Irish Fields ~ Near and Far


Spinning around Co. Waterford, it’s very easy to pass by fields of cattle without a second glance, as they are so common.

Standing at the gate of this field of young heifers the other day, I was thinking of a teacher from inner city Dublin once told me of how hardly any of her pupils had ever seen cows or sheep grazing in a field in the countryside. In fact, the only kids who had ever seen them were those who had gone to visit their father’s who were in prisons down the country and they had seen the animals grazing as they looked out the windows of the train as they made occasional  journeys to see them.

Most of the pupils had no idea where milk came from; apart from out of a carton and meat was something that was packaged on supermarket shelves or displayed in butcher shops.

My mother who was brought  up on a farm considered us kids to be complete ‘townies’ and I suppose she was right to an extent but we were fortunate enough to have opportunities to go out into the countryside and also to spend time on our grandmother’s farm.

In ways, this is a fun photo and I’m tempted to call it ‘The Way She Might Look at You,’ but it is also a reminder of the extent to which urban living can cut us off from nature and clearly cut some off far more than others in a society where poverty and disadvantage is very prevalent.



Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and I love to write both non-fiction and poetry.

32 thoughts on “Irish Fields ~ Near and Far”

  1. Having grown up on a ranch it is hard for me to imagine such an urban life buy I do know it exits. Today I live in a small urban environment but I do remember and my children had a state the rural life. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. This picture brought back memories of when we lived in the rural section of Abington. There was a cow farm and dairy farm located within miles of each other. My older sister was doing the dishes and happen to look out the window and what was looking at her was one of the cows from the cow barn..Well, she let out a screech and ran away from the window to have her husband shoo the animal away..I guess he called the owner as a pickup truck came and retrieved the wandering cow…The closest I have been to a cow was at a working farm in Woodstock Vt. and they had a nursery (stalls with windows) for the calves and they explained the whole process of life on a dairy farm….

    1. Hi Joni, you’re story about your sister made me laugh. It remindef me of an episode when a herd of cattle came thundering into my father’s precious garden when he was out. Mother and I had to shoo them out and try and take the worst of the damage look as minor as possible!!

    2. This reminds me of a trip to South Africa when I accompanied my friends to a home visit in the “bush.” It involved going across a farm, and opening several gates and traveling down 2 rut lanes. At one of them, the cattle were all spread out across the road. My friend had never been up close and personal to cows and picked up a tree branch, waved it toward them and said, “Shoo. Shoo.” They of course looked at him like ‘huh?’ and did not move. I said, just get in the car and slowly drive forward and they will move. We drove through herds of cattle on the 2 rut lane to my grandparents’ house, and I watched my dad just slowly inch forward, taking care of course not to hit a cow, and they of course would move to the side and we could pass. While he seriously doubted me, he followed my instructions, and was totally amazed when the cows ambled out of the lane as we inched slowly forward. 🙂 Love me some cows.

  3. I lived in the city all my life, but my parents made sure I knew where our food came from – we visited ranches and farms that allowed visitors, regularly. We actually did that on school field trips as well. Love the cows.

      1. I hadn’t really given it much thought Jean,but you are right. It was unusual. When I ponder it I remember my Mum telling me that she and my Dad met on a farm. They both worked with horses a great deal when young – that would have been the 40’s and early 50’s. Both were born in ’33. my Grandmother’s (on Mum’s side) family owned an ice business that was horse powered. Before refrigerators they cut lake ice in winter and stored it in hay for distribution in summer. My Dad operated an ice horse and my Mum rode and raced and showed horses – a sort of side line operated by her Aunt Mabel. My Uncle Eddie inherited the business and he switched to boarding and breeding horses. Oddly enough, and to his business benefit, the city had grown around the farm -which ended up being just a mile or so from downtown. As much as they received a lot of pressure and huge dollars to sell many times,they always refused – Mabel and Eddie were not in need of money, although they dressed in old farm clothes and drove beat up vehicles. The last time I saw it was in the 1990’s and it was still there and operating in what is now the middle of town. I’m sure the property is worth millions but it is a parallel family branch that I don’t even see anymore.

