Bringing in the hay


Those Summer Days
Anton McNulty

Growing up on Achill with its five Blueflag beaches and stunning scenery, there was no need to pack up the car and head on holidays. Well, that was the excuse given in our house anyway. The more likely reason was there was always hay and turf to be saved.
Making sure the hay and turf were saved took priority and any fine day was spent on the bog or raking in the hay before trips to the beach. Days on the bog are sadly still a reality but the days saving the hay are very much a distant memory.
In the days before modern farming machinery, hay was still preferred over silage and saving the hay was always something I dreaded.
Granted, when the weather was fine and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, it was a pleasure. Running around in the field trying to find frogs in the hay (many with amputated legs from the mower) and getting the opportunity to drive the tractor was a dream for every young fella.
As in The Saw Doctors song, you wanted to go on top of the trailer when collecting the bales and be allowed to stay on top as the load got higher. When the field was cleared it left an open field ideal for playing football for hours during the long evenings.
However, when the clouds gathered and the rain would come down, it was misery. Shaking the hay, building tram cocks, reshaking the hay, hoping to get a few hours to dry it and get it ready for baling or God forbid having to put it in loose.
It sounds crazy now but in the days of no mobile phones, you had to get in the car and drive around the island hoping to find the baler and praying he will find time to bale your field before the weather breaks. Simple times indeed.
Making hay really is a memory now as anyone who is still involved in farming prefers the easier option of cutting silage. It is cut and baled without having to worry about the fear of heavy rain ruining a crop. It is rare that you would pass a field with grass cut for hay and sadly the unique smell of it as it dries in the sunshine is long gone.
I know I’m going to sound really old but many youngsters wouldn’t know one end of a hay fork from the other. They don’t know how easy they have it.