Elma McCormack from Limavady has just joined the Poultry Unit at the Hillsborough Agricultural Research Institute. As a poultry assistant it is her job to help with experiments, keep individual records and collect eggs from the various houses.
A Loughry training and a “love of the outdoor life” led Elma to poultry work. When I called she was busy weighing eggs, numbering them and recording their weights. Although the weight varies only by fractions of an ounce, it is most important that details are kept accurately.
The six girls in the poultry unit work on a rota system and Elma sometimes finds herself on night duty. But this doesn’t pose any “transport home” problem because she shares a house with Miss McDonald, poultry manageress, and two of the other assistants. Their house is in a corner of the beautiful grounds which surround the research buildings.
The girls cook their own meals and I asked Elma if she was inclined to “shy away” from making egg dishes. “Not at all,” she said, “the fact that I am handling eggs all day doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy an omelette!”
Elma has just joined the Hillsborough Young Farmers’ Club and is looking forward to the winter activities. She would eventually like to do advisory work in the poultry field so she certainly is receiving the ideal training.
The office staff at the institute are really at the nerve centre of incoming research.
Miss Mary Johnston has worked there for several years and in fact when she started as a typist the old Clydesdale horses were used for ploughing. “I was brought up on a farm just outside Hillsborough so I am always interested to see the results of research and the tremendous progress which has been made over the years.”
Miss Johnston is now in charge of the library and it is up to her to see that all the agricultural and scientific journals are immediately available to members of the technical staff.
And of course there are shelves and shelves of specialist volumes to be catalogued and recorded. As well as this Miss Johnston does general secretarial work, so she is kept very busy.