        All that said,both my Mum and Dad were always interested in other farms and how they operated. So, we rarely passed a farm without stopping and heaven forbid there was a horse anywhere – both my parents would seek it out with carrot or apple pieces they carried.

  4. Such a gorgeous photo! Growing up in the late 50s and early 1960s, I don’t think I ever equated the food we bought with it only coming from a supermarket. Our town was lucky, we had a small supermarket and the aisles and fridges full of yummy temptatons were very exciting. I remember Dad’s horror one day, when he asked to collect something for dinner on the way home from school, and I came home with a six-pack of yoghurt. Of course, life changes, supermarkets are bigger, and here we have issues with the farmers not being paid appropriately for their products, particularly milk.

    While he was growing up, my son loved horse riding but he was growing up in the city, so, this meant, every shcool holiday he spent time on a farm that offered farm-stay holidays for kids who loved horse-riding. Was he in heaven…yes…but because it was a working farm, he also helped out with the animals and he did see where his evening meals were coming from. He suffered I think becasue he loves animals, but at the same time, he has an appreciation of food and what it means to be a farmer that I don’t think we could have given him otherwise.

    My favourite photography subjects are birds and animals and anything to do with water…I have fond memories of getting my husband to bring the car to a screeching halt in a country lane (empty) so I could jump out and get some photos of the beautiful brown and white cows that were grazing near the fence. I haven’t a clue to the breed but my memories of their lovely eyes still makes my heart feel warm.

  5. First, love the photograph. I am a bovine fanatic–but I blanch at the thought of as a child offering a tidbit of roast beef to a cow in the pasture–oh, yes, I did! I was raised in the country, spent time on my grandparents’ farm, and saw branding, round-ups, slaughtering, killing and cleaning chickens for Sunday dinner, etc. It does not stop me from appreciating a nice photograph of cattle, or chickens, or pigs. I think perhaps it makes me appreciate the animals who are sacrificed in order that we might eat. I have some fairly strong feelings about the meat/chicken/pork processing since the beginning of the industrial age (and reading Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, which actually made me a vegetarian for a significant period of time), but I appreciate the eco-system in all of its complexity.
    Say hello to those cows/steers/bulls for me–I love milk, cream, and their beautiful eyes.

  6. Remarkable about those Irish city children. Hard to understand really and it can surely apply only to some Dublin kids. Elsewhere you’d need to be lacking all of your senses to not be aware of the Irish countryside and its inhabitants.

    1. Hi Roy, they were kids from pretty deprived backgrounds but from what I gather they certainly weren’t all that unusual.
      Lots of farms are opening here for school trips etc and I agree that that seems a far cry from the kind of images we tend to have of agricultural Ireland!

  7. As a child brought up in inner city London, I recall a group of us ten year old urchins being taken on our very first excursion to a farm where, when the farmer spoke of “little ‘eifers”, we thought he was talking about us!

  8. It is a shame to be so separated from the natural world. When I was young I didn’t have many chances to go into the countryside, but there were still fields and farmland around the town and the opportunity to encounter animals – now most of it’s gone.

  9. Love the photobomber 🙂
    When my daughter was very young, we went to the market one day and she saw a half of a pig – a big part , anyway. She looked at it in disbelief and said – oh, what a huge chicken! Many kids have no idea where their food comes from and what the ingredients look like.

  10. I love the different expressions on the cows’ faces, good shot! I was fortunate enough to have lived both in the Swiss countryside and in big cities. I have fond memories of going to the nearby farm to collect the -still warm- milk.

  11. I was like you, Jean – growing up in the country but not on a farm, so I was called a complete townie. That photo is so good I can smell them from here (in inner city Dublin)

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