THE KILDARE HARVEST CRISIS 1946

by ehistoryadmin on January 17, 2015

Leinster Leader 15 September 1946

THE HARVESTING CRISIS

COUNTY KILDARE’S SCHEME OF ORGANISATION

On Saturday (September 7th) when the harvesting situation seemed desperate, the County Manager made an Order, placing at the disposal of the farmers, all the road workers of the County Council, with full pay, and in order to provide for the smooth working of any scheme that might be formulated to help the farmers, he issued an appeal for a truce in the unfortunate strike affecting the Northern end of Co. Kildare.

On Monday afternoon the Committee of Agriculture met, and prior to the meeting the Secretary of the Committee, in consultation with the County Manager, drafted a provisional scheme to deal with the situation in the County.

Under this scheme, the County was divided into seven areas:- Naas, Athy, Newbridge, Kildare, Edenderry, Castledermot and Kilcullen. The officers to take charge of these as per advertisement.

The scheme, in broad outlines was submitted to the Committee and approved, and by early afternoon on Monday, the area officers were on the job.

Meantime, contact had been made with Colonel Collins-Powell, O.C., Curragh Command, and Chief Superintendent O’Driscoll of the Garda Siochana. Both of these officers expressed their willingness to co-operate in the closest possible manner during the emergency.

On behalf of the Army Authorities, Col. Collins-Powell, O.C., Curragh, placed at the disposal of Kildare, 330 men with 20 lorries, to be placed where and as the Committee required. He also undertook to feed the Volunteers on harvesting work.

Since Monday, as weather permitted, various complements of men from the army have been at work in the fields in the County. The Chief Superintendent arranged with the Garda stations throughout the County, as well as in Carlow, to collect information regarding the requirements of the farmers, tabulate same and report twice daily to their Headquarters (at 10 and 4 o’clock). The information so collected was tabulated at the headquarters of the Committee and was made available as and when required to the District officers-the District Officers meantime being supplied with the local requirements direct from the Garda Stations, and in this respect the organisation worked like clockwork, thanks to the efficiency of the Garda throughout the county and the courtesy of the Chief Superintendent.

Radio Broadcasts

On Monday, arrangements were made for three broadcasts from Radio Eireann, appealing to the farmers in the county to tabulate the necessary data at the nearest Garda Station. These broadcasts were repeated on Tuesday, and the Committee of Agriculture and the Co. Council appreciate the willingness of the officials of Radio Eireann to help in the crisis. The public Press was used throughout the beginning of the week, with a view to impressing on the farmers the necessity for supplying urgently their requirements in man power, so as to enable the officers in charge to arrange for the immediate dispersal of voluntary or other workers at the first improvement in the weather.

Meantime, efforts to arrange for transport had been made. The Co. Council offered to supply ten lorries, and the Army authorised 20.

Mr. John Rorke, B.E., ex-County Surveyor, was appointed officer in charge of transport, and under him a sub-transport officer was appointed in each area (See advertisement). These sub-transport officers are working strictly with Mr. Rorke and in close contact with the area officers, and the result of their efforts will be, it is hoped, reflected favourably when the crisis arises. A canvas is being made for all available vehicles, lorries, vans, private cars, etc., and an appeal is made for further volunteers.

The setting up of the organisation necessitated conferences between the officers of the committee and the area officers, sub-transport officers and assistant engineers, overseers, and it was obvious that all those concerned were filled with an enthusiasm to do their best at the unfortunate circumstances that have arisen.

The only disappointment that the organisation has experienced is the fact that the farmers have not responded to the appeals made by the Committee for the information required, as set out in advertisement.

It may be that they have been waiting until the weather improvement would justify their asking for an immediate supply of men, but the Committee wishes to point out that it is essential for all farmers who have not yet reported to the Garda, to do so at the earliest possible moment.

