Funding for Maghera Roots project

Threshing machine with stack of corn
Threshing machine with stack of corn

The Maghera Historial Society (MHS) and the Heritage and Cultural Centre has received a grant of £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for its new project ‘Maghera Roots’.

This exciting and original project will focus on farming in the Maghera area from the 1940s to the 1960s – a time which saw the changeover from the horse to the tractor and the end of farming traditions which had endured for centuries.

Based in the Heritage and Cultural Centre on the Coleraine Road, and led by local volunteers, the project will be a lasting record of the rich farming heritage of the area stretching back through the generations.

Over the coming months the society will be gathering information, stories, memories, documents and photographs which tie in with the project. ‘Maghera Roots’ is as much about the town as the countryside around it as the links between the farming community and those who live in Maghera were very close at that time.

The society are asking anyone who has memories to share to join in, whether you were involved in farming at the time or maybe remember the fair days and market days in the town or the ‘Pruttie Gathering’ holidays from school.

The basis of the project will be an in-depth study of six local farms, where, guided by the Heritage Centre, the farmers will discuss and share their valuable experience and knowledge based on a lifetime’s work.

Through the society’s new website: www.maghera-heritage.com, Facebook, or simple old-fashioned conversations at the centre, the society are inviting anyone who has memories or stories to join in the project.

They will be running story-telling reminiscence sessions in the centre and at the end of the project all the information will be carefully documented, recorded and stored to pass on to future generations.

They hope that the whole experience will be an enjoyable as well as a worthwhile one for everyone who takes part as well as increasing awareness and appreciation of local heritage and culture.

Next April the society will hold a three week exhibition to show the work carried out which will include a display of farming implements and machinery from the period.

The launch of the exhibition will be marked by an open day featuring demonstrations of old farming practices –such as churning butter, ploughing with horses, threshing corn and scutching lint.

This should bring back memories for many as well as sharing the heritage with a new audience while adding to the local sense of identity and community.

Commenting on the award James Armour, spokesperson for the Heritage and Cultural Centre said: “We are thrilled to have received this award from the Heritage Lottery Fund and we are looking forward to involving as many people as possible in putting together a picture of a way of life which has now disappeared as well as preserving a record of our rich farming heritage.”

Paul Mullan, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund NI added their support. He said: “We were delighted to fund this ambitious and engaging local project.

“Farming and agricultural heritage is an important part of Northern Ireland’s story so we’ll be fascinated to hear what emerges during this project. We look forward to seeing the end exhibition and maybe trying our hand at a few heritage skills. It is thanks to National Lottery players that we can support interesting local heritage projects right across the UK. We would encourage other communities to see if our Sharing Heritage programme can help them explore and share their local heritage stories.”

The project co-ordinators, James Armour and Maeve O’Neill, can be contacted at the Heritage and Cultural Centre, 17 Coleraine Road, Maghera, phone no. 028 7954 9835 or by email at info@maghera-heritage.org.uk.