Wellies: Your best bet, whatever the weather

A man Cormac was talking to reckons the Wellington boot is the best invention yet in terms of improving life for the farmer — and this contented-looking miniature bonham in Devon in England seems to agree.

It has been milder and brighter along the banks of the Shannon in Killaloe at the start of February’s final week than it was for long stretches of many of our recent summers, writes Cormac MacConnell

Whatever about grass growth thus far along the Golden Vale generally it is our sonic reality that town gardeners have unleashed their mowers and strimmers about everywhere to keep the green green grass of home in order.

It’s a heartwarming harbinger of the upcoming season and, thank the gods above, no sign at all of the Beast from the East that struck us hard last year. Long may the current situation continue for all concerned, and that is the pure truth again.

Still on the subject of land and weather conditions, I met an old acquaintance in Lisdoonvarna recently. He is a wise farmer of seasoned experience and he is the source of an opinion which struck me powerfully a couple of months ago.

When asked what was the greatest invention for Irish farmers in his lifetime on the land he instantly responded that it had definitely been the marketing here of the Wellington rubber boots which kept farmers’ feet dry and comfortable in all weathers even if the land was soaking wet.

“Before the rubber boot came into Clare”, he said, “you were walking around wetshod all your working life. You got crippled with rheumatism and you were stiff and sore in your bones and a lot of us in this trade died well before our time on account of that. Those Wellington boots saved both our soles and our souls.

I bought my first pair in Kilfenora when I was only a young farmer. They only cost me less than ten shillings at the time but it was the best investment I ever made.

“Before the rubber boots came to us you were wearing leather boots and no matter what you did to keep your feet dry — such as tricks like smearing them with fat — you were still certain to be wetshod by the end of a wet day out on the land and over time that caught up with your health and fitness.

“The rubber boot meant a lot more to us than landing on the Moon, for example, or filling the skies over Ireland with satellites and those Sputnik yokes that started the space race.”

That’s what the wise old farmer declared to me with great force and he thought it was as late as the ’20s of the last century when he bought his prized Wellingtons in the Burren town of Kilfenora now internationally famed for its traditional music, song and dance as ye well know.

As a boy in my native Fermanagh back in the ’40s of the last century, a local saying was that Lough Erne was in Fermanagh in the summer but Fermanagh was drowning in Lough Erne in the winter. There was an earthy fundamental truth there too. We had a country shop and we sold mountains of Wellington boots every winter. They were strung up in skeins behind the door and you could have any colour you wished for — as long as it was black! Just like the Henry Ford story.

Straying back down the waterways of time and memory brings me back again to the subject of water and the way in which it could and often enough did get inside brand-new Wellingtons without any leaks at all in them. Mains water was not available in our parish of Cleenish, you see, and so young cubs like me were dispatched to the local spring well for domestic water.

You had a metal bucket. You were wearing your Wellingtons below your short trousers, you were in a hurry to get back home out of the rain and you were inclined to fill your bucket too full, right up to the brim so you would get praise from the womenfolk in the kitchen. And on the way home the bucket was likely to slosh some of its pristine contents down your leg and inside your poor Wellingtons. So you squelched your way home a sadder and wiser water carrier. That is a pure truth too.

I think I will venture outside now to relish the balmy Shannonside weather and, with your permission dear readers, treat myself to a drink of something substantially stronger than water.

Slán agus sláinte!

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