle)
We didn’t use them slide cars. It wasn’t a good thing. The wheelbarrow was the best. (George McCullagh)
From parin’ the turf bank to cartin’ them home, you went to the mountain, and you spent two to three weeks on the mountain, cutting the turf, drying them and then carting them home. Cutting the turf, you had to, what you call `pare the bank’; take the top twelve inches off it first, and that was put back down in the bottom, where the turf came out of the year before, for to spread the turf on; and then you had to cut them down with the turf spade. Somebody with a fork would lift them out for another person to spread them. It was alright, I liked it.
The only trouble was when you had to foot them. The midges would’ve ate you alive at that time. They came up out of the moss, you know. Then you dried them, and you had to cart them out ’til a stack, and they were put there for the winter. You carried them home when you needed them. It mostly took about three weeks to do it all, so it did. There was no coal in them days. The only thing was the turf or cut firewood. There were no electric heaters or no electric in the houses. I believe the summers were much better then, so they were. Turf fires, one in the kitchen, one in the sitting-room and there was one in a bedroom upstairs. My mother would light them in the morning. Mostly she would be up first, but, the night before you took the biggest turf that was lit and put it into the pit, and you covered it over with ashes and that kept it lit ‘til the morning. It would keep alive to the morning and then you’d take it out and re-start it. So you didn’t need matches. (Alex McKendry)
The Hill Farmer

There was always plenty to do. We were working and there was a fair bit of land to cover. We have always been sheep farmers and as I say we never bothered much with cultivation. We just ran the sheep. Aye it’s good land for grazing, yeah, but it’s not very suitable for, you know, ploughing and reaping and mowing, and things that you do with crops. My father was a dealer, a sheep and cattle man. We kept black-faced ewes. They’re mountain sheep. We had everything we needed. You know we had our own cows, and so we had our own milk and butter and always, you know, an abundance of it, and we did our own baking. The mountain we had, when I was a youngster, was an undivided mountain. We had a third of the grazing of it. You probably know that system. Three different farmers, or a number of different farmers, share the grazing. (Frances Duncan)
We’re pretty much into sheep and cattle. Well the land here didn’t really lend itself to arable farming. There’s a more hilly area here. The land didn’t lend itself to cropping. Well at times it’s very hard work but it’s enjoyable work, interesting work. It’s hard to explain to anybody the joy you get out of your sheep lambing there, and one thing and another, although you’re up from all hours of the morning, to all hours of the night. You just get a certain satisfaction from going out there and seeing a ewe standing licking her lamb, after she lambs. It just brings home to you Mother Nature. (Francis McCaughan)
Your croft maybe was half of a field. We had, what you call, an undivided mountain, for everybody could graze so many sheep on it. In them days nobody bothered counting. Aye I heard my father talking, you see. When he was a wee cub, in the old times there was no such things as fences. When the cows were grazing, well you had to herd them. Even if you were only a cub that was your job, herding the cows to keep them confined. He said he minded that. (Johnny Adair)
The Grading

We used to go with the cattle at the time of the war to ‘the gradin’ as we talked about. We went to the market yard with the cattle. The Government bought the cattle at that time. And there was a man there, an inspector, and he graded them, and then there was a price set. Oh it was a good system. There was six grades and there was A+ and A- and B+ and B-. Well the majority of them was a B+ or A- or that. The man judging them, he clipped a mark on them according to whatever grade they were. One stroke, they just had scissors and clipped a stroke along, and one stroke was an A grade. (William Glass)
Fairs and Markets

There was a fair every month in Ballycastle, and then there was special ones, what they would have called the Apple Fair, the last Tuesday in October. There is still apples on that day, the apple fair. And there was the Gooseberry Fair. Armoy had a fair, the Christmas Fair. It was always on Boxing Day. A lot of people went to it. It had nothing to do with farming. They were doing nothing at Christmas and they run out to go to that, to go to the Christmas Fair. Aye there was a turkey fair, turkeys and geese. They went out in carts. When you went into Ballycastle to those markets or whatever, they were, like, social events as well, you know. Och well, the farmers all had to go for a treat. There was a shop or a pub there, it’s The House of McDonnell now. Well, it was McDonnell’s all my life. He was a vet, and the daughter then took over the pub, and it was a great meeting place for the farmers in the town. If they met someone, they would have said, “Are you coming up to Mary McDonnell’s?” Mary McDonnell’s was a great place. (William Glass)
In my young days you had just the markets held in the Diamond there, in the centre of it. The cattle were sold there, the dealing done there, but it more or less stayed similar to what it originally had been. (John Duncan)
There was the May Fair and the November Fair. The May Fair was sort of a small fair, and then the first Tuesday of August, there was a Gooseberry Fair, they called it. And the Hiring Fair, that was the time they hired men out for six months. We always took men to help in with the crops at harvest time but that was the only time. (Margaret McGowan)
The Lammas Fair

