“My name is Joe Ward, from Gunnocks, Clonee, in County Meath. I have been asked to put down my recollections of the last two generations of the Ward family and the people who worked with them. . . . I have no qualifications for writing, other than a good memory. I will write these articles the same way as I talk: short, factual and to the point. Most of the events of which I will speak took place before the year I was born, 1909.”
So begins a unique memoir of life in rural Ireland, including much information of the customs of the day, the round of work and feasting that has always marked the farming year in all countries and all historical periods. The book tells of the hiring of contract labourers, of peoples struggle to make enough money to feed oneself and one’s family, and of men killed in the fields in arguments over money, cattle and women.
The Catholic strong farmer was a crucial force in the shaping of modern Ireland from the early nineteenth century. Politically, the strong farmers were the bulwarks of Catholic emancipation, of the post-Famine church and of mainstream Irish nationalism. Socially, they shaped the transition from a labour-intensive grain economy to a cattle economy in which the bulk of the rural economy became redundant. In Strong Farmer, Ciaran Buckley brilliantly weaves together the threads of history and folklore to tell a tale of money, power and family ties.