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A Tie to the Land
Colm Flynn
A tie to  the land front.jpeg
will be launched in
 The Heritage Centre, Athy,
Co Kildare
Monday 21st September 2009. 
It began simply as an idea born out of a need to commemorate the return of the National Ploughing Championship to Athy, the place where it all began in 1931. The book indeed is ultimately a commemoration of this rather unique area where not only necessity, but foresight and a unique set of people were the mothers of invention. It is a curious amalgam of truth, fact and fiction but in every word and sentence a celebration of the traditions associated with the land and agricultural production as well as the early ploughing competitions. Every movement, taste, sight and sound of the text awakens in us a memory of our own experiences and passions. The central themes highlight a connection and feeling of community which we may sometimes feel are in danger of being lost in the modern world. It is right then that we continue to celebrate our connection to the land and the traditions attached to it and as we continue to move forward we remember to keep an eye on the past.
The book provides a perfect release for all those stories and literary inventions which had been apparently rolling around in the author’s head for many years. They form a peculiar (often hilarious) combination of poignant memories and tall tales. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish fact from fiction in Colm’s stories but the use of newspaper articles and other historical sources grounds us constantly throughout the book in the early decades of the twentieth century when the great Irish agricultural associations began to thrive. From local and national farmer’s and labourers organisations to ploughing matches and tobacco growing we are slowly but inevitably hooked. It is with pride and understanding we read through the pages and indeed we could say with pride and prejudice for we are indeed prejudiced when it comes to these passions of ours – our home, our families and our way of life – these are OUR ties to the land.
Pick up a copy of the book to while away the small hours and when you find yourself smiling or even laughing out loud to yourself at some of the incidents or characters you encounter, remember – I told you so!


In early October 2008, it was announced that the Ploughing Championship was returning to the place of its birth, Athy, in 2009. It became a talking point in my local pub, Conlans of
Booleigh. In the course of these discussions, much talk centred around the possibility of using the occasion to generate badly needed funds. There was talk of running boats from Athy and Vicarstown along the canal to get people to the grounds, all sorts of innovations were on the cards. This put me thinking. Surely there was opportunity. Then my good friend Breda Gleeson suggested to me “Why don’t you do something to celebrate the Ploughing and its return to Athy.” And the seeds were sown, the challenge was on. On reflection I did have many connections to the people who were and some who still are associated with the Ploughing Championship. Anna May McHugh and her brother Stanny Brennan were of immense help in developing the story. Andrew Bergin shared my desire to find out more about our respective grandfathers J. J. Bergin and James Flynn. Nassau and Jenny Greene and his mother, Juliet have a fascinating archive of material associated with John Nassau Greene and Juan Greene, all manner of material recalling innovation in the early life of the Free State, so much so, that we felt their story was a book in itself. It was then the idea of celebrating Athy’s movers and shakers and what was unique about them seemed to take on a life of its own. The expression “You don’t know the half of it” certainly came to mind as we trawled through all the old drawers of my fathers writing desk. There were cobwebs in there that hadn’t seen the light of day since Gods time. As we enter another recession, the solution to our problem may well be in the past. Indeed many of the difficulties experienced
during the founding and delivery of the Irish Free State, on reflection, are transferable to modern day. Innovation, thinking outside the box, the sharing of ideas and ideals, coming together, are all things we need to be doing today. In order to make any sense of the mindset of those that work the land and the seemingly unfathomable bind it has on them, it would be important to see how it is engrained and where it all began. So with that in mind I’ll take you back to the beginning, my childhood, a time when innovation just happened in the immediate world of farm experience. If writing this book helps one person to break out from the shackles of recession then I will be well pleased. If I seem rushed, its because I’ve never done this before and the Ploughing can’t wait. So enjoy.
 Anna May Mc Hugh, the great orchestrator of the National Ploughing Championship ahs written a foreword to the book

This year, 2009, sees the return of the National Ploughing Championship to Athy where it all began in 1931. I am extremely delighted to write a foreword to this book by Colm Flynn which not only celebrates the traditions associated with the early ploughing competitions and indeed with farming in general but the peculiar innovative spirit which was evident at that time in South Kildare. It also highlights the rural ethos which is in danger of disappearing in an ever changing world. A time when people were indeed tied to the land not simply out of ecessity but also out of pride and generations of family associations. We at the National Ploughing Association wish Colm well with this publication and would like to take this opportunity to thank him for drawing attention to what it was like to grow up surrounded by the traditions we sometimes take for granted. This unusual combination of memories, stories, anecdotes and historical facts will hopefully engage and entertain the reader into the wee
small hours.
We must take every opportunity to preserve and protect our heritage as much as we must continue to strive to develop and grow. The National Ploughing Championship is a unique event, calculated to do just this and has developed over time as a truly national event and a great social occasion. The spirit of the early ploughmen lives on in this book.
Anna May McHugh
National Ploughing Association, 2009

The launch of ‘A Tie to the Land’ will take place in The Heritage Centre, Athy, Co Kildare at 8.00pm on Monday 21st September 2009. 
A perfect gift for Christmas, the book costs €15, but is available at a discounted price of €10 on the launch night and during The Ploughing Championships.
‘A Tie to the Land’ is available for sale at The Heritage Centre in Athy and at a number of stands in The Ploughing Championships.
1. The Athy Vintage stand
2. The Library stand
3. The Irish Family History Foundation stand

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