New project aims to preserve our rich agricultural heritage

Harvesting operations in the Glendermott district in August 1932. 'Source: Libraries NI & Bigger McDonald Collection
Harvesting operations in the Glendermott district in August 1932. 'Source: Libraries NI & Bigger McDonald Collection

These historic images form part of a new project launched recently to collect, communicate and preserve the agricultural heritage of the Derry area in the early part of the 20th century.

The Celebrating the Agricultural Heritage of the North West project was launched by the North’s Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill.

Mr James H Bond and Co.'s Show and Sale held in Derry Market in December 1936 with an entry of more than 800 sheep and 60 head of cattle. The prizewinning sheep are shown, right to left, Mr James Gilfillan's pen of three mountain ewes and pen of three black-faced lambs; Mr R Buchanan's three black faced year old wethers; Mr John Brown's pen of three cross-bred lambs; Mr James Gilfillan's 2nd prize-pen of three cross lambs; Mr JC Drennan's three prize pen of cross-bred lambs. On the extreme right is the judge Mr TJ Gilmour, of Institution Road, Coleraine.'Source: Libraries NI & Bigger McDonald Collection.

Mr James H Bond and Co.'s Show and Sale held in Derry Market in December 1936 with an entry of more than 800 sheep and 60 head of cattle. The prizewinning sheep are shown, right to left, Mr James Gilfillan's pen of three mountain ewes and pen of three black-faced lambs; Mr R Buchanan's three black faced year old wethers; Mr John Brown's pen of three cross-bred lambs; Mr James Gilfillan's 2nd prize-pen of three cross lambs; Mr JC Drennan's three prize pen of cross-bred lambs. On the extreme right is the judge Mr TJ Gilmour, of Institution Road, Coleraine.'Source: Libraries NI & Bigger McDonald Collection.

The unique project is being driven forward by the County Londonderry Agricultural Show Society (CLASS) which has been awarded £12,915 funding from ARC NW under the Rural Development Programme (RDP).

The new County Show Society has been formed to build on the work done by its predecessor organisations, the North West of Ireland Agricultural Society and the Limavady Show Society.

The North West has a rich history of agricultural firsts. The North West of Ireland Agricultural Society was established in 1821, a couple of decades before the North East Society, which later went on to set up the Balmoral Show.

In 1823, the North West Society published a monthly magazine targeted at both landowners and tenant farmers while, in 1826, the North West Society established the first agricultural college in the English-speaking world near Eglinton.

For years, the Brandywell Showgrounds hosted the region's annual agricultural show.

For years, the Brandywell Showgrounds hosted the region's annual agricultural show.

Launching the project on Derry’s Walls, Minister O’Neill said: “In bygone days, the city was very much part of agricultural life of the North West of Ireland through its markets, shows and factories... I believe that it is important to improve awareness of local heritage in the local community and to capture it for future generations to enjoy.

“This project will preserve a part of the history of this area by reconnecting the urban population with past times and build connections with the present-day rural products and services available in the county.”

Libraries NI are providing access to several hundred agricultural glass-plate negatives from the Bigger-McDonald Collection.

These provide a unique insight into rural life and the agricultural industry in the county and city from 1920-40.

The project will be part of the rural community’s contribution to the UK City of Culture Year in 2013.

It is hoped that the Project will help connect the County’s urban populations with their rural hinterlands and will help promote visitors to the 2013 County Show near Limavady.

Holywell Trust says it’s pleased to be assisting CLASS with this project and anyone who would like to contribute to the project should contact Mark Lusby on Tel: 07713 566719 or on e-mail at mark@holywelltrust.com.

Picture Source: Libraries NI & Bigger McDonald Collection