Sam Miskelly

Sep 24, 2015

Samuel Miskelly is typical of the strong Presbyterian farming community of North Antrim.  He lived all his life in the home farm at Ballydivity, and his brothers and sisters either went into farming or business in various parts of the world. 

Interviewed in his 99th year, he unfortunately died before he reached his hundredth.  Living happily with his wife and children, his memories and stories have been recorded for prosperity.

Sam enjoying his retirement from farming in his 99th year.   On 16th February 2006  Sam talked to Story Finders about the progress in farming since his youth.  He also touched on subjects such as the world wars, the people and trades of this area. 

Sam talking about his brothers.    listen.gif

For a man his age he had the remarkable facility of memory for people and places.  His work is ever more poignant because shortly after the interview Samuel succumbed to an illness and died and therefore the sequel to this interview was never recorded.




Sam and his wife retired to this bungalow, next to the farmhouse, leaving the farm to his son and future generations as his father did before him.  The farm is situated between Derrykeighan and Bushmills, in the townland of Ballydivity.

Sam still kept an active interest after he retired.  He loved to meet close friends like Willie Peden to talk about the old days in farming and people of the long, long ago.

In talking to Sam a way of life was opened up to me that most of us have thankfully never known.  An era of hardship, hard work with little return.  For the hardworking pioneers of his day - no health service, no social benefits, few doctors, few qualified teachers.  In accepting their lot in this way of life friendships were forged and mutual help (or as it was known in farming terms "morrowing") was the way that helped everyone to survive. 

The world of North Antrim in those days consisted of the people and places within walking distance of each other - small, insular communities.  The only link with the outside world was the dry battery wireless, if one was lucky enough to own one and a newspaper for those who could read. 

The transportation of goods and people was down to the horses and the carters of the day. Likewise farm work was either manual labour or horse power.  The horses used were generally Clydesdales, like the picture opposite. 

Horses made ploughing and the reaping of corn less labour intensive, so the preparation of the fields for sowing and harvesting was a lot easier and quicker.




Willie McKay and Willie Smyth on a horse drawn cutting bar in a field of corn in Bellisle, Dervock.  


The Souls of the Soil

A poem by the North Antrim scribe Charlie Gillen who himself was "rare't a wheen o  fiel  lenths fae" the late Sam in the townland of Islandahoe on the Gillen hame farm where, incidentaly, when owned by the Simpson Brothers was the home of a greyhound  (Silvianna ) that won the Irish cup in the season of 1907_08.

Charlie's poem is called "Oot here mae lane"   or "out here on my own", depending on whether you have had an Ulster Scots upbringing or not.

Charlie Gillen reads the poem "oot here mae lane.  listen.gif  



 The narrow gauge train in Dervock station

Later on a narrow gauge railway helped to open links with Belfast and Derry.

The narrow gauge ran from Ballymoney through Dervock, Stranocum, Gracehill, Armoy, Capecastle, Ballycastle.  The railway started in October 1880 and the line closed for services on 3rd July 1950. 

The narrow gauge train in    Dervock station



The only other reason for leaving the area of your birth was the scourge of emigration or to 'take the king's shilling' and join the forces as Sam's brother did - losing his life in a Japanese prisoner of war camp.  There were three reasons for emigration - to escape the class system, to find meaningful work or because of religious intolerance. People travelled to the new worlds of Canada, America, Australia and New Zealand to build new futures for themselves.

Tags: WW1, Audio
Category: Post War

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