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Farming on a small family farm
on Wednesday 22 February 2006
by WebMaster author list
in article > History
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During the period 1800-1830, farming was relatively prosperous. Regular weekly markets were established in Clones on a Thursday and a fair on the last Thursday of the month. The farm produce on sale consisted of grain, wheat, oats, barley and rye, butter and eggs, and pigs, either live for fattening or fattened pigs for the curers. Because of the relative prosperity, there was an increase in population. There was employment for the extra hands because all work was done manually . There was no replacement for the man with the spade, the scythe and the flail or the woman with the butter churn or the flock of hens. This meant that there was employment for farm labourers, who would also rent a plot for their own potatoes, probably paying for this by work. Also there was employment through the various trades of making and repairing farm tools or providing transport and handling goods.

At the same time, many farms had become smaller in size, either by families themselves sub-dividing to provide for their children, or by the landlords increasing the number of tenants and thereby their rent-rolls. This left the country ill-prepared for the potato blight which struck in 1845 on the east coast and travelled in swathes across the country so that this part was heavily hit while other areas of Fermanagh were less infected in the first year. Corn was grown in this area, but much of this was sold to pay the rent although, judging by the number of corn-mills shown on the 1835 Ordinance Survey map, some was retained for home use. However, the potato was the staple foodstuff for everyone and provided food for pigs and hens, so when the crop rotted in the field it was a disaster for everyone. At that time, no one understood the nature of the potato blight and that the crops of subsequent years would be infected too. This area, as part of Clones Parish, was part of Clones Poor Law Union so appeals for help went to County Monaghan authorities.

The Roslea/Aghadrumsee/Magheraveeley area suffered a double blow in that the potato crop was badly rotted in 1845, and the local committees upon whom the Government of the day devolved the responsibility of organizing relief were slow to get going in County Monaghan. The Government measures to provide famine relief through Public Works were too slow to be effective and the provision of alternative food was inadequate because the poorest people who had been most dependant on the potato, did not now have the money to purchase food even if it were available.

The famine was accompanied by outbreaks of cholera and typhus which took the lives of many of all classes and creeds. Emigration to Canada and the U.S.A. had already begun before the famine but was now greatly accelerated. But now, the poor emigrant was no longer strong and hardy, with a chest of oatmeal for the voyage and a few guineas in his pockets for a start in the New World.

Slowly things returned to normal, there was land for farms to expand and there was a market for produce beyond the local area. Crops were always at the mercy of the weather, and prices at the mercy of events elsewhere but at least the various Land Acts had made the farmers owners of their own lands. The unsettled political situation and periods of low prices led many young people to emigrate. Quite often an aunt or uncle who had emigrated years before and prospered in U.S.A. would invite nieces and nephews to come out, often supplying the fare. This journey often started at Clones station on the train to Londonderry. It must have been a frightening experience for a girl who was then about 14 years old seeing a train for the first time when her father brought her and her little trunk to Clones station to join up with a party of three other girls, cousins or friends, setting out to join an aunt or an older sister already established in Philadelphia.

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