John Farrell’s memories
There were four sugar factories built in Ireland in the early 1930s. One of them was in Tuam. An agent came from the factory and you signed a contract for so many acres. The land was then tested for lime. An account was opened. Seed Manure and Wet Lime (if needed) was supplied and put on the account. Growing beet was a lot of hard work. The ground was tilled in the Spring and the seed was sown. When the crop was ready it had to be thinned and then weeded. It could not be pulled until the factory needed it. It was then pulled and crowned. The tops were kept to be fed to the animals when the sugar was extracted from the beet. The pulp was sent back to help feed the animals. A cheque came in the post minus all expenses. There was a good income from the sale of beet. This greatly improved the land and it was used to sow corn the following year.
During the Emergency in Ireland many things were rationed such as tea, sugar and cigarettes etc. As farmers we were better off than most people. We grew our own potatoes vegetables and grain. We sowed beet for the sugar factory in Tuam. We were all allowed a certain amount of sugar for our own use.
We reared and killed our pigs. We put the carcasses into boxes and salt was rubbed into meat to preserve them. We kept one for our own use and the other was sold to Callanans’ in Kilconnell.
We kept cows so we had plenty of milk and butter, the extra milk was fed to calves and the butter was sold to Callanans’. Corn was also sowed, then it was harvested and trashed. It was then taken to Burns Mills in Killoran where it was ground into oatmeal and the wheat was made into flour. Bread was made from the flour and buttermilk, which was then baked on a griddle pan over hot coals. The bread was very heavy as the flour was not as refined as it is today.
Tea was in very short supply and then only one ounce per person. Cigarettes were very scarce and we would walk 7 miles to Cappanaughton for five woodbines and if we were lucky we would get 10. We would have them smoked by the time we got home.
In 1946 we went to work for Bord Na Mona near Edenderry. We worked in groups of four. One prepared the bog, one cut the turf with a slane and the other two spread it out. During the Winter we cleaned drains and got the bank ready for the next year. As we were far away from home we stayed in a hostel, where all our meals were provided.
The snow started in February 1947. We got up one morning and the ground was white. We went out to do the jobs. We let out the cows and cleaned out the sheds before it got too bad. The next day it was a lot worse and the third day we had to shovel our way to the sheds. It had snowed and freezed and it was so cold that the milk in the crocks and the drinking water was frozen.
We had plenty of hay for the animals and we had lots of straw too but they were spoilt and would not eat it. We had a pulper and fed them pulped turnips also. They were let out to drink from a hole that was made in the drain for them to get water.
Some of the family went to the shop for supplies such as candles, parafin oil. Some people used tilly lamps which had to be pumped to get a better light. Electricity had not reached these parts yet.The snow lasted for nine weeks and the last was to be seen on the 28th of May on the side of a hill near a fort at Cappataggle.