The Catholic “strong farmer” was a crucial force in the shaping of modern Ireland from the early nineteenth century. The strong farmers provided the financial and educational foundation for Catholic Emancipation, the post-Famine Catholic church and mainstream Irish nationalism through to the foundation of the Irish state. They also shaped the transition from a labour-intensive grain economy to a cattle economy in which many thousands of farm labourers were made redundant and were forced to emigrate.
Strong Farmer tells of people’s struggle to make enough money to feed themselves and their families. It tells of men killed in the countryside in disputes over money, land and cattle. It sheds light on the cycle of work, trade and celebration that has always marked the farming year and brings vividly to light the rituals of cattle dealing—and occasional sharp practice — that characterised transactions between traders.
In Strong Farmer, Ciaran Buckley uses interviews conducted by Chris Ward with her father Joe Ward to view recent Irish history through the lens of one prominent family and brilliantly weaves together the threads of history and folklore to tell a story of money, power and unbreakable family ties.
Joe Ward’s memoirs give us a worm’s-eye view of a class of people that has remained hitherto obscure … both for its immediacy and its long-term impact, this is an important book — Fintan O’Toole, Irish Times.