Anna May McHugh, National Ploughing Association chief
Anna May McHugh, who is in her 70s, lives on a farm with her husband John. “ I have no notion of ever leaving here. The only way I’ll leave here is, well, I don’t want to say, but you know . . . I couldn’t see myself living anywhere else,” she says
Anna May McHugh: “In terms of interior design, I just like to keep it as nice as I can.” Photograph: James Flynn/APX
‘I live about four miles from the town of Athy in Co Laois. I live on a farm that my husband, John McHugh, bought in 1963 from an uncle of his. It was an old farmhouse when he bought it and we extended it and built onto it. The old part would be about 130 years old and we put on extra rooms and a garage and we made it into a sizeable two-storey house on its own grounds.
“I’m afraid to say some of my favourite rooms are the offices of the National Ploughing Association, which are under the same roof, but have a separate entrance. All I have to do is open the door and I am at work every morning. The kitchen is my other favourite room, and as we have lots of people coming and going, everyone ends up there.
“I’ve always liked farming. I grew up with five brothers and two sisters and we were farmers. It’s not that easy a way of life, but I could never see myself having any other lifestyle.
“When I look out my front door I see a nice green lawn with flowers and trees. I love relaxing there and during the summer months will be out there until 10 or 11 at night weeding.
“We have mixed farming here, so we do livestock and cereal growing.
“I like living in an older house, but having modernised it, you wouldn’t be able to say which part of it was old. In terms of interior design, I just like to keep it as nice as I can, and have it well painted and papered and whatever else goes with that. Because we have so many people coming to the house all the time for ploughing business, we need to keep it as presentable as we can.
“In terms of furniture and appliances I couldn’t do without, I have a Wellstood cooker which was converted to oil some years ago, and it’s a great essential.
“The nearest town to us is Athy and our local village about a mile and a half away is called Ballylinan. I love the village – it is where I went to national school, where we go to church and to ICA meetings.
“We ran a passion play there for a number of years and plan to hold it again next year. I like to be involved in the community as much as I can, and help out with the local community council.
“Like all villages, there have been changes in recent years. In the last five or six years a few housing estates were built in the village and now I don’t know as many people there as I knew before. I’m not against housing estates – they’re a must, but it does change an area.
“Ten years ago if I was walking down the village, I would have known absolutely everyone and now it seems harder to get to know people. I think it was different when we cycled everywhere. You’d know everyone and stop to say hello. These days, we just get in our cars and go from A to B without stopping. We all seem to have less time.
“I have no notion of ever leaving here. The only way I’ll leave here is, well, I don’t want to say, but you know. I love this place and, having lived here so long, you get to know every hole and corner of the farm. I couldn’t see myself living anywhere else.”
In conversation with Brian O’Connell