The book is an evocative memoir of James’s life as a child growing up on the family farm in the 1950s, in the Beagh outside Maghera, in County Derry. Set in the moment when the tractor replaced the horse, and mechanisation changed farming forever, it gives a glimpse into a time when traditional methods of working the land were still used, the pace of life was slower, and all visitors were welcomed with a cup of tea and a plate of soda-farls hot off the griddle.
From ploughing to harvest, every aspect of farming is described in vivid detail, showing how labour intensive the work was before the widespread use of machinery. Despite this, the book highlights the deep satisfaction and affinity with nature that resulted from such a direct connection to the land.
A man with a horse could only do so much in a day so the practice of ‘morrowing’ or shared labour was vital to get the work done. Neighbour relied on neighbour 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 running water or electricity the management of the home was no easy task either. The daily tasks in the home and the routines of a happy family life recounted. These memories are reinforced by extracts from the author’s mother’s diaries which were kept from 1949 to 1986.
Overall the book FROM THE BEAGH TO MAGHERA, is a warm-hearted and affectionate account of the close-knit community of the Beagh. It gives us a glimpse into a lost era when hard work, neighbourliness and hospitality were paramount and farming was still carried out, as it had been for countless generations, using skills passed down from father to son.