For anyone with an interest in how daily life was experienced in rural Ireland, in the mid-20th Century, a wonderful new resource is now available. Ireland, My Ireland, by Arnold J. Meagher (Publish America Books, $19.95) is a warm personal account of the life of a growing boy, on a small farm in County Longford, in the 1940s and ‘50s.
One of nine children, son of a Garda (policeman) and a schoolteacher, he spent most of his time when not in school on his Grandmother’s farm. His recollections of the day-to-day activities of his close-knit family capture a way of life which, if not gone, is rapidly disappearing.
On the farm, he took part in all of the daily chores common to most rural smallholdings of the time. Cows had to be milked, morning and evening, and by hand of course. Eggs had to be collected from the henhouse and the flower garden needed constant weeding. There were bigger seasonal undertakings, too – making hay, threshing grain and cutting turf. All are described in affectionate detail.
It is all here. He vividly recalls games of Gaelic football. He resurrects life in the village school. He paints a picture of Market Day. There is some exploration of nature and folk myth and where would an Irish boyhood be without the ever-present Church? All of this he accomplishes in a relaxed, conversational style.
Like Dr. Meagher, (no relation) I grew up in mid-century Ireland in a very similar environment. This was before rural electrification came to the country in the 1950s. Reading of his joyfully remembered boyhood, I found myself totally transported back to those times again. His recall is extraordinary and his readers are the beneficiaries of that. I urge you buy a copy because you will return to it over and over again.
Paul T. Meagher