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Con Riordan (1912-2008) – Farmer – Glenbeigh, Co. Kerry

Photo: James Fennell.

Con Riordan’s home lies in the lush valley of Glenbeigh, not far from the farmstead of the Piggott twins. Like many Kerry farmers, he had lived here all his life. The cottage was thatched in his youth but was given a slate roof a few years ago by a thoughtful nephew.

Happily, Con’s old donkey cart has been renovated by Catherine Kelly and her husband.

Photo: James Fennell.

The same nephew looks after the whole Riordan farm now, doing what Con spent most of his 94 years doing – ‘mowing the fields, planting potatoes, cutting turf, looking after the cattle and sheep’.

The mechanization of turf came too late for Con. ‘Every sod I ever turned was turned with a spade. And when you’re gone past 90 years you’ve turned a few sods in your time’.

Con was one of five children. Their mother died when the children were young and their father raised them with assistance from their mother’s family. Con’s only brother went to work in the coal mines of England but was killed when a pit collapsed upon him. ‘The sisters are all gone now too’.

When we first arrive, Con’s first thoughts are whether or not to don a jacket in the presence of strangers. He’s a gentleman of the old school.

With his 95th birthday looming close, he is philosophical but restless. ‘I can’t do a lot of work at my age. When you’ve nothing to do, you can feel the day. But sure, we still have plenty of time’.

With thanks to Catherine Kelly.


Other stories from the Vanishing Ireland series are available to read here.