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.
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.