I have a competition for you – up for grabs is not just one book but two farming books. ?I’m giving away a copy of my brand new book?‘Would You Marry A Farmer?’ as it comes hot from the printing press along with a copy of ‘Worse Could Have Happened’ by Andrew Forrest. Details of how you can win it are below but first of all I’m going to tell you all about the latter.
I first read ‘Worse Could Have Happened’, 11 years ago. It had been reviewed in the Irish Farmers Journal a few weeks after we’d arrived back in Ireland, I thought it sounded a good read and bought it. A few months later, I was visiting a new friend and saw the dust jacket framed on her wall and discovered that Andrew Forrest is her dad. Small world.
Andrew’s book records what life was really like in rural Ireland back in the 1920s and 1930s. ?You will wince when you read about the harsh punishments doled out in the schools, how Irish was drummed into them, you wonder how on earth any poor dyslexic child survived it all and yet Andrew tells it all with a great sense of humour and his motto ‘worse could have happened’. ?There are times when you wonder how it could have been worse but yet you know it could – the poverty and hardships then seemed to be general experiences across the rural population.
You will chortle at the description of Andrew having to sleep top to toe with two women either side and three more at the other end of the bed, their experiences with various housekeepers, the gander being used to sweep the chimney, the drunken schoolmaster, the escapade with the donkeys. ?My dad also remembered the hard work associated with the sugar beet, the having to weed and harvest them while wearing short trousers along frost bitten fields. As Andrew points out, the sugar beet was presented as a great ‘cash crop’ to the farmers so money would be coming in at an otherwise quiet time of the year. However, rather than resting during the coldest months of the year, they had to work long days in horrible weather but he tells it in a way that does make you chuckle. ?You will also be glad you didn’t live back then!
I included some details in my book regarding the 1950s farmer and whether he was a good catch or not. When you think that such a huge proportion of the Irish population was involved in farming during the Irish free state, it really brings home what men and women endured and yet enjoyed. ?After all, a wake was considered good entertainment in many ways. Andrew explaining the background to the Economic War and the recounting of how cattle became worthless so quickly, De Valera’s haphazard and misguided methods for dealing with it and the tales of skinning calves will make you appreciate modern farming.
If you want to read an account of Irish farming, this is a great one. It really brings it home how tough it was and how hardened they were to it, yet they had good craic and enjoyed their good times. I was just saying to Brian the other day that it is a huge shame that no one wrote down the memories of a neighbouring farmer who died ten years ago, it is wonderful that some farmers did.
If you would like to buy a copy of ‘Worse Could Have Happened’, Madeleine bought all the remaining copies from Poolbeg and is selling them for ?6 at The Tea Rooms at Ducketts ?Grove. She makes the best hot chocolates you will ever taste too! My book is available for pre-order now too – exciting!
To win a copy of both farming books (will be sent out on 2nd December to any address in the world), do leave a comment telling us about a farmyard memory. If you have never been on a farm in your life, a memory about an animal will do too. ?I’ll be sharing some of my farmyard childhood memories in a blog post next week but I want to hear yours too. I’m going to ask Madeleine to choose the best one and if she can’t choose, we’ll draw it by random number! ? Do comment by 27th November and we’ll announce the winner on 28th.