BYGONE DAYS: Union calls on support for farmers impacted by flooding

Top price bull – Robert Arthur and Son of Knowehead Road, Templepatrick, Co Antrim, paid a price of 2450 guineas at Balmoral for this bull at a sale held at Balmoral in October 1987. The March 1986 bull was offered by John Patterson and Son of Donaghadee, Co Down. Pictured with the bull is Edmund Arthur, left, and Spencer Gilliland of Dalgety Agriculture. The company made an award to the buyers and sellers of the top priced bulls at the sale. Picture: Farming Life archivesTop price bull – Robert Arthur and Son of Knowehead Road, Templepatrick, Co Antrim, paid a price of 2450 guineas at Balmoral for this bull at a sale held at Balmoral in October 1987. The March 1986 bull was offered by John Patterson and Son of Donaghadee, Co Down. Pictured with the bull is Edmund Arthur, left, and Spencer Gilliland of Dalgety Agriculture. The company made an award to the buyers and sellers of the top priced bulls at the sale. Picture: Farming Life archives
Top price bull – Robert Arthur and Son of Knowehead Road, Templepatrick, Co Antrim, paid a price of 2450 guineas at Balmoral for this bull at a sale held at Balmoral in October 1987. The March 1986 bull was offered by John Patterson and Son of Donaghadee, Co Down. Pictured with the bull is Edmund Arthur, left, and Spencer Gilliland of Dalgety Agriculture. The company made an award to the buyers and sellers of the top priced bulls at the sale. Picture: Farming Life archives
Ulster MPs had been asked to support calls for government assistance to farmers hit by the Great Storm which had occurred in October 1987, reported Farming Life.

Ulster Farmers’ Union general secretary Vernon Smyth said that the UFU had received alarming reports to the extent of the damage which had been done to farmland and losses of livestock, following the appalling floods that had befallen the province.

He said: “I have written to MPs to invite their support for government assistance when the extent of the damage has been fully ascertained.

“The president has written to Lord Lyell [Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland] on the same subject, and we will be collating the information available from our group offices as soon as possible.

Andrew Patterson from Cookstown, Co Tyrone, with the reserve champion, Wilandale Supreme, at the Northern Ireland Simmental Cattle Club's autumn show and sale at Automart, Portadown, Co Armagh. Picture:  Picture: Farming Life archivesAndrew Patterson from Cookstown, Co Tyrone, with the reserve champion, Wilandale Supreme, at the Northern Ireland Simmental Cattle Club's autumn show and sale at Automart, Portadown, Co Armagh. Picture:  Picture: Farming Life archives
Andrew Patterson from Cookstown, Co Tyrone, with the reserve champion, Wilandale Supreme, at the Northern Ireland Simmental Cattle Club's autumn show and sale at Automart, Portadown, Co Armagh. Picture: Picture: Farming Life archives

“Thereafter, we will probably ask for an early meeting with Lord Lyell to compare our information with that from the department’s own investigations.”

Many hundreds of acres of farmland were reported this week in 1987 to still be under water.

Mr Smyth said: “From information already available it appears the west, centre and north of the province have been particularly badly affected.

“Very substantial numbers of stock have been reported drowned in the valley of the River Roe, north of Limavady. Severe crop damage – winter cereals – and loss of maincrop potatoes still in the ground, as well as crops in store, are being reported over a wide area.”

Pictured in October 1987 is Noel Kilpatrick from Banbridge, Co Down, with the supreme champion Ballymoney Sam, at the Northern Ireland Simmental Cattle Club's autumn show and sale at Automart, Portadown, Co Armagh. Picture:  Picture: Farming Life archivesPictured in October 1987 is Noel Kilpatrick from Banbridge, Co Down, with the supreme champion Ballymoney Sam, at the Northern Ireland Simmental Cattle Club's autumn show and sale at Automart, Portadown, Co Armagh. Picture:  Picture: Farming Life archives
Pictured in October 1987 is Noel Kilpatrick from Banbridge, Co Down, with the supreme champion Ballymoney Sam, at the Northern Ireland Simmental Cattle Club's autumn show and sale at Automart, Portadown, Co Armagh. Picture: Picture: Farming Life archives

Farming Life reported that the Thatcher government had not ruled out aid.

Secretary of State Tom King said that Northern Ireland had “suffered the most widespread flooding since records began”.

He said he would be discussing with ministers directly responsible “how best we can carry forward measures necessary to get back to normal”.

Lord Lyell had made a helicopter tour of the worst hit areas. He paid tribute to the efforts of employees of the department’s drainage divisions.

Soldiers from the Ulster Defence Regiment carried out a daring six hour night time rescue of seven horses trapped by rising floodwaters, which ended with the troops swimming across country at the dead of night to lead the terrified animals to safety.

A UDR officer with four of his men and woman from 11th Battalion UDR paddled, carried and dragged a boat overland and across flooded fields near Moira, Co Down, to save the animals.

But the horses were so frightened they found it impossible to get them into the boat so the soldiers took to the chill of the waters and swam across the fields towing the animals behind them.

For more than a quarter of a mile the troops swam, cutting submerged barbed wire fences as they went.

A military helicopter was used to rescue families from farms and cottages in outlying areas.

All the main roads in Omagh were impassable and roads around the town of Antrim were also reported to be under four feet of water.

Floods were also reported between Dungannon and the nearby towns of Ballygawley and Portadown.

Hundreds of acres of farmland had been flooded when the River Roe near Limavady rose dramatically.

Police said that there had been sporadic flooding in many parts of the province but the worst was in the north and west.

HARDSHIP FOR FARMERS

Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers’ Association spokesman John McConnell told Farming Life of the plight of one farmer from Ballinahone, Maghera, Co Londonderry who had lost 8,000 12 week old hens, worth £1.50 each, as a result of the Great Storm.

He said: “There was also damage to the house and equipment. His total loss is £12,000 to £15,000.

“The man, one of our members, lives close to the Moyola River, Rabbit holes in the bank were not seen to and the land caved in; you could have driven a tractor through it.

“There is not that much damage, but some real hardship,” said Mr McConnell.

He added: “Men who had suffered hardship must be compensated. We will be insisting that a percentage of EEC aid which is being given to the south east of England comes to Northern Ireland.”

‘PLIGHT OF THE FORGOTTEN’

A church leader who visited what had been described as “Ulster’s forgotten disaster zone” said that he hoped that his visit help highlight their plight.

Dr William Fleming, the Presbyterian Moderator, visited the badly flooded Myroe area of Co Londonderry and was accompanied by Limavady clergyman the Reverend Tom Mawhinney.

Dr Fleming said: “I hope my visit will highlight the plight of the area that in some ways has been overlooked by the media whose attention concentrated on other areas.”

In response to appeals from the north west that a state of emergency should be declared, Dr Fleming said that while this may be necessary in some areas, “what was definitely needed was urgent compensation for some of those hit”.

Dr Fleming added: “One farmer here lost 90 of his sheep. This type of person badly needs compensation for their losses.”

Also touring the area was UFU chief Robert Chesney who said that some farmers in the area might be forced out of business because of the crisis.

He told the story of one farmer who had 28 acres of potatoes, valued at around £45,000, still under floodwater.

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