Did you know...and there'd be no reason to presume you would...that Irish country people rarely wore shoes, not because they couldn't afford them, but because of our climate. Mild and wet makes the ground waterlogged for much of the year...I'll dispute the 'mild' today but it's still wet underfoot...wearing leather shoes in those conditions meant the Irish peasant suffered from constantly wet feet and that led to Trench Foot, the enemy of the soldiers who fought in the trenches in the First War. And the Second World War as well actually...in 1944 over eleven thousand American servicemen were treated for Trench Foot and Frostbite.
So rather than risk the appalling infections and peeling skin, the Irishman left off his shoes while working and saved them for special occasions...and Mass on Sundays.
They even went into battle bare-footed which must have been little short of foolhardy...
I looked Trench Foot up and it was really grim...the skin literally came away from the foot in lumps leaving red raw wounds, which meant the foot was vulnerable to infections and gangrene.
The importance of caring for your feet was known to every Irish cottager...they might not have bathed as often as we do but they washed their feet every night in a bowl of hot water...remember I've written before about the need to shout out a warning to the Faerie when the water was thrown outside the back door...
I do wonder if they were also...maybe in a 'primitive' way... conscious of the need to connect to the earth and her vibrations...the best way of doing that is to go barefooted as often as it is possible and ancient and modern Pagan rites are always carried out barefooted.
Oddly enough though, the most frequent archological finds are of leather shoes...and finding shoes stuffed up chimneys is commonplace. When the shoes are found in bogs they are usually well-preserved...the acidic water which would have caused Trench Foot is ideal at preserving leather.
Until the turn of the twentieth century most people either made or mended their own work boots...we have a small collection of the lasts used to shape the leather which we've dug up at various times. And I still find the small iron horseshoe shaped pieces which were nailed to the heel...
Very very occasionally I'll see an old man wearing a pair of obviously homemade boots which he's probably been wearing since he was young...with no socks visible either, so I think those elderly people are following a long tradition of roughly handmade boots made at the kitchen table which were intended to last a long time.
Another homemade item was the buskin...and I'd virtually guarantee every shed by every cottage has a pair of buskins hanging up by their laces from a nail in the wall. They were a simple piece of leather designed to fit from ankle to calf...laced up at the front. You tucked your breeches or trousers into the top and then, while harvesting, thistles and prickles and the odd rat couldn't penetrate...they also saved the bottom of your trousers from getting wet. The use of buskins wasn't confined to rural Ireland...they were in use in rural areas in England as well, though I suspect antique dealers have most of them and probably charge antique dealer prices...