Irish farming life
History and heritage
Jonathan Bell & Mervyn Watson
This book examines Irish rural society and its basic social unit – the family farm – as well as important issues such as neighbourly ties and the use of hired labour. It discusses ways in which recent history is communicated by country people in oral testimonies, local songs and poems, and in rural events such as ploughing matches and threshing festivals. Museum and heritage centre displays are examined, showing how the historical narratives presented by professionals are also based on value judgments and stereotypes, as well as valid historical data. The book does not neglect the negative aspects of rural life, but overall its intention is explicitly celebratory, presenting past experience as a victory over almost impossible odds, and a triumph of decency, intelligence and generosity.
Jonathan Bell and Mervyn Watson worked as curators in the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum for more than 30 years. They have co-authored a number of books on Irish farming history, including Rooted in the soil: a history of cottage gardens and allotments in Ireland since 1750 (2012) and A History of Irish Farming, 1750–1950 (2008).