Photographer’s Notebook: Dunbell

element: Barley / DATE: 11/08/2020

I arrived at Ned Murphy’s farm in Dunbell outside Kilkenny in mid-July. We drove in tandem to Ned’s fields near Tullaherin, where he’s growing barley for the distillery this year. We pulled in, onto a slither of grass that flanks the small back road. Ned’s phone rings as he approaches the gate to the field. He’s just received news that one of his cows has started calving. Delighted and anxious, he informs me of the news. It’s going to be a short visit as the calves, twins, need his attention. 


The field’s looking well, despite the early drought this year. His crop was sown early, but it’s looking greener than other barley I’ve seen that were sown later. The barley appears to have benefitted from this field’s heavy soil. Only 10 mins down the road at Sheestown, Philip O’Brien’s barley was looking healthy, too, but was visibly browner. Philip’s land is quite light and received a storm of rain “at the eleventh hour” (in his own words) just before the drought had time to do damage. Other fields in the immediate area did not receive that rain and the difference is visible. Ned Murphy’s field seems to have dodged the brunt of this season’s difficult weather, whether or not it’s due to soil type, miraculous isolated showers or a combination of both.

As Ned set off to tend to the calves, he pointed me in the direction of another entrance to the same field. An old Waterford Distillery sign was tacked to the trunk of a tree, half obscured by the foliage. From here this angle of the field gave nice views across the landscape, including one backdropped by the 9th Century Tullaherin Round Tower.



I text Ned later that evening to say thanks and to see how the calves were doing.

He replied later that night: “Calves doing well, just coming in now after giving them their second feed.”

An all encompassing job is farming. Ned Murphy, a gentleman.

– Caolan Barron, Summer 2020