I remember the hard work and enjoyment of bringing in the hay during my summer holidays in County Kerry.
Here is an article by Paddy Murray as he looks back to the haymaking days of his youth, when the work was hard but the sun always seemed to be shining.
Cocks of hay on the Dingle Coast County Kerry
Slowly I surfaced from a deep undisturbed sleep and tried to orientate myself with my surroundings. The bedroom was full of light, half past six. I crawled out from under the blankets and made it to the window.
On pulling back the curtains a burst of sunlight hit me like a train and flooded the room with a blinding kaleidoscope of brightness, forcing me to close my eyes for a second.
When I opened them again and looked out the big window I momentarily forgot my bleary eyed condition and thought “God, this is fabulous”. What could only be described as a true vista of summer morning loveliness unfolded itself outside.
No wonder Shakespeare wrote about “The beauty of the morning, silent bare”. Here it was in reality right outside my window.
The sun had just finished burning off the early morning mist but had not yet dealt with the remaining strands that still hung over the river where the cows had already taken refuge from the flies, anticipating another roasting hot day.
“Why did I go to Mick Del in Courtown last night,” I thought. “I’m absolutely done in and fed up with this heat”.
Two rabbits sat on the edge of the lawn warming themselves in the early morning sunshine and that dammed corncrake was at it again, calling to its companion in the neighbouring meadow. They were at it all night a few nights ago with their incessant
“Krake krake, krake krake” keeping us all awake ‘till God knows what hour.
It was nearly as bad as the woodquests in the sycamore trees by the haggard with their early morning cooing, and as for the cat owl’s piercing cry as he hunted for errant nocturnal insects, well really! It’s a wonder we got any sleep at all these summer nights.
The woodbine in the hedge around the lawn must have been in overdrive competing with the rest of the flowers to permeate its scent on the still, warm air of the summer day and it obviously had won hands down.
The scent was predominant and I wondered thought how such a flimsy looking flower could emit such a powerful scent that lasted the summer long.
Yes it was going to be a hot one alright, and the two meadows next to the lawn were ready for cocking. The hay was bone dry and had made quickly under the scorching hot sun. The heat wave had been with us for over a week now and it was real hay weather alright.
The mowing machines had been rattling all over the place for days, pulled by sweating horses, and rows of haycocks had appeared as if by magic in the fields all over the countryside.
We even had to draw water from the river to water the spuds in the drills. They were parched and the ground was as hard as the hob of hell. “God if we only had a drop of rain” I thought as I went to the chair to put on my clothes and prepare to face another scorcher. “What a relief it would be”!
But then, this was a typical summer of the forties with no holes in the ozone layer, the ice, packs in the Arctic and Antarctica were still - intact and no assault of any kind was made on the environment, thus eliminating drastic weather change just another summer as every summer should be.
The hayfield was sheer hell’ Dad was his usual dynamic self, dragging in a buck rake so full of hay that there was the making of two cocks in it-all twisted up and so matted together that it would need four men to sort it out and not just the one who was in overdrive trying to tease and separate it before the next rake full would arrive.
“Will you for God’s sake keep the bloody cocks in a straight line or you’ll end up down in Castletown with them!”
The river beckoned like a silver ribbon of cooling balm, its silvery depths exuding the magical soothing properties of the spa waters of Bath. “Boy, I will luxuriate in its flowing, life-restoring liquidity when this field is finished”.
The thought drove me on in the same way as the field of lush green grass that Billy horse was dreaming of prompted him to put more strength into the pulling of the hay rake so that he too would finish early and enjoy the freedom after a hard day in the hayfield.
But it didn’t end there-Oh no-The hay would have to be drawn in. Endless rows of stooks and stacks were ripening in the cornfields. Hundreds of yards of turnips, mangolds and beet would have to be thinned all before the good weather of yester year turned bad.
After all, those were the summers of our childhood - when summer was summer.
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