R Magowan from Hillsborough, Co. Down writes:
Aside from farming, my grandfather Johnny Magowan from Glebeview, Carba, Hillsborough, had a passion for breeding working farm horses. He also enjoyed going to the races and point to points, yet he never placed a bet! He seemed to be like those folk who breed sheep or cattle – just loved the stock.
Johnny was married to Agnes (nee McKee) and they had two sons, John and Alexander.
He died just after the war, in his early 70s – three score years and ten, the normal run then.
This picture was taken between the wars, as the family had moved to Hillsborough in 1917 from 30 acres to 60 acres, funded by the Great War boom in flax and food prices.
Johnny died a year after my dad came home at the end of the second world war, a few years before I was born.
I was reminded of these working horses just now, as a contractor dug up a large horse shoe behind the farmyard – my grandfather was probably looking for it 90 years ago!
I could not initially remember the name of the horses used on small Ulster farms that could not justify the marvellous big Clydesdale, but I think it was the Irish Draught that was used by my grandfather’s generation. A breed with versatility and lower running costs than the Clydesdale.
In Canada in 1968 on a student placement, I met a former neighbour, Herb Garrett. Here he had been a farm labourer, by then in Canada, 20 years later, he was an Inspector in the CNR Police. He recalled working for a horse dealer at Duneight outside Lisburn before migrating. One of his jobs was meeting the train in Lisburn from the Moy Horse Fair and walking home a string of Irish Draught horses his employer had bought. That was the end of an era for working horses – although the Irish Draught still has many uses today!
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