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Picking Bilberries, Fraocháns and Whorts in Ireland
- The Human Story


Author : Michael J. Conry
Description : This book outlines the history of picking bilberries (Vaccinium myrtillus) in Ireland from pre-Christian times to the present day and the impact it made on the lives of people, especially in the areas where they were picked for export to Britain.

Wild bilberries have been harvested for centuries in the woodlands and mountains of northern hemisphere countries in Europe, Asia and North America. Large quantities are still picked in various European countries and especially in Eastern Europe (i.e. Poland, Romania etc.) both for domestic use and for export to countries such as China and Japan.

In Ireland, the bilberries, which were known by a plethora of names (fraocháns, fraughans, whorts, bilberries, blaeberries, whinberries, heatherberries and mulberries), were picked on certain Sundays in July to celebrate the Festival of Lughnasa from pre-Christian times up to the early 1940s.

In the first half of the 20th century, considerable quantities of fraughans and whorts, were picked in counties Carlow, Wicklow, Tipperary and Waterford and exported to Britain. Although the price was very small (1-2½ pence per lb), hundreds of families picked the wild fruit because they needed the money to put food on the table and to clothe their children. The fruit was packed in chip baskets and sent by rail and boat to the fruit markets and other outlets in England and Wales. During the 1st and 2nd World Wars, imports from Continental Europe were unable to reach the British markets and as a result the price paid to the pickers increased dramatically.

Information : Hardback, 390pp, in full colour with over 400 black and white (old) and colour photographs and maps. Published in 2011, ISBN 0 9535876 5 7.

Price : €10 plus P+P

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Books availble in local bookshops or direct from Michael J. Conry, Avila, Chapelstown, Carlow, Ireland.

059 9131535 ( 00353-59-9131535 ), 086 1591455 ( 00353-86-1591455 ).