As the Irish Farmers Journal celebrates its 75th anniversary, I can safely say I’ve been flicking though the pages for over half of its existence. It’s been a constant in our house as long as I can remember and - judging by the number of older editions around my parents’ house - it was long before I arrived, too.

It might sound odd, but ‘Thursday’ was the first word that came to mind when Ciara Leahy asked me to write a piece on what the Irish Farmers Journal means to me and my family. Farming, reading and sport were my biggest interests as a child and, as days of the week were concerned, nothing could trump Thursdays. That’s the day when the newspaper trinity, the Irish Farmers Journal, The Cork Examiner and The Southern Star arrived.

Known in the vernacular as, The Journal, The Paper and The Star, they took a lot of reading, but logistics of the time made that task easier. Perhaps west Cork was far away or that’s just how newspapers were distributed in the 80s and early 90s, but we had to wait until the afternoon for the weeklies to arrive.

We lived in Ballinascarthy village until April 1990, a few doors down from Anne Macs shop. On Thursday afternoons, having initialled and paired the papers for all the locals, Anne and Eily would place them in a brown waterproof box outside the shop door for collection. If the van was late, there’d be cars parked on both sides of the road waiting. It’s hard to believe that now but maybe people were more patient then or the pace of life was slower. During school holidays, I’d be outside peering over our garden wall, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the paper delivery van.


Moving away from the village meant a return to waiting for the papers. Mam and her friend Elma Helen took turns collecting them. I’d be listening out for Elma’s car and once she landed The Journal on the table, I’d whisk it away to the quietness of the conservatory and read it on the floor.

Interest in the articles grew over time, but it was the photos that initially captured my attention. They still draw me in. Agricultural imagery was rare then and getting the chance to see different breeds of livestock or what happened on other farms was something I looked forward to every week. That, and the novelty of finding a colour photo beyond the front cover.

For my holidays at both my grandparents, I asked Mam if I could take her old camera. When she agreed, I’d head down the fields taking pictures of calves so I could try and replicate those images.

I wasn’t to know then, but nearly 30 years later, photographs would play a role in my eventual move from reader of these pages to contributor.

Ahead of a revamp of the Irish Farmers Journal website, then news editor, Pat O’Keeffe, got in touch. He saw my images on Twitter and asked if I’d be interested in writing an online Farmer Writes column. “No,” I responded instantly before explaining that throughout my education, I struggled at writing. I could tell you an answer no problem, but when it came to expressing that opinion on paper, either I blanked or overthought it. Pat asked me to write one anyway and see how I get on. That was October 2013 and the word count has grown considerably since then, so I’m grateful for both the opportunity and Pat’s persistence.

Moving from reader to writer showed me that the publication is a bit like a movie. Articles and their authors are the bit on-screen, but none of it would happen without the huge efforts of everyone else behind the scenes.

A mini-archive of old Irish Farmers Journals were stashed at home, and now and then I would go through them to seek out a special edition from 1979. It featured a two-page article on Dad and his efforts as a landless farm apprentice trying to get farming in his own right. Reading that in the 90s was interesting as I could track how the farm evolved.

A further trawl of his college and Macra na Feirme notes revealed the influence this publication had on his venture. The pages of practical animal husbandry and building advice that he pulled out of the paper and put into practice played a role in developing our farm.

Treasure trove

Fast-forward to the early 2000s and agri-business magazine was an ever present in my bag while at college and the likes of the Better Farm Programme influenced what we did on farm. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Delving through that treasure trove of old issues made me realise how much easier we have it. That applies to both farming and how the editorial content is put together. I’ve sat in my car outside a mart with my laptop, typed an article, uploaded the photos, emailed it to the subeditors and within minutes it’s live for the world to read. It’s such a contrast to what was required to get copy and content out every week in the early years – and who knows where it will be in another 75 years?