The National Ploughing Championships are underway in Ireland at the moment and it’s like the country has been taken over by ploughing fever.

In the midst of this, I’ve been thinking about people who have the courage to plough lonely furrows in the pursuit of a vision, very often at huge cost to themselves but ultimately for the betterment of society. How often do we look back and see how a now ‘famous’ person died in destitution, never to see the fruits of  his/her labours recognised and accepted as ‘genius?’

Horse Drawn Plough c.1900 Source:
Horse Drawn Plough c.1900

And, of course, the mere mention of ploughing always makes me think of this most evocative poem written by the great Seamus Heaney:


My father worked with a horse-plough,
His shoulders globed like a full sail strung
Between the shafts and the furrow.
The horse strained at his clicking tongue.

An expert. He would set the wing
And fit the bright steel-pointed sock.
The sod rolled over without breaking.
At the headrig, with a single pluck

Of reins, the sweating team turned round
And back into the land. His eye
Narrowed and angled at the ground,
Mapping the furrow exactly.

I stumbled in his hob-nailed wake,
Fell sometimes on the polished sod;
Sometimes he rode me on his back
Dipping and rising to his plod.

I wanted to grow up and plough,
To close one eye, stiffen my arm.
All I ever did was follow
In his broad shadow round the farm.

I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,
Yapping always. But today
It is my father who keeps stumbling
Behind me, and will not go away.

(Seamus Heaney)