Elwyn As a young boy in Ontario I spent much of my spring and summer tending our farms crop of Potatoes .In 1974 I kept myself whole and hard by working potato farms in the highlands of Scotland. Even then with help of modern equipment potatoes are a labour intensive crop. In those days the mechanical potato pickers so common today were only just being brought in. Getting the potatoes planted hilled and clean was a chore especially as it always needed to be done when other crops needed attention. That however was nothing compared to the potato picking. Each field was filled with dozens of families anxious to try and make a little money on the side by picking potatoes. The best pickers were young children eight years or younger. They did not have to bend so far as their mom's and dad an often worked on their hands and knees. They started before first light in the cold misty Scottish fall morning. Dirt was a way of life for those families and little ones but I was amazed at how hard they worked rain or shine (little shine lots of rain) and how tough they were. Each family was given a plot to pick and bag, pence paid for by the bag or basket. At mid day we sat under the stone fence rows lines of families eating bread, cheese and cold mutton wrapped in newspaper the children maybe some jam for desert and the adults some Shandy to drink if you could afford it. At the end of the day families would pick a pot of potatoes to take home with them for their supper unless the overseers caught them and if he did they would have their potatoes dumped from their pots unto passing wagons and their pots thrown against the fence row. When dark came you were glad it had come to hide you and you were glad there was no lights that you might have been compelled to work under. Your back ached and your hands hurt soil mixed with blood made band aids and plaster for your skinned knuckles and bleeding fingers.. Many Irish families made their way to Scotland to work the potato and neep fields they were distrusted and looked down on as they took jobs away from Scottish families. They worked for less and worked faster and harder then even the strong Scottish workers were able to do. Hardship and the "troubles" at home in Ireland drove them to get work any were they could and landowners loved to hire them and abuse them. Their children worked with them and school took hiatus until latter in the fall when all the harvest were in. This was not cruel unusual behavior it was a mater of survival for a resilient people. I nor they wore rose coloured glasses. It is hard to tell the spoiled potatoes with them on and if you pick spoiled potatoes you were docked pay. I don't say any of this to be rude it is just the way it was for the people of Scotland and Ireland. I talked to them and asked many questions about their history and how they view themselves and I grew to honour and respect them deeply. It is hard for us to understand them and their circumstances if we have not live as they lived.
Cheers Ron McCoy On 2018-10-26 12:18 PM, Elwyn Soutter via CoTyroneList wrote: Peter, I take your point about the Lieutenant’s likely background but there are plenty of other contemporaneous descriptions of life in Ireland in the mid 1800s, some written by respected Irish born people that tend to support his account of rural life. The image of spending 12 hours planting potatoes is suitably graphic but, the time spent planting potatoes each year wasn’t excessive. One of the many great aspects of potatoes is they are a low maintenance crop. They are easy to plant, grow particularly well in most 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 time on them at all. You also get more spuds to the acre than nearly any other crop and so if land is in short supply, and you have a large family – as was often the case then – they are ideal. That then left the labourer free to undertake other work, if there was any. The ease with which potatoes grew, was one of the reasons why people were so reluctant to grow anything else, even when faced with possible blight. Elwyn ________________________________ From: peter mcdonald via CoTyroneList <firstname.lastname@example.org><mailto:email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com> Cc: peter mcdonald <pfm22...@gmail.com><mailto:pfm22...@gmail.com> 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 business. 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. _______________________________________________ CoTyroneList mailing list CoTyroneList@cotyroneireland.com<mailto:CoTyroneList@cotyroneireland.com> http://mail.cotyroneireland.com/mailman/listinfo/ (_internal_name)s _______________________________________________ CoTyroneList mailing list CoTyroneList@cotyroneireland.com<mailto:CoTyroneList@cotyroneireland.com> http://mail.cotyroneireland.com/mailman/listinfo/ (_internal_name)s
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