Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill this week outlined how rural development funding is helping the people of Derry reconnect with their rural heritage.
The Minister was speaking at the launch of the Celebrating the Agricultural Heritage of the North West project which will collect, communicate and preserve the agricultural heritage of the area in the period 1920-1950.
The project is being driven forward by the County Londonderry Agricultural Show Society (CLASS) and has been awarded £12,915 funding from ARC NW under the Rural Development Programme (RDP).
Minister O’Neill was joined by the Mayors of Derry and Limavady and representatives from CLASS for Wednesday’s unusual launch event on the historic city walls.
Two ‘live’ dairy cows and one dairy calf were on hand to help launch the project - a novel idea given an eighteenth century byelaw which prohibits inhabitants of Derry from letting their cows wander onto Derry’s Walls - with a fine of one English shilling for every offence!
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 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.
Launching the project on the 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. With the passage of time, farmers adjusted their land use and production systems and with this came changes that have had a lasting impact on the regional economy and quality of life of people living in the region.
“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.”
CLASS chairman, Stanley Warnock, added: “Co Londonderry Agricultural Show Society Ltd is grateful to ARC NW for the RDP financial support to help to promote agriculture in the North-West and, through this project, to capture, communicate and preserve the agricultural heritage of the region to future generations.”
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.
CLASS views the project as part of the rural community’s contribution to the City of Culture Year in 2013, “reconnecting the City of Derry with its recent past when it played a major role in the agricultural industry in the NW of Ireland.”