Thursday, 10 March 2011

The day of the Threshing - My Memories by Bob Kavanagh

The day always started the night before - in the dark, from 8 to 9pm, in late September to November.

That night the steam engine (iron wheels) and in later years the tractor, would arrive outside the gate of the farmyard towing the threshing machine and the straw elevator. The farmer would direct the driver to where the sheaf's of cereals would be in large ricks. The threshing machine would be brought alongside the rick and set up correctly. This meant digging holes for the front or rear wheels and placing wedges under the other set. The reason for this was so that the drum (which separated the grain from the straw) would be level. Later models of threshers had rubber wheels and self-leveling drums.

After this the straw elevator was brought and set so that the straw was taken to where the rick or stack of straw was to be built. The elevator had six iron spikes attached to wooden lathes, which were attached to chains on either side that moved around on cog wheels.

Work was ready to begin at 8am the next day, when neighbours would arrive with their own pitch forks. The threshing took a lot of men, listed here as best I can remember: Usually three or four on the ricks of sheaves (two pitching the sheaves up on the thresher and two pitching over to them). On top of the thresher you had one man cutting the twine from the sheaves and on man feeding the sheaves into the drum. This had to be done head first for good threshing. There would likely be three and maybe four men filling the bags of grain and taking them away for storage. Some grain was kept by the farmer for his winter feed and the rest was taken to either the local mill or a local merchant. Depending on the size of the rick or stack of straw there would probably be four men. Then you had one or two - likely two young lads to haul the chaff out from under the mill. This was a dirty job as the chaff would blow everywhere in your face and hair, especially the barley with its spiky crowns. The owner of the mill would be there to keep the steam engine fueled or the tractor.

The tractor pulley had to be lined up perfectly straight in line with the main pulley on the mill, so that the belt would stay on. There would be a space between the tractor and the mill of five to six meters and the main belt had to cover this distance.

The threshing would continue through dinner and men would come in to eat in shifts. A barrel of porter was always available and enamel buckets of porter were taken out to the workmen at intervals. An enamel tin mug was provided, this was dipped into the bucket, filled and drunk and handed to the next man.

Overall the numbers involved was very high and the women - more likely three to four women would be in the kitchen cooking, feeding and washing up.

Total numbers on the farm would be sixteen to twenty men to be fed and probably three women in the house.

1 comment:

  1. where was this picture taken? what part of Ireland? and what year? thank you!