How This Galway Farmer Is Keeping The Tradition Of Stone Shoring Alive

The first time John Connelly saw a stone shore (ditch) being put into his family farm in Co Galway was September 1971.

Spadework - John Connelly dug the 500-yard ‘shore’ himself on his land in Co Galway

Spadework – John Connelly dug the 500-yard ‘shore’ himself on his land in Co Galway

He remembers it vividly, although he acknowledges that it’s a long-forgotten skill in many parts of the country now.

In the 1950s there was a land project office set up in Tuam and it was all about draining.

“In January 1955, my father got a small grant to dig the stone shores and drain the land. The pipes were not used until the late ’60s in this area,” John says.

The tradition of stone shoring, he says, has continued in the area. John and his wife Patricia farm 60 acres with sheep – Texel, Suffolk and Charollais.

They had been milking cows until 2005. The land is a mixture of highland and lowland, John says, and it’s the latter that has to be drained or shored, as he calls it.

He recently took to rebuilding a stone shore in a field, a job that took some time as he did it all himself with no mechanical help this time.

“In recent years the field was bubbling water as the stone shore in it, which was dug in September 1971, was beginning to fill up, so I decided to put in another shore,” he explains.

“The water is coming from a spring in the field. We stopped using the spring well when we got piped water in 1962. The other shore was dug out by a local drains contractor called Johnny Collins.

“It was a long shore, and we were doing other bits of shoring. But, over the last five or six years it was not able to take the water and the water would bubble up through the land.

“The contractor had machinery to do the work but I did it with a shovel and spade myself this time.”

To dig a shore, John says, you must first mark out the shore with a line; he used a spade.

The ditch is 2.5ft deep and 14-16ins wide

The ditch is 2.5ft deep and 14-16ins wide

“Then I dig out a scraw about 4-5ins thick and around 1.5ft long and 15ins.

“Then you dig down the depth of the shore, about 2.5ft, and the width of the shore is about 14-16ins.”

“You have to have stones nearby and you put down a stone each side and you cross it with a flagstone.”

Ideally, each stone is about 8ins high and 5ins wide.

“Then on top of the flag, you put down smaller stones,” John continues. “Then, the top scraw, with the grassy top, goes back over the stones.”

In this field, there are a couple of shores, about 12 yards apart, but opening one up to redo it wasn’t an option.

“This time I decided not to pick up an old stone shore; I decided to dig a new one. It’s 400-500 yards long.”

The ditch is 2.5ft deep and 14-16ins wide

The ditch is 2.5ft deep and 14-16ins wide

John drew in the stones last autumn and worked on 15-20 yards of the shore every day.

“When I got the stones down and top scraw down, I did the next stage with a spade and shovel,” he says.

“I Did it all myself. I drew the stones, 10 transport boxes of stones last autumn. Dug it with a spade and shovel and as I got closer to the well, I had to use the pick axe, there was solid ground.”

His neighbour, Seamus Dooley, captured the pictures of the work.

(Source – Irish Independent – Indo Farming – Margaret Donnelly – 07/07/2019)


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