All my fields have a name — except the Field with no Name!

Be nice to the land, or kind, and it will return the compliment a hundredfold, so says John Arnold in his weekly column
All my fields have a name — except the Field with no Name!

MAGIC CIRCLE: Leacanabuaille stone ring fort near Cahirsiveen, Co. Kerry. John Arnold’s largest field has ancient ring forts

I CAN’T remember whom I heard saying ‘If you’re kind to the land, it’ll be kind to you’. It was probably some wise old man I encountered many years ago.

Whoever said it or even thought of it... well, they were displaying an innate sense of rustic knowledge.

We’re all familiar with ‘One good turn deserves another’ and ‘What goes round, comes round’, all of which indicate the cyclical existence of life and of nature and the world in general.

For some reason, that possibly has its origins in the Middle Ages. We have a townland nearly to ourselves, with ours being the only farm in Garryantaggart. Ah yes, Gairdin an Sagart, the Priest’s Garden, and shure, with the Catholic Church standing in the north-east corner it seems obvious where the name came from — but ní mar a shiltear a bhitear, things aren’t always what they seem!

You see, the Church is on the site for probably about two centuries and maybe two decades but the name exists since Adam was a child. It’s like so much of our history — we know but a fraction of it. Maybe a Druidic priest lived here before Christianity was introduced into this fair land!

To tell the truth, it’s a compact little townland with a public road dividing it, more or less, in two halves, which makes it workable as a farm and negates the need for fly-overs, roundabouts or under-passes.

Most of the fields are much the same now as when the first Ordnance Survey was completed in the 1830s. I was lately comparing the lay-out of the fields on that map and the situation as pertains today and precious little has changed in the intervening years.

I wonder do fields have feelings? You may say ‘Has he lost the plot completely?’ — I know, I know — fields are made of soil and stones and subsoil and gravel with grass or other crops on top so how can they feel anything? But they do though!

Be nice to the land, or kind, and it will return the compliment a hundredfold. Our forbearers had nothing, only farmyard manure and lime to improve and fertilise the land and they grew great, bountiful crops.

OK, in many cases they only eked out a living for themselves and their families, but then subsistence farming was all they knew in those far off days.

Getting back to the ‘personalities’ of fields, a lot depends on what they call the ‘aspect’, which basically means the direction the ground is sloping. On every farm you’d have ‘early’ and ‘late’ fields depending on the sunshine and shelter they receive. In the same way, certain districts are great for certain crops.

The relatively frost-free East Cork district was always famous for early potatoes and from Ballycotton, Cobh and Carrigtwohill came spuds a month or more before anywhere else. Nowadays, we grow only grass here and it’s ‘family’ crops of hay and silage.

Back in the ’60s and ’70s, potatoes, oats, malting barley, turnips and mangolds were all grown on our farm. I heard old-timers say we had some very ‘sharp’ fields — soil with many small stones — and these plots were brilliant for grain crops.

The Tubular Gate Field was mighty for barley and beet whilst the Orchard Field was preferred for potatoes and turnips and even mangolds. Oh yes, the names, and God help us the Field with No Name! The Chapel Field is self explanatory — out of it long ago were taken the site for the Chapel and a small plot for the house where the Tailor Spillane lived.

The biggest field we have is Paircaliosa or The Field of The Lios (Fort) Pairc an Liosa. If one examines the OS map of the 1830s you’d see literally thousands of what look like little doughnuts on the map. These were the lioses, fairy forts, ring-forts or duns in some cases. A ‘C’ shaped section of this ancient fort still remains in situ.

Both Paircaliosa and the Chapel Field often resounded to the clash of the ash as during the period from 1950 until 1975 hurling pitches for the local club and for Carnival Tournaments were situated here.

The Path field contained the old Mass Path, which served as a short-cut across country for those who walked to Mass each Sunday from far-flung parts of the parish. Next to it is the Well field, so named because of its proximity to the Holy Well, which gives its name to the Parish and district. Again, the Orchard field needs very little explanation, though all that remains now of the many fruit trees, which adorned its flat sheltered acres, are a few crab apple trees on the boundary ditch.

The Boiler House field tells us that the Boiler House of an old family dwelling once stood on the ground that still carries the name. The Boiler House was as important in days of yore as a milking parlour or slatted tank today. We still have one of the original boilers here — a huge vessel made of cast iron which was mounted on a stand with a fire underneath. Potatoes, turnips and different grains were boiled in these huge cauldrons, then fed to pigs, cows and poultry.

Across the road we have the Kiln field (pronounced Kill field) in the corner of which can still be barely seen the remains of an old Lime Kiln. It may have been Arthur Young or some such agriculturalist who discovered the value of burnt limestone as a soil nutrient. Like the Lioses, thousands of Limekilns were marked on the map of the 1830s. We ploughed a part of this field about a month ago and all around the site of the Kiln were hundreds of little broken lime-stones — quarried a long, long time ago and brought here for burning.

Above the Kiln field is the appropriately named Long field. ’Twasn’t always so, however, and before the 1913 edition of the Ordnance Survey map came out some re-alignment was done on the farm. A straight ditch was built across the bottom portion of the Nameless field which made its ‘neighbour’ truly a Long field.

Inside that field are the Top and Bottom Bogs. Though drained in the 1960s they still are wet in nature —great to grow grass last year during the drought. When still truly, wet, furzy, marshy, isolated and lonesome places back in the 1920s, the local IRA column chose them as a site for a dug-out for arms and men ‘on the run’.

Above the Long Field is the Tubular Gate field — now, exactly when tubular gates were invented I’m not sure, but I never heard it called anything else.

Inside this field is the field with no name, which must be very inglorious for this nice four-acre piece of land. We refer to it as ‘the field inside the Tubular gate field’ — it must be tough to be known only because of its proximity to a field with a name!

It has two gaps-one at either end, no water supply and no particularly striking physical features. There’s a furzy, double ditch by the two bogs — often frequented by badgers. Of all our field, it’s probably the most ‘naked’ — apart from a cluster of sallies in one corner, one fine ash tree and two solitary blackthorns, all its ditches are bare except for ferns.

We did plant a mixture of black and whitethorn ‘whips’ last year so hopefully this poor field will, in time, be a warmer clime. There’s a grand slope in it so ’tis facing east and gets plenty sunshine. We cut smashing hay off it last year and plan the same this year.

Maybe when the next Ordnance Survey Map is done in 2098 they might mark this field simply as ‘Paircganainm’, the Field With No Name.

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