 Workers Pay

Farmers are asked to remember that the workers of the County Council, and that there is no obligation whatever on them to pay any wages. In fact, it is desirable, so as to secure uniformity throughout the county, that no farmer will depart from this direction. Farmers are expected, in the circumstances, to give their best in hospitality to these voluntary workers, and it is hoped that the return in labour will be sufficient to save the harvest.

The County Council workers are expected to perform any duties assigned to them by the farmer to which they are allotted, and are expected to work as and where required by the farmer, and to keep time as other agricultural workers. Any deviation on the part of the workers from these instructions, should be reported by the farmer to the overseer immediately. All industrial concerns throughout the county have expressed their keenness to co-operate. Most of them have prepared lists of volunteers within their own employment, and some have intimated that in the event of the Committee so requiring they are prepared to shut down their factories completely and pay their men in full during the emergency.

Transport, typists and typewriters, also office accommodation were gladly offered, and the Committee and officers in charge of the scheme appreciate this spirit of co-operation exhibited by the old and new industries in Kildare, in this crisis.

A real community spirit has been shown and with an improvement in the weather, it is believed that the harvest in County Kildare will be saved.

N.B. – The total number of men requisitioned by the farmers at ten o’clock on Thursday morning was 928. Farmers are asked to state their requirements immediately.

ITEMS OF THE CRISIS

Messrs. Lendrum, Naas-To provide five men with pay.

Turf Development Board, Newbridge-250 men available each night from 6 p.m. and for half-day on Saturday, and full day on Sunday. These are volunteers, and in addition the Board has released, with pay 100 men to take part in the scheme with the Western portion of the county and in Edenderry area.

Murphy Bros. Rathangan-Can give use of lorry and driver as from Thursday morning-cannot supply any men.

Messrs. W.P. and R. Odlum-Ninety acres of own corn to reap. Will employ all own men-intends to reap own first and will help neighbours immediately afterwards.

Naas Cotton Mills – Can supply Ford V8 van and four men, one typist and typewriter available, and will call for voluntary help in the factory.

Messrs. Minch Norton – Three lorries with drivers to carry own men and would be available for transport of other men, if required. Petrol to be supplied by Committee of Agriculture. Will give 12 men with full pay, on the understanding that there is no obligation on the farmers whatsoever, to supply the grain to Messrs. Minch Norton. These men will be available until grain begins to come in.

Irish Ropes Ltd. – Work in two shifts, stopping and commencing at 2.30 p.m. 100 men on each shift. This would mean that 100 men would be available per day and all day Saturday and Sunday on a volunteer basis. The Company expressed its willingness to shut down with full pay if and when the Committee is satisfied that the situation demands this step.

As we go to Press we learn that there are now over 1,200 workers in the fields to-day, of which there are more than 700 military helpers, the balance being made up of Co. Council workers and volunteers.

SOUTH KILDARE CAMPAIGN

The Save the Harvest campaign is in full swing in South Kildare. Upwards of 300 people attended a meeting in Athy Courthouse on Sunday night, when Mr. Ruane Agricultural Instructor, made a strong appeal for volunteers to help the farmers in the crisis facing the country.

A bureau for the registration of volunteers and their assignment to farmers requiring their assistance was opened in the Urban Council Office, Athy, on Monday. People wishing to volunteer, and farmers in need of help, are requested to get in touch with the bureau. Throughout the rest of the area farmers requiring volunteers can procure those by applying at the nearest Garda Station. The County Manager (Mr. J. O’Doherty) has released the Athy Urban Council workers for work on farms. Messrs Norton have also assigned their employees to harvest work. The call for volunteers in Athy district has met with a good response, not only from manual workers, but also from the community popularly known as the “white collared fraternity.” Many merchants in the town signified their willingness to release their employees for farm work.

KILCULLEN

At a meeting on Sunday of all interested in the Parish of Kilcullen it was decided that farmers requiring help and volunteers should get in touch with Mr. Caffrey, Drainage Inspector, at Mrs. G. Berney’s, Kilcullen.

