The Killing of the Pig: Farm Butchery in Rural Ireland circa 1940-1970

Diarmuid Cawley, Dublin Institute of Technology

The Interview

In this recording we hear three people discussing the method. The interview was conducted by DIT Culinary Arts Lecturer Diarmuid Cawley (grandson of John Cawley (deceased)), the two interviewees are Dermot and Mary Cawley, parents of Diarmuid. Dermot is the son of John.

During the interview John is referred to as ‘my father’, ‘dad’ and ‘granddad’.

The interview took place in late 2016.


This recorded oral history documents the method used by skilled butcher John Cawley to kill and prepare farm pigs for families in the rural south County Sligo (Ireland) area around Riverstown, Lough Arrow and Ballymote. The period in question ranged from the 1940’s to the 1970’s, at which point owning and killing pigs domestically was dying out. John Cawley was not a butcher in a conventional sense, as he did not own animals of his own nor did he own or work in a butcher shop. He worked as a labourer for the County Council building bridges, roads and other civic projects. After this work in the evenings he killed and butchered pigs for local people. It was extremely common for families to own a small farm and to keep some pigs. John Cawley had learned how to kill and butcher pigs in his youth a few miles from this area but had not lost the skill, in fact had gone on to perfect it. He was regarded in the area as the best and most able to carry out this difficult but essential work. Being a man of tall and very strong stature he was suited to physical work of this nature, even after a day of labouring on the roads.