Bushmills farmer (81) features in BBC’s Our Farming Life this Sunday

Throughout history the countryside of Ulster has been shaped by the people who have inhabited and settled the land.

Monday, 16th September 2019, 10:09 am
Farmer Richard Creith (81), whose farm is situated near Bushmills., continues to farm the land his father bought in 1927

Among those who have made their mark on our rural communities are generations of Ulster-Scots farming families.

The new three-part series, Our Farming Life, beginning on BBC Two Northern Ireland, Sunday, September 22 at 9.50pm, captures the lives and stories of some of these farms and the families that work them. Farms that have been passed down from generation to generation.

The series, produced by DoubleBand Films for BBC Northern Ireland, was inspired by Family Farm, a 1957 BBC film that observed life on a typical Ulster farm of the period.

The black and white film, Family Farm, featured the world of the Forsythes, an Ulster-Scots farming family from Ballynure in County Antrim. In doing so it captured the practices that were once commonplace on farms across Northern Ireland at the time – milking by hand; building hayricks; harvesting sheaves of corn and threshing.

More than 60 years on, this new series returns to the Forsythes’ homestead, Cold Blow Farm, to find that it is still farmed by two women from the Forsythe family - Heather Forsythe and her mother, Beth. Women who have adapted to the needs of modern farming while remaining connected to the traditions of their ancestors who worked the land before them.

Our Farming Life visits many such families, revealing stories of change, challenge and commitment on the Ulster farm.

The director of the series, Jonathan Golden explained: “Farming has shaped our countryside for centuries and this series considers how for many Ulster-Scots families it has not only been a tradition but a way of life. It has been fascinating to revisit the archive film of Ulster farms back in the 1950s and to return to many of those same farms today. As we have seen, farming is not just about people connected to the land. It is about families connected across the generations.”

Rich in film archive and family photographs, each episode of Our Farming Life features the stories of three family farms, revealing how farming and the lives of people who work the land have evolved across the decades.

The first episode explores the story of the Forsythes who featured in the film Family Farm and whose farm has been in in the family for over 400 years, since they migrated to County Antrim from Scotland.

It also features farmer Richard Creith, a former road racer and winner of the Northwest 200, whose farm is situated near Bushmills. Now in his 81st year, Richard continues to farm the land his father bought in 1927 and is a renowned breeder of Belted Galloway cattle.

Through these stories, the programme considers how farm life changed through the 1950s as farming became increasingly intensive and mechanised.

The second episode of the series focuses on the experience of life on hill farms and does so through the stories of three farming families: the Gibsons, who farm near Broughshane, in County Antrim; the Buchanans’ farm near Dungiven, in the Sperrins, and Jean Wharry and her husband David McCurdy, whose farm overlooks the town of Carnlough, in County Antrim.

This programme looks at how these farmers have retained the traditions associated with hill farming while adapting to the evolving world of agriculture.

The final episode explores how many farmers have diversified to meet the challenges that have faced the industry.

In doing so, it looks at the day-to-day life of another three Ulster farming families: the McKees, whose farm is located in the Craigantlet Hills, David Laughlin and son, Andrew, of Culmore Farm, near Kilrea, County Londonderry, and young farmer James Davison, who lives near Glenarm, County Antrim.

Our Farming Life is a DoubleBand Films production for BBC Northern Ireland in association with the Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund.