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The field of dreams

Features

ON THE JOB Bernie Fallon harvesting the corn in Glenisland.

Edwin McGreal

I took a walk to view this crop
It was a sight to see
This fine field of oats with golden seeds
Would fill your heart with glee…
When I found O’Malley’s field of oats
On a hillside in Mayo
Anthony McTigue, O’Malley’s Field of Oats

A field overlooking the R312 Castlebar to Belmullet road has almost become a road hazard.
The field, which looks down on the road and Lough Beltra below, has caused plenty of drivers to avert their eyes from the road.
For, surrounded by rugged, mountainy land that only the most adroit of sheep could survive on stands what could be the most unusual cornfield you will ever see.
And just above it is a lush, green field, also reclaimed from the mountain.
Neither field look like they have any earthly business there, hence the amount of drivers who avert their gaze from the road to the western facing shoulder of Croaghmoyle mountain in Glenisland.
More than 700 feet above sea level is a field of oats, just harvested last week with a lush green field just above it and the land around it gives them a ring of the Bull McCabe’s field to them.
And if the fields themselves caused plenty of sideward glances, then the sight of a combine harvester snaking its way up the steep track late last month to harvest the corn had locals out of their houses looking on in amazement.
Combine harvesters don’t tend to travel west of Castlebar too often and most certainly not for a field on the side of a rugged mountain.
So in what was one of the most unusual jobs Mayo Abbey agricultural contractor Bernie Fallon ever had to do, his Class Combine harvester travelled west on Saturday, September 26 to the field high above Lough Beltra, looking out on the stunning vista of the lake, Clew Bay and Clare Island.
The cornfield yielded a remarkable crop of oats, almost four feet tall, weed free and still standing.
For those who know about these things, it yielded circa 2.5 tonnes to the acre at 16 percent moisture.
The land is owned by local man George O’Malley, the crop of oats was sown by Michael Dyra, an agricultural contractor from Newport with Bernie Fallon harvesting them.
The cornfield was first cultivated seven years ago. Previously it was home for generations to Mayo’s famous heather.
Whereas seaweed and hard work worked the oracle for McCabe’s famous field in the John B Keane classic, Michael Dyra testifies that farmyard manure and lime changed the fields on the side of Croaghmoyle. And, of course, plenty of hard work too.
Mr Dyra also tilled and sowed the field just above the cornfield, with a total of in the region of 25 acres of poor quality land reclaimed from the mountain.  
It was, said Mr Dyra, a ‘project’ George O’Malley took on.
He said he hadn’t set oats in 25 years. There is no call for it in the area for two reasons – weather and the quality of land. It would not necessarily be the most productive work to take on but was a ‘unique challenge’, he concedes.
“There was an awful lot of hard work for what you would get out of it. The good weather in September helped in a big way,” he said.
But it’s an escapade that will stand the test of time.
The field has even had its own song written about it. Anthony McTigue from Beltra just down the road from the cornfield penned the nostalgic ‘O’Malley’s Field of Oats’, reflecting on an old way of life.

These hardy men who worked these fields long ago
Have mowed their way to the great beyond
And are now in heaven’s glow
These men are in our memories
Like the stories of yesteryear
And when I seen O’Malley’s oats
Sure in my eye there was a tear
Anthony McTigue, O’Malley’s Field of Oats