Robert Mulhern meets the Co Tyrone man who made the unusual move of leaving rural Ireland to go farming in London
RED buses and black taxis stream past West Rusilip Tube Station in London.
It’s before 1pm on a Wednesday lunchtime in July and Michael Moss from Tyrone is running late.
He rings ahead.
“Are you outside West Rusilip Station,” he asks in a strong Northern accent. “OK I’ll be there in two minutes. I’m driving a green jeep.” Two minutes later the jeep swerves into the parking bay outside the Central Line Underground Station and Michael jumps out.
“Fine jeep!” “Aye, they stopped making these ye know,” he says, turning the key in the lock to open the back door.
“It’s modelled on the original made in 1953. You’d not get much into the back of her mind but they’re good for pulling a trailer. Good power. You’d pull two or three cows to the mart there no problem. Throw your bag in there. We’ll go away down to the farm.”
Michael is in his late 50s and one of tens of thousands of Irish who came to England in the 1980s.
“I was 18 and I came from a farm of 150 acres in Tyrone. We were known as the Masons of Tully Carr Road because there were a lot of Moss’s in the parish so that’s our handle up there.” Many of Michael’s generation left with plenty making good in construction. In 2017, financial services has replaced construction as the celebrated field of employment for Irish emigrants.
But an emigrant leaving rural Ireland to go farming in London is unheard of.
“I was looking for a place like this for a long time,” he says. “You look at the land and I suppose you can say you are in Ireland until you go out on the road and realise you’re in London,” he smiles.
“You get onto the A40 there now and you’re in the Congestion Zone [where a charge of STG11.50 is imposed on vehicles using the city].
“That’s how close we are.”
“There’s two or three guys living up near Oxford doing it and a fella, Mick McDermott from Roscommon, he’s big into it.
“But it’s probably the closest farm you can get to Hanger Lane Underground Station.”
Fifteen minutes later down on Oak Farm on Breakspear Road, his old green jeep is parked up in the drive. In his home Michael signals towards a picture portrait on the wall.
“That’s my father,” he says. “Great man, hard man, lived to 101. He was working on the farm in Tyrone, driving a tractor until he was 94, glass of whiskey every night.
“It would be that quiet there you’d literally hear a pin drop.”
He continues out of the house across his yard and into a large shed.
A train whizzes by less than 200 yards away bound for the city.
“That’s the Ruislip train,” he says throwing a bag of feed pellets up onto his shoulder.
“We’d go up town to see a show or that. It’s lovely to hop on the Tube and be up in Central London. Beforehand you could be dosing a cow. It’s great to have the contrast.”
Mickey pulls the latch on the back door of his barn and walks out into the green of his 17-acre holding.
Down the field his cows turn and watch as he opens the gate. They break into a lumbering half-charge up the field towards him.
“This bull here is called Fighter Pilot,” he says, ripping open the bag of nuts and pouring them in line across the field. Fighter Pilot burries his face in the grass and chews.
“He’s about three years old,” says Michael. “He came here when he was two and this is third season with his calves and you get great calves out of him. He’s a very quiet and timid bull. Most people say ‘I’ll not go in that field there a bull in it!’ But you can just lie up on this fella and he doesn’t even notice. That’s the pedigree breeding in him. They are all pedigree and you have Joey the donkey there, who likes to be boss.” In the far corner of his yard sits a slurry spreader. In the shed, there’s a line of vintage tractors and cars he’s carefully restored and on this Wednesday lunchtime, his wife Mary, from Kerry, is busy preparing food in the kitchen of his home located on his London farm.
That he’s in one of the world’s major urban centres feels like a trick of the light.
“Making the hay is really enjoyable,” he says. “But you know and we’re quite close to residential here so slurry’s not best thing to put out you know, but I’m good enough with the neighbours so it’s not too bad you know.”
Outside the farming, Michael runs a successful car repair and bodywork service business in Park Royal, where Diageo brewed 4m kegs of Guinness a year for the UK market, until 2004. He also has three children and the youngest is 16.
Now Michael supplements the herd’s diet on barley hops “Aye they were down there in Park Royal,” he points. “There’s small breweries there now who we get the barley hops out of. They’ve been through the drink process and and the cattle completely and utterly love it.
“People wonder about the farming but you come out here in the evening and its therapeutic.”
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