‘The winter of ’47 was very harsh’, Kevin McAllister told me. ‘There was often snow lying nearly to the roofs. Parties of men were sent out to dig the roads clear. One gang might suddenly dig its way through to another, coming from the opposite direction.
How did the country people survive?
Everybody had a few hens for eggs and a cow for milk. There was your small plot for vegetables and potatoes. You would only get a couple of bob per hundredweight if you sold them. The potatoes were riddled and the smaller ones went for seed. Inspectors could be awkward. ‘They wouldn’t take two stone to the hundredweight.’ [I don’t know what Kevin meant by this].
Cattle for sale at the fair were walked down from Fathom. They’d find every gap in the hedge! If the fair was at Camlough you’d have to run them there. At the cattle fair they were sold by bidding: at market, by auction [I remember watching this, fascinated as a boy, in the ‘pig market’ where the Sports Centre now stands].
It was mainly store cattle then. You only reared a calf until it was a year old. There’s more ‘finishing’ now with the availability of hay and silage. At the fair, some aul farmer would ask,
‘What do you want for skittery?’ The answer was,
‘Them that’ll slight my beasts will buy my beasts.’