Monday 29 September 2014

A Day Out At The Threshing In Kerry. All For A Good Cause.

 We went over to County Kerry on Sunday to see a vintage threshing event.  The event was on a kind farmers land in Beaufort near Killorglin.  The event was organised in aid of Cancer support in Kerry.  Last year they raised twenty thousand Euros.
 A Massey Ferguson with narrow back wheels connected up to a small vintage threshing machine.
 A collection of classic tractors.  There were Fordson Super Dexta's, Deutz, Ford 4600, David Brown and Harry Fergusons classic ;Grey Fergie'.
A modern New Holland tractor with a mole plough and pipe layer attachment.  The red machine is some kind of mechanical plough.  She was made in England and to she looks a 'mighty yolk'.  The Irish expressions are rubbing off on me, aren't they?
A 'Grey Fergie' with small baler.  We have a little tractor like her.  But she needs doing up unlike this beauty.  
 The Threshing begins.  I couldn't believe the power that one tractor can make turning the drive belts.  it must have been incredibly hard and thirsty work.  It made me feel sad thinking of relatives who have passed on and would have told me all about those great days when the threshing machine came around the boreens and set up in the haggard near the cow stall.  Happy days, gone forever.

 A picture from a distance.  You can just see the Major tractor on the left, driving the belt.
 A quern stone stone demonstration, crushing the grain into flour.  This invention is said to have been as radical has the invention of the wheel.  The farmer or his wife would crush grain for the family and for the livestock.
 Horse ploughing with the pipe layer in the background.  The sight of the horses and the ploughmen was a flashback to farming times from the past.  No sound of diesel engines, just the clip clp of hooves, bird song and the cutting of the furrow.
The world famous 'Celtic Steps' gave up their time to play a few reels, sing a few songs and dance for the audience.  The stage was slippy and two of the men slipped and fell and picked themselves up and managed to dance and laugh at the same time.  True professionals.  You can see their show at the INEC in Killarney until the end of October.  I think they are also on You Tube?

It was a good day out and a great way  to show people the farming of yesteryear and to raise money for cancer charities.  


  1. Good to see the old machinery kept in working condition, must have been hard graft then, dangerous as well, no H & S in those days.

    Be nice ploughing with no diesel engine noise, just a bit slower.

    Still wondering what Horse Threshing is?

  2. Hi Cumbrian. Yes there must have been a lot of accidents and it must of been very hard graft piking the straw. Didn't you say they often drank 4 quarts of cider a day when they were harvesting?

    The plough we saw yesterday was ploughing a cereal crop. It was great not to have to listen to a big diesel engine. I think the two wheeled driven tractors up to the 1980's are rather wonderful. Technology helped so much on the farm but it also took away so many agricultural jobs.

    Thought I had took a few pictures of the horse theshing. This consisted of two horses turning an horse gin, which was a rotating bar driven into the ground and another gear turned a turning bar along the ground (the horses and men yesterday, had to jump over the bar which was about 6 inches to a foot off the ground. Normally they were placed underground, going to the barn.


  3. According to William Cobbet, 8 quarts of cider a day was not too much for a man on field work, I wonder how they did anything after dinner time?

    Suppose a 12-hour day or even longer might have been the norm, about a pint and one-third an hour maybe doesn't seem so bad. And they weren't in control of several tons of powerful machinery, just a few horses which probably knew the job as well as some of the men?

    Wonder what H & S would make of it?
    Or what would Cobbet make of modern farming?

  4. That's 16 pints of cider a day! Suppose they started on the bitter when they got home from all their day working in the fields?

    A lot of the farm labourers worked all day for the Squire and then went home and tended their allotment or smallholding.

    John Seymour often wrote about William Cobbet. I suppose he would have been more animal and land friendly and hated the big machines we have today. Although I am sure he would have liked machinery if it took away the slavery. I often read about the big country estates and how they employed so many people. It's sad to see the countryside so devoid of working folk today, except at ploughing and harvest time. Progress I suppose?

  5. Yes, William Cobbet seems to be the original john Seymour, he preached the benefits of hard work and using the land to its best benefit.