The fairs were in the Diamond, well, even now, what’s left of the fairs, ‘The Lammas Fair,’ is still held every year in the Diamond. That’s only a recent development. The Diamond is where they all congregated. To tell you the truth the Lammas is a big, big fair. There is big crowds come, bigger maybe than in the old days but it hasn’t got what the old Lammas Fair had. They all came, do you see. ‘Lammas’ is ‘the first fruits’. Some people think it’s the Lambs’ Fair. It’s nothing to do with the lambs. But ‘Lammas’ is the first of Autumn, you know, and the harvest of the crops and all that sort of thing. Well then they went to the Fair and had a good time at the Fair, and I remember when the stalls were there and a variety of things were sold. Now John McAuley, he is the author of the Old Lammas Fair song. He has the lines in it “and they crossed the silver Margey and strolled along the strand” and “the Oul’ Lammas Fair in Ballycastle-O”, “but her pouting lips all sticky from eating Yellow Man”. Now Yellow Man is a dry sort of thing, you know. The ones that had the secret of it was the Ballymena ones that had the stalls. Then there was the gambling tables and all that sort of thing, and the swing boats, and the hobby horses and the chair-a-planes. There was a friendliness about it at that time, and everybody, you know, all round the Glens and away round to the Coleraine area and all, everybody was there. (James Clarke)
The Hiring Fairs

The men that was out for hiring, young men after they left school, and so on, they gathered into the hiring fairs that was in May and November on the, I think the 21st of May was one of the dates, and I suppose the same date in November. It was every six months, and they agreed with whatever man they were hiring whatever it would be for the six months. Maybe, in them times, it would start off it would be maybe six or seven pounds for six months, and they ‘earled’ them. Now what earled meant was that the fellow that they had hired, they give him, we’ll say, five shillings. That would be called earling and they couldn’t go and earl with somebody, go to somebody else, because they had already got that money. And if somebody else came along and said to them, “Oh, look here, I could do with a man, I’ll hire you for six months.” You couldn’t do that. There was maids hired right enough, and that, but I don’t know so much about them. Like, I don’t think women went to the hiring fairs here. The men went to them. Aye there was some of them men, whenever we were small, stayed here. (John Todd)
Working day and night

I was boarded out since I was 14 and I had to stay with a farmer in Armoy for a year, and I left then and I went to work on a farm in Carey, a man and a woman, and they were all right. Six months, I was hired for six months. I was over eight years with that man down in Carey. I never heard a fault in my work during the whole time I was with him. I did just ordinary farm work I had a sister over here in Cushendall, and I came on over to her, and I got a place then with a Mr Brogan. It was a better farm. These other farms in Carey, I was working day and night, Sunday and everything. This man had his hours, and that was far better. I was with him eight years. (George McCullagh)
I was 16 when I left school, and I worked on the farm, and then I went to work for this other farmer. For 2 years I worked with him. I stayed there at night, I would sleep there at night and I was only off on Saturday and Sunday. Well, lucky enough, I got a bicycle in later years. (Alex McKendry)
Getting around

I would say there wasn’t a great deal of communication between our end of the Parish and the other end because nowadays you just get into a car and you run into town. Then, it was a weekly expedition. My father had a car. Oh there were horses and carts too. There was horses and carts on the farm you know but, as I say, he was going to fairs and markets and what not all the time. (Frances Duncan)
Oh we had, yes we had a trap and then later on we got a car. (Margaret McGowan)
‘Neighbouring’ or ‘Morrowing’

Well it was a different style of life. You see, the people, one helped the other. My father was a great man for machinery … all that type of thing. He used to help the other farmers in the locality. Somebody would maybe help him, do you see, and that’s the way they worked. They called it ‘morrowing’ in those days. (John McKeague)
In the summer time you had to work, I had to help my daddy in the hay field and things like that. They called it ‘neighbouring’, when you neighboured with somebody to do something. Maybe their horses and your horses would have got together to dig potatoes and things like that. My father would have been inclined to have done most of it on his own. Well, just really enough crops to feed the family and feed the animals or whatever. (Anna May Wharry)
A good life

Oh, we’d a good time on the farm you know. When I grew up I thought to myself, well I’d a happy young life, because they’d no place to play and I’d plenty of places, because no matter what you done, it was your own ground you were on. ( Mary McCurdy)

Oh well, you had just do whatever was to do at the season of the year. You had to pull with the season and go with the weather and do the best you could. Every year wasn’t the same. (Alex O’Boyle)
Technology changed a lot of things

Well, the sense of people sort of needing each other and depending on each other was nice, in a way. We kept a horse, but then we got the lend of a horse, and then somebody got the lend of ours, you know. That was the way it was. The wee farms weren’t big enough. You needed a lot of ground to keep two horses. One went and helped the other. That has all changed, so it has. There was a good atmosphere in the country. You know there was good neighbourliness in the country at that time because, well, everybody ceilidhed back and forward, you know. I would have went down to John Mooney’s, and that, but then you see the TV’s came out. I think, that what changed rural life in Ireland was the TV’s. If anybody came here, the first thing I would do would be put off the TV, you know, but most places you go in, you know, the TV is on; and, sure, what are you doing but sitting watching TV, which you can do in your own home? Technology changed a lot of things. (Francis Quinn)

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