Roscrea Sheep Mart, March 2016

  • On a seventy day rural sojourn I started to appreciate the lot of farmers …and their livestock. Floods had recently destroyed much farmland. sheep prices were (and are) a pittance.

    One day I cycled up to the local mart and wondered could my photographer friend take some shoots for her degree course exercises at the mart. Permission was given but what was I to do, except kick my (cold) feet.

    I walked all around the mart in an attempt to keep warm. While i wandered about I got a few lines in my head. Those rhyming lines quickly turned into this poem. It gave me much pleasure to see it later published on the  THAT’S FARMING website…



    Trailered tractors enter auction mart,

    metal gates clang, absent bleeding hearts;

    booted farmers gather, lean on cold fences,

    – will sales cover climbing feed expenses?

    Rural men mutter about poor weather,

    stray dogs shot, lamb arteries severed.


    Stubborn sheep exit transporter ramps,

    some clean showered, others muddy damp,

    colour marked backs, faces black as soot

    – mart concrete floor very cold underfoot.

    Stage-frightened ewes in auction ring,

    auction-call echoes, rap-fast it sings.


    Tongue-twisted numbers, spoken at speed,

    bids discreet from men in capped tweed;

    occasional sheep makes maiden speech,

    quick-hammered lots, gate open squeak;

    sellers stoic on timbered concrete steps,

    quietly conversing, awaiting sales cheques.


    Urine spray on shit-splattered surfaces,

    silly sheep bound for abattoir purposes;

    I rarely read or hear any Irish rural news,

    and as for farm policy, I’ve not got a clue –

    daily I depend for all my milk and meat:

    bless all farmers before you sup and eat…

    Dedicated to Ray Dempsey, Chairman, Roscrea Central Auction


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