by Pat Brosnan


Nothing Equals Home Grown


When we of an older generation think back to the days of the 1940’s and ‘50’s we remember with a degree of nostalgia the time when everybody living in rural areas whether they were farmers, small holders or one acre cottage residents had one thing in common they all reserved a plot of ground whether it was big or small to grow their own potatoes, cabbage and vegetables of various kinds including turnips, carrots, parsnips, onions, lettuce and so forth. There are some people who now talk about the hard times of the ‘40’s when everybody had to have a ration book to buy most everyday ordinary commodities such as bread, flour, tea, sugar, butter and so forth and no doubt the scarcity of some of these essential household items caused a certain amount of frustration and hardship, but on the other hand those who were living in rural areas had a lot going for them with their own home produce compared to those who lived in the towns and cities. In our own part of North Kerry when we were growing up we had our own turf for fuel, we had our own milk and homemade butter, we grew our own acre of wheat which we had cleaned and crushed into wholemeal flour at the Ryan Mills in Castleisland for 3 pence per stone, and we grew barley for pig feeding which we had crushed at Browne’s Mills, Castleisland for 3 halfpence per stone. So in spite of the fact that many of our generation look back on those days as a time of hardship it was not all bad and the one thing that contributed to making life a little easier and pleasant for rural dwellers was the fact that many grew so much of their own food. And of course most country people killed a pig each year which provided home cured bacon for the family.  Also of course most rural housewives kept fowl of various kinds – hens, ducks, geese, guinea fowl and so forth which all in their own way contributed to the household budget. Please forgive the pun but is there not a great deal of food for thought about the situation in our country now and the time that home frown foods and products made many rural households at least partly self-sufficient.

There are still some people around rural areas who are interested in gardening and growing much of their household requirements and for this we need go no further than my own next door neighbours the Mumbrey family who settled in Knocknagorna 10 years ago after coming here from England.  They have managed to turn a small plot of ground into a rich and productive source of fruit and vegetables. Of course for them like a great many English people working in their gardens is not only a hobby it is also a means of producing a great deal of fresh healthy food for the table as well as saving them the expense of having to buy all these items when they are out shopping.  A native of Athea, Joe Hurley who lives in Waterford and who devotes much of his spare time to working in his garden, was the recipient of a high profile award a couple of years ago from the then President Mary McAleese. Joe’s brother, the late Denis (Sonny) Hurley RIP who lived in the Lower Road, Athea, was also a keen gardener and kept his interest in it up to a short time before he died a few years ago.   Another good friend of mine Con Warren of Newcastle West and formerly from West Cork is also very much into organic gardening and fruit and vegetables of various varieties and is very skilled in this very useful hobby. Con, of course, is also well known in the traditional singing scene and has been County and Munster Champion on different occasions. He has been a member of Athea Comhaltas for many years.  Up to around eight years ago before having a hip replacement we used to sow some potatoes, cabbage, onions, lettuce, turnips and occasionally carrots as well and we got great satisfaction from doing this work as well as having our own garden produce for much of the time each year.  There are some people in Athea parish who still plant their own garden crops and it is good to see that this is still flourishing and that the lovely tradition of people growing their own in many places is still very much alive though by no means in any of the same scale as it was in the past.  However with the introduction of the farmers markets in local towns in recent years it is now possible to get fresh healthy farm products rather than having to buy the processed and often preserved foods in the larger stores.

We hear regularly these days about the growing modern problem of obesity in children and of problems that this can cause in later life particularly in those who take little or no part in sports or physical exercise. Some surveys have unfortunately indicated that anything up to one child in every three throughout the country is overweight. There is little doubt that the food they are eating is a major factor in this trend and the sooner that these children are brought up and taught to eat and appreciate wholesome foods such as home grown garden products the better they will be for it.  In our young days there was little or no obesity among school children. The Billy Bunter’s of those days were very few and far between and the reason for this was they were fed on wholesome food and perhaps not even too much of that unlike many of the children and teenagers of the present time who grew up on ready to eat fast foods that have many of the wrong ingredients. And of course this does not apply to children alone there are as well thousands of adults who are also grossly overweight and who make no attempt or have no inclination to reduce their intake of the wrong foods and for that matter the wrong drinks.  Everybody at times perhaps needs to have an occasional splurge that is natural enough and unlikely to cause any harm, it is only when people make the wrong foods a part of their daily lives that the trouble is likely to set in.  That is why the culture of people growing their own food is still as relevant and as important as it ever has been.  Late Paddy Faley wrote a very stirring and enlightening poem about getting back again to “The spud and the spade”. Paddy was not just telling others what they ought to do; he was a shining example himself of planting his own vegetable garden as long as he was able to do it.


Protest Meeting

A protest against Government charges meeting will be held at The Devon Inn on Monday night May 21st. Everybody is welcome to attend and hear what steps are being taken to counteract all the charges that are being imposed on the citizens by all such austerity measures. Further information from Christy Kelly, Sugar Hill, Templeglantine.


A Story and Song

The songs of one of our own great singers late Tom McCarthy  of Newcastle West and formerly of Rooskagh were featured in Pat O’Donovan’s weekly “Story and Song” programme on West Limerick 102fm Radio on Saturday last.  The songs which were played back included – “The Pretty Little Girl from Omagh”, “My Donegal Shore”, The Wild Flower of the Laune”, “Somewhere in Between” and one of Tom’s  most local songs “Lovely Glenagown”, George Langan’s song “A Tribute to Tom McCarthy” was also included in the programme. Tom’s son Martin, who is a member of the Newcastle West Pipe Band, also played a few numbers of airs on the pipes to enhance what was a lovely and enjoyable programme. Well done to the presenter Pat O’Donovan on his choice for the programme.