New book looks back on bygone farming days

Horses ploughing a field from The Beagh to Maghera by James Armour
Horses ploughing a field from The Beagh to Maghera by James Armour

From The Beagh to Maghera by James Armour is an evocative memoir of life as a child growing up on a family farm in the 1950s.

Set in the moment when the horse was replaced by the tractor and mechanisation changed farming forever, it gives a glimpse into a time, now gone, where traditional methods of working the land were still used, the pace of life was slower and strong ties bound the community together.

The author grew up in the Beagh area near Maghera in Co Derry and the book is based on his involvement as a child in all the activity on the farm.

From the ploughing to the harvest every aspect of the work is described in vivid detail.

The book shows how labour-intensive farming 
was at a time before the widespread use of machinery, but it also highlights the deep 
satisfaction and affinity to nature which resulted from such a direct connection with the land.

Season by season the work on the farm is chronicled, providing an invaluable account of how one small farm was run 60 years ago, when pigs were killed in the yard and seed was sown with a corn-fiddle.

A man with a horse could only do so much work in a day so the practice of “morrowing” or shared labour was vital to get the work done.

This led to close bonds in the community. Neighbour relied on neighbour, and this was reflected in the social life of the area.

Musical evenings, card-nights and soirees are recalled and the neighbours remembered with affection.

Without electricity or running water and a large family to look after, the management of the house was no easy task either.

The daily tasks in the home and the routines of a warm domestic life are recounted.

The overwhelming sense of a happy home permeates this section of the book.

From The Beagh to Maghera is be launched in the library in Maghera 1pm and afterwards at Walsh’s Hotel in the town on Saturday, August 1, 2015.