NAAS COUNCIL’S APPEAL

Naas Urban Council at a special meeting held on Sunday, decided to appeal by circular to the people of Naas and surrounding districts to co-operate with all measures taken for the saving of the harvest. The Council, further appealed for voluntary labour for farmers and requested those willing to render such voluntary services to hand in their names to the Secretary of the Co. Committee of Agriculture.

At the Masses on Sunday, at the Church of Our Lady and St. David, Naas, similar appeals were made, and Very Rev. P.J. Doyle, P.P., expressed the hope that there would be an immediate and widespread response in view of the seriousness of the situation.

The Chairman (Mr. M. Fitzsimons) speaking at the Urban Council meeting, said that as they were aware, a meeting of that Council would not have been called on Sunday except under very exceptional circumstances. There was hardly any necessity for him to repeat what they were all only too well aware of-the harvest was in grave danger-and it would require a supreme effort now to save what was not already destroyed. He believed that twenty per cent of it would not be retrieved. They were here to-day to appeal to the traders to give assistance in the way of volunteers. It was as much in their interests as it was in the farmers’ because if the crops were not saved there would be a very serious crisis in regard to the food question, and there was only a very short time now left to save as much as possible of what was left. Many farmers around the locality would need voluntary labour and it behoved all who could do so to offer their services.

Mr. Taylor – I did a bit of canvassing already, and two young men told me they were ready for any such work-one was Michael Broe and the other James Maher, Mr. Kerrigan’s Manager. I am also of the opinion that Chief. Supt. O’Driscoll will co-operate so far as the Guards are concerned, and as all the Guards are for the most part farmers’ sons, they could do a great lot. They are prepared to do their duty in the fields as well as in the streets, and that is what we expect of a Force with such a tradition behind it.

Mrs. Higgins – The Parish Priest made a very strong appeal this morning at the nine o’clock Mass, and that is a great help.

Mr. Daly – I would appeal to the people who can use scythes to come along.

CROPS ROTTING

Mr. Lawler – I know the plight of the country as well as most people and this is going to be the greatest load the State ever carried on its back, because the season’s crops are practically lost. I don’t see much use in Dr. Ryan’s appeal for voluntary labour. It may relieve the situation, but it won’t be sufficient. Why not place the military at the disposal of the country to save the harvest? They have lorries; they are under disciplined control and they could be rushed to vital centres. Wouldn’t it be more important than forming fours on a barrack square? The County Council road workers should also be turned over.

Chairman – That will be done.                                               

Mr. Lawler – Without such help, the thing is not workable. We are also told to get meals for voluntary labour. Where are we going to get, say, the extra tea and sugar? A farmer to-day is not able to feed his own family in regard to certain commodities. Another thing is a lot of this voluntary labour will be no good to farmers, because most of the volunteers would be only in a farmer’s way. My advice is to appeal to the Government to place the Army at our disposal.

Chairman – You will get the Council men and the Army.

Mr. Lawler – Are they to be paid by the farmers?

Chairman – The farmer needn’t pay; he is to give food.

Mr. Hederman. That is all.

Mr. Lawler. The farmer is down and out. Where he possessed £100, it is now rotting in the ground and he is hardly apt to risk another £100 chasing bad money.

Mr. O’Donoghue – I would agree with Mr. Lawler as regards the Army. If we are to have an army in this little State, let that Army have some constructive uses.

Mr. Hederman – In a crisis like this the military could render invaluable services.

Mr. Mc Garr – Some years ago we had the Army working on the farms.

BLACK ‘47

After further discussion the Council decided as a supplementary resolution to appeal for the use of the serving soldiers in the Naas Barracks.

Mr. Lawler – We were the first Council in Ireland to get the C.I.E. to erect bus shelters, and we might be the first to stir up the military.

Mr. O’ Donoghue – I am in perfect agreement with Mr. Lawler. The Minister for Defence is recruiting 7,000 men. Let these men be at once turned over to the land and they can play at soldiers afterwards. How do we know, but that we are going to have repetition of black ’47. The crops then rotted somewhat similar to now.

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