RTE Television

The Way We Worked Series One

The Irish have a great love of the land. Yet Irish attitudes to the land have changed radically over the last fifty years. At one time the family farm was the core economic unit. Over time however, industrialisation & emigration changed the face of agricultural life in Ireland. Some men who once dug turf, tilled fields and milked cows sought extra money through employment in agricultural industries. The creamery, which had once been a social and business hub, faded as large multi-nationals took over the distribution of dairy products. Bord Na Mona hired men to cut large swathes of Irish bogs. Mining drew farmers to dig beneath the land. Such changes lured men away from their small farms and changed rural life--through recession, boom and recession again. In series one, The Way We Worked will look at such changes through the eyes of the men at the coal face. Each episode will concentrate on the stories of Irish men caught up in these changes.


Programme 1: Mining

Irish coal miners have for generations slaved deep underground in dangerous tunnels to eek out a living. Today the collieries lie abandoned, but the deadly legacy of the mines lives on.

Programme 2: Creameries

Creameries were the social and business hub of many Irish villages. The arrival of the cheque from the creamery manager each month afforded an income for the farming community. In time, new technologies and amalgamations caused the creameries to become obsolete and buildings that once threaded the Irish countryside were made redundant.

Programme 3: Turf

Images of turf cutting can evoke fond memories of Ireland in the past. The turf harvest was industrialised in the 1940s and 50s. Men came from all over Ireland to work on the Midland bogs and were housed in military style camps. In the 1950's mechanisation eased the hardest labour, but brought fresh dangers for the bog men.

Programme 4: Fishing

Fishing is a treacherous profession, but has been the only way of life for many around the Irish coast. With dwindling fish stocks, tighter quotas and competition from huge European fleets, the future looks bleak for Irish fishing.

Programme 5: Beet

For 80 years the manufacture of Irish sugar provided a livelihood for thousands of beet growers and sugar industry workers. Advances in mechanization and cultivation in the 40's and 50's brought the crop into the industrial age. By the 1980's the industry was in difficulty and Thurles and Tuam closed. The end came earlier this decade when Europe reduced production quotas and cut prices.

Programme 6: Shipyards

At the end of the 1950's Cornelius Verolme bought the Cork Dockyards in Rushbrooke, on the outskirts of Cobh and started building ships. 33 ships were built during the 25 year existence of the Verolme Cork Dockyards and 1500 men were employed at its peak. The shipyard closed during the recession in the early 80's and no ship has since been built in the Republic.

The Way We Worked Series One