Dairy Industry/Ulster Farming Families Bundle

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The Origins of the Dairy Industry in Ulster

Dairying in the province of Ulster has a long history stretching back many centuries. Indeed, it would be fair to say that not many of today’s industries, operating at the cutting edge of modern technology, can trace their history back to biblical times. Yet the dairy industry with its automatic robot milking systems now quite commonly found at farm level and its sophisticated micro filtration producing the key components of health and fitness supplements can make that claim.

The Origins of the Dairy Industry in Ulster provides the evidence and demonstrates that right here in Ireland to this day, samples of butter made 2,000 years ago are still being found in bogs where the conditions have allowed the butter to survive over all those years. In this thoroughly-researched book George Chambers examines the development of dairying in Ulster from earliest times through to the first part of the twentieth century, crucially exploring the role of the Dairy Cooperative movement of the late nineteenth century in transforming the dairy industry here.

In Ireland as elsewhere, the dairy farmer was and is the supplier of the most perishable of produce and consequently is the weakest of sellers in the market place. Over the years that issue has been addressed by the continuous development of the uniquely democratic Agricultural and Dairy Cooperative Society movement which for well over 100 years has grown the scale and complexity of milk product manufacturing while critically remaining under the direct control of its farmer members. While the names and size of these cooperatives have changed frequently through mergers and acquisitions the basic structure remains faithful to the model established by the remarkable Horace Plunkett in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. The birth of the Dairy Cooperatives dramatically changed the lives of dairy farmers and it continues to give them some degree of control over their own destiny.

This publication will attract those interested in the rural history of Ireland as much as those who are curious about the development of dairying from ancient times through to the relative sophistication of the twentieth century.


Ulster Farming Families 1930-1960

Ulster Farming Families 1930-1960 uses oral history to explore life on Ulster farms between 1930 and 1960. This valuable record of the farming community describes in fascinating detail the many changes in practically every aspect of working life and their associated patterns of social life, all in the face of increasing government intervention, globalisation of markets, and the cataclysm of the Second World War.

On most holdings, work continued to be carried out by all the family members. Men, women and children all had roles in the production of crops and livestock. At busier times neighbours were called on for help, and workers were also hired some farms, either full-time or seasonally. All of these relationships could lead to tensions and conflict, but they also led to great intimacy and kindness, with individuals showing commitment to the well-being of their family, their neighbours, and even their employers and employees.

These massive changes have often been seen as damaging social networks in rural areas, but the collective memories of those involved bear witness to their marvelous capacity to adapt. The oral testimonies on which the book is based show that, for farming people, change could and did create new relationships and wider opportunities on both a professional and personal level.

George Chambers

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Jonathan Bell

Jonathan Bell is Head Curator at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, where he has worked since 1976. He has published widely on the history of Irish rural society, and associated farming methods. Fieldwork has always been a key element of his work, and this has led to the collection of oral testimonies throughout Ulster and other parts of Ireland, many of which have been used in writing Ulster Farming Families (1930-1960).

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