John Corbett with a selection of memories of April in the Irish countryside
April was expected to be mild but, as most Irish people will know, warmth cannot be taken for granted at this or at any other time of year. If the previous month obliged, landowners could relax and prepare to plant grain crops. However, if February and March proved unsuitable, there could be quite a scramble to get the work done.
In the early fifties machinery was scarce so most of the work was done manually with the aid of horses. In fact people relied on them so much that many felt that they would be the mainstay of farm work for the foreseeable future.
I’m told that this is one of the reasons why the Pierce Manufacturing Company in Wexford didn’t attempt to make ploughs and other implements for tractors. Apparently they felt that this was just a passing phase.
Before this time nearly all farm machinery in our part of the world was made by Pierces and the quality of their products was first class.
It took some time for the changeover to become noticeable. One of the main tractor dealers in Co. Galway sold only three of them in a period of twelve months. It’s no exaggeration to say that many individual farmers have that number of tractors on their own holdings in modern times.
One of the priorities in April was to plant the potatoes. In our parish most growers settled for an acre or so – enough to feed themselves, their families, and livestock. Kerr’s Pinks was the most popular choice for human consumption and Aran Banners were fed to animals.
Those growing them for export would sow much larger amounts and this involved a great deal of effort. Progressive farmers tended to purchase new seed but others were happy to use surplus stock from their own stores.