I assume it is Hiberno-English, or perhaps just part of the vernacular of farming life in rural Ireland.
‘Poached,’ describes the areas around gateways to fields and water troughs during wet times of the year. Anyone wintering out livestock will be familiar with grass that has been poached. Green pasture transformed to deep, clagging mud by the heavy tread of cattle.
The first time I heard a farmer declare that he could not turn out cows onto the fresh grass of spring because the ground was so wet that they would poach the pasture, I understood immediately what he meant.
Poached entrances to fields were a familiar experience in my childhood. Chronically asthmatic, I was never strong, but loved to accompany my grandfather and uncles as they went about their daily work.
Of course, they would have been much happier not to have had a small boy following them around, but they never said so. They were constantly patient as the sickly child followed them in their rounds of the farm.
Poached land was always the most difficult challenge. The dark Somerset soil was heavy and clinging and loath to release the feet of those who trod their way through it. If the boy tried to move too quickly, he quickly found that his foot and his boot had parted company. Going through poached land was slow and demanded determination.
In later years, when people talked about their progress as being like walking through treacle, the simile made no sense. Who was there who had walked through treacle? Why would anyone be engaged in such an activity?
Had someone talked about life being as difficult as walking through a field gateway in winter, it may have been more meaningful.
Recent times have been days that have been like walking through poached land. The familiar green grass invisible, trodden into a mire of mud and bovine excrement.
Companions from those early years have been important, family and frends from childhood days have reappeared as significant figures. A truly avuncular uncle and I went to a football match on Boxing Day, the first time we had ever gone to a game together, he is now 77 and I am 63. Even now, he would have the strength to lift me from the mud that might be holding me.
What fascinated the boy each year was the spring growth, the grass re-establishing itself in fields, the pasture land recovering its vibrant greenness. ‘Poached’ was never the last word.