    He wrote that he ones digged (his word) an acre of land by hand in 14 days, but did not consider this to be slavish labour. I sometimes wonder what he considered to be slavish, I can't think of many jobs that's harder than hand digging?
    Maybe the 8 quarts of cider helped him through?

    Suppose it's a good think to be finished with the drudgery of some farm work, but it would be so nice to see somebody back in the fields without a huge noisy machine, they even bring the milkers in with a quad bike now.
    At least the sheep are still worked with dogs, we've got some good ones here, controlling the Herdwicks on the fells, usually scruffy-looking Border Collies.

  6. They were made of stronger stuff in William Cobbet's time, Cumbrian. I love reading about the staff on the large country estates before WW1. Money must have been worth a lot more back then? Think there were always lots of field labourers and building labourers also. My late father told me his father use to catch rabbits and sold cabbage plants in Bantry on fair days. You could also make yourself money digging turf (peat) and taking rat tails into the town hall for a few shillings. The tails were proof of how many you had caught.

    I believe a lot of the mill hands in lancashire would drink 10 or thirteen pints after a 12 hour shift.

    The countryside seems to be empty of people in the day time these days. Most people have travel to work instead of on the farm.

    It's difficult to get a good cattle or sheep do unless you pay a lot or get one trained. We had a Border Collie that seemed half human. She died ten years ago and we still talk about her every day. You have some great dry-stone walls in Cumbria. Do they still teach people how to repair and build them?

  7. I don't think money was quite so important in Cobbets day, the labourers had a cottage to live in, no rent, utility bills or Conuncil Tax to bother them; usually a plot of land to grow their produce and keep a pig or two and a few chickens; the farmer would produce cider or ale; and the opportunity to catch rabbits and fish.
    OK, no statutory holidays as such, but a lot of feast days, fair days, high days and holy days throughout the year.
    And no H & S or pen-pushing officials to contend with.
    OK, so I've got the rose-tinted specs on, sure there must have been hard times as well, but there's hard times now, just of a different sort.

    Stone walls everywhere, wending their way up and across the fells, some of them about 45 deg, don't know how long they've been there, they look so natural in the Lake District you could believe they've been there for ever.
    Also a lot along the roads, often quite high, a good stock barrier.

    Sadly a lot are falling into disrepair, and a common practice is to put up a temporary barbed wire fence to plug the gap, which all too often becomes permanent.

    Not often you see anybody working on these walls, but the skill is still there, so there must be courses or apprenticeships in dry stone walling. I do know it's quite an art, and they must be good to stand on the open fell-sides exposed to everything the Cumbrian winters can throw at them for so long.

    Every farm had a couple of sheep-dogs, usually Border Collie or a cross of some sort, usually looking scruffy and dog-eared, they weren't considered anything special, just a farm-yard resident. But as you say good ones are hard to come by now, another victim of modern big business agriculture.

  8. I think the enclosures act, the railways and the Industrial Revolution changed the life for a long of English country folk. Also if you lost your job working for the Squire, you lost your house. It does look rather iydllic life back then. I love Thomas Hardy how he depicts the rural scenes in his fictional Wessex.

    I think a lot of the stone walls came from the glacial deposits from the last Ice Age. Farmers used the field boulders to make stock proof walling.

    I was reading that a plough man and horse could plough an acre of good land in a day. I bet they were tired after that and they kept the cobbler busy repairing their boots?

    Yes a good cattle or sheep dog is hard to come by along with a good farm ratter like the Jack Russell Terrier, who was named after the reverand Jack Russell who bred fox terriers for an hobby. It's always good to see the dogs parents, before you buy them.

  9. Hello Dave, just found this post. Great pictures. I have one memory of the threshing machine in use and my brothers getting the off school to help. Must have been in the mid 1950s. I remember the redundant threshing machines on the farms around here. Good to see your day in County Kerry.

  10. Hello Rachel. Glad it brought back happy memories for you. The kids today miss out so much on making hay by hand with pikes and horses and carts and seeing the threshing machine in use. Thanks for your thoughts!


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