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Digging the Spuds 2010

As dusk fell around the hill of Mullanderg near Moybridge I was on my way home, weary after a long drive, when I saw a man outstanding in his field, or was it someone else’s field. There he stood with strange headgear, gloved, and clabber to the knees. He was looking down the hill and my eyes followed his line of sight and I had to blink a couple of times as I was unsure if I was really seeing what I thought I was seeing. There, facing up towards the great man at the top, was a line of people, all males, bowing towards their leader. Heads and upper bodies rose up a little every so often and they moved a white object forward in front of each of them as if offering a gift to a god. Little by little they edged their way up the hill and then as if a mighty weight had been lifted from them they all stood up straight and began rubbing their backs. With that an ancient tractor headed up the same hill and spewed out round pink balls onto the ground and the ritual began all over again. I had to find out what was happening and I drove up the lane and into the field with my camera to capture this wonderful sight only to discover that it was Ciaran with a boon of men digging his few drills of spuds. Mackie had an old Ferguson with a potato digger which fired out the potatoes and the men gathered them into plastic bags. Ciaran was at the top of the hill keeping a watchful eye on what was going on down below but there was little that could go wrong. He had his 2IC (Second in Command for those who do not know) Denis keeping order and checking that only spuds went into the bags and that the spuds only went into official bags. Raymond thought at one stage that Mackie was taking full bags that he was after gathering and emptying them out again as he went up the hill but I assured him that any potato on the ground had not been gathered. Denis kicked a few sods about and discovered little nests of spuds here and there which someone had concealed to come back to collect later. Denis was suffering as was Raymond as they had been gathering the previous evening too and Denis had spent the best part of the day with the Physio. She had done such a job and he was moving so fast that I had to ask him to stand at rest so that I could get a photo of him that was not blurred with the movement. Raymond meanwhile was having difficulty in getting up when he went down and so went down very seldom. Speaking to Ciaran I discovered that he had given this crop lots of attention and was delighted with the yield. There was no blight as he had sprayed them at least six times. He guaranteed that they were the best spuds ever boiled for a dinner. One neighbour who was helping out thought he was back in 1844 as the crop was so light and he was about to forecast a famine next year. There were certainly a few empty spaces but Ciaran said that there was a large bouquet of pheasants in the area and he had allowed them to feed on a couple of drills. From the gaps they must be well fattened by now. Whatever about the pheasant Ciaran will be able to ride out the recession as he has the store filled with the best of spuds and the menu will have a potato dish every day. If anyone calls on a ceili instead of sandwiches you will get potato bread and pheasant. I left the field with a good stone of spuds but it is too early yet for me to pass judgement as we are keeping them for Sunday.

Straight from the ground.

This is a tough job.

Have I to do all the work?

Hand me up one of those and I will put it in the bag.

Not now - the camera is on me

If you’re on the dole don’t be coming as there is a photographer here.

You lift that bag and I’ll lift these trousers.

Bag Inspector at work.

Someone tell me - am I gathering spuds or putting out washing.

Real workers.

Stop him - he is taking a bag of spuds.

I don’t think I saw Raymond gathering one spud.

Not to worry - that will be reflected in his pay.

Thats that - what now?

Eh eh eh ehh

Hop two three four five six seven,
I might as well be up in heaven.
The harvest’s in and the shed is packed,
And how to farm I now have cracked.
Its easy really and I am good
This time next year I’ll be selling food.
And for those that helped me get this far
I will buy a drink at St. Mellans Bar.


Age does not matter