I take your point about the Lieutenant’slikely background but there are plenty 
of other contemporaneous descriptions oflife in Ireland in the mid 1800s, some 
written by respected Irish born people that tend tosupport his account of rural 

The image of spending 12 hours planting potatoes is suitably graphic but, the 
time spent plantingpotatoes each year wasn’t excessive. One of the many great 
aspects of potatoes is theyare a low maintenance crop. They are easy to plant, 
grow particularly well inmost Irish soil (save if blighted of course) and need 
very little attention.You stick them in and then forget about them. You don’t 
need to spend much timeon them at all. You also get more spuds to the acre than 
nearly any other cropand so if land is in short supply, and you have a large 
family – as was oftenthe case then – they are ideal. That then left the 
labourer free to undertakeother work, if there was any.  The easewith which 
potatoes grew, was one of the reasons why people were so reluctantto grow 
anything else, even when faced with possible blight.



      From: peter mcdonald via CoTyroneList <>
Cc: peter mcdonald <>
 Sent: Friday, 26 October 2018, 16:51
 Subject: [CoTyroneMailingList] A few thoughts on the Lt. Stother account
> In the British army of the time, commissions, such as that of Lieutenant, 
> were acquired through purchase. The cheapest lieutenancy, in an infantry 
> regiment, cost seven hundred pounds. Access to that sort of money, roughly 
> equivalent to fifty-eight thousand pounds sterling today, places the 
> lieutenant in a social class unlikely to have had much contact with people 
> like our peasant ancestors. No wonder he was shocked.
Across Europe, subsistence farmers have shared their accommodation with their 
animals as a matter of course, partly to benefit from the heat generated by the 
beasts in winter. In parts of France, where I live, earthen floors and 
wandering livestock are still to be found. Anyone passing by many farms 
anywhere today would notice defunct machinery rusting away in farmyard or 
behind apparently ramshackle buildings. Farming, other than of the 
massive-scale, highly mechanised industrial variety, tends to be a messy 
No doubt Tyrone then, as Tyrone today, had its share of ne'erdo wells, but it’s 
not easy to get up to mischief when you have just spent up to twelve hours 
planting the potatoes that you and your family will depend on through the 
winter, or cutting turf so you don’t die of cold.
We should not view our ancestors through rose-tinted glasses, but it is worth 
bearing in mind that the good lieutenant had his own prism when looking at a 
people who shared neither his background, nor his religious beliefs, nor yet, 
in many cases, his first language. He would have been viewed as the 
representative of an army of occupation by many in the Catholic population.
I hope this contributes usefully to the conversation around this account.

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