This man was commuting across the Atlantic before settling down on his Galway farm

Farmer John Flynn from Williamstown, County Galway on his farm. Photo: Ray Ryan
Farmer John Flynn from Williamstown, County Galway on his farm. Photo: Ray Ryan

Ken Whelan

John Flynn gave up the commuting lifestyle in farflung destinations to return for good in 2016 to the home farm in Co Galway.

His engineering career had seen him work on major projects in the USA and South Africa, including the rebuilding of the World Trade Centre in New York.

However, he is now running the 30ac enterprise with a further 35ac rented with his wife Mary. He is happy that his commuting days are at an end.

John left for the US some 40 years ago after completing the then equivalent of the Green Cert here and he qualified in engineering at Florida University.

He married his childhood sweetheart Mary, who was "a neighbour's child" and, as Mary decided to remain at home, their marriage saw John doing a lot of commuting from across the Atlantic.

"I used to come home every month or so," the 60-year-old recalls today.

The couple have two children - Eibhlinn (33), who has a degree in construction management, and Lorragh (33), who is a social worker with the Brothers of Charity.

"I was steel project manager on the rebuilding of the World Trade Centre and more recently on a new power station in South Africa. But as I was getting older I decided to come back to the farm and I am enjoying myself. I have plans about going back to the engineering," John explains.

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John and Mary operate a suckler and sheep enterprise and like most farmers in Ireland, he is running out of patience with the weather.

"When I was in South Africa all you got was sunshine with no rain while in Ireland all you get is the opposite. Most of our animals - Shorthorns and Cheviots - have been indoors since the autumn but I am hoping to get them out over the next week or so."

He sells his animals at nearby marts in Castlerea and Roscommon and he is happy enough with the prices he is getting which is more than he will say about other aspects of the current Irish agricultural scene.

John is unimpressed with the current official preoccupation with afforestation, especially the creation of Sitka spruce plantations.

John claims the plantations are effectively sterilising farm land for a generation and thereby contributing to the drift of the population from rural Ireland. "Look at Leitrim. It is nearly all gone to forestry," John adds.

In a similar vein, he believes that the Basic Payment Scheme is geared towards the bigger farmer and land owned by corporate farming interests, while he also feels that feedlots should not qualify for farm payments.

"It's getting like America where corporate and investment funds have taken over from the real farmer," John says.

Depopulation is the main problem facing rural Ireland, John maintains. There were several national schools in Williamstown when he was a pupil and only one today. When he left for America four decades ago, there were eight family-owned public houses in the parish, while today there are three, with two of them rented.

Off farm, John's main interest is the GAA and rural affairs. He is active with the Williamstown GAA club, which has a good recent record in the Galway championship. He is active in local farmer and farming organisations where he airs his crystal clear views on farming problems in the west.

In conversation with Ken Whelan

Indo Farming

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