Author recounts growing up on Maghera farm in the 1950’s in new book

Author and chair of Maghera Historical Society, James Armour
Author and chair of Maghera Historical Society, James Armour
  • From the Beagh to Maghera is to be launched on August 1 at Maghera Library and Walsh’s Hotel

Chair of Maghera Historical Society, James Armour, is to recall his childhood on a Maghera farm in the 50s in his new book From the Beagh to Maghera.

In what he promises will be an evocative memoir, James retraces a time when horses were replaced by tractors, changing the face of farming forever.

The cover of James' new book

The cover of James' new book

When traditional methods of working the land were still used, the pace of life was much slower and strong ties bound the community together.

Having grown up in the Beagh area of Maghera, James’ book focuses on his involvement as a child in on the family farm, describing everything from ploughing to harvest time in vivid detail.

Highlighting the labour-intensive nature of farming before machinery took over, the book also hopes to delve into the deep satisfaction and affinity with nature that resulted from such a direct connection with the land.

Season-by-season Armour chronicles work on the farm, providing an invaluable account of how one small holding was run sixty years ago, when pigs were killed in the yard and seed was sown with a corn-fiddle.

An image from the book

An image from the book

He talks of the heavy work and how, since a man with a horse could only do so much, shared labour was vital fostering close bonds within the community.

“Neighbour relied on neighbour,” James explained, “and this was reflected in the social life of the area.

“Musical evenings, card-nights and soirees are recalled and the neighbours remembered with affection.

“Without electricity or running water and a large family to look after, the management of the house was no easy task either. “The daily tasks in the home and the routines of a warm domestic life are recounted.”

But he recalls a time when people were happy.

“The overwhelming sense of a happy home permeates the book,” he explained.

“The heavy burden of washing, baking and cleaning was undertaken without complaint and time found to welcome all callers with a cup of tea and a plate of hot-soda farls fresh off the griddle.

“These memories are reinforced by extracts from my mother’s diaries which were kept from 1949 to 1986.”

“Well may we look with nostalgia at a time and place where hospitality, hard work and a duty to each other were paramount virtues and there was time for everyone,” he added.

The book launch is to take place at Maghera Library on August 1 at 1pm, continuing afterwards at Walsh’s Hotel.