Memories from the Days of Steam Threshing

Courtesy of John Richmond of Ripon

Threshing days especially for smallholdings in the Dales was a time when neighbours came to “staff”the day which needed at least nine strong and willing workers.

The owner of the “Threshing Outfit” “provided the feederas shown in the Photo. standing lower in a small box-like trough next to the “band cutter”  -a job that was an art in it self, made much easier by the careful action of the “forker”.If the “forker” again Shown in the Photo with a shave of corn in Mid air. If the forker failed to drop Shaves (sheaves) at the right angle for the band cutter to pick them up, there was soon some muttering from both characters atop the threshing machine,  A few deft “band cutters” could pick up the “shav with a very sharp bladed Pocket knife aand in one action turn handing the contents of the sheave to the waiting arms of the feeder who let the eared corn drop drop smoothly into the fearsome drum—Hence he was “t’feeder”

Between the Steam Engine and Thresher was where the strongest young men assembled, where the corn appeared through slots into Hessian sacks, to be carried perhaps 50 or 60 yards up some stone granary steps to be emptied quickly floor and back at a very quick pace especially if it had been a very heavy crop

Some times in the case of wheat, the corn was to be bagged in in “Rail sacks” containing 16 stones in weight, what would health and safety officers of said?. At the other end of the Thresher was “T’Straw end” a dusty job as the straw was tied into “Battins” . Just as the binder out in the cornfield had a part of its wonderful mechanism a knotter and a tyer” (a miracle in it self) A similar double tying operation was on the Thresher. Either the straw was stacked close by or back into a part of the large Dutch Barn—-all this work done by hand. I must not forget…..Lads job was “cowlin’ caff” the chaff fell under the thresher and had to be kept clear, and so armed with a wooden Hay Rake, t’larl lad” raked as best he could, often into a corrugated small shed known as “t’caff-oile”, close by,as much as possible of the remnants.

A few further words of explanation. Threshing was a new venture in the Dales farming during the war when farmers were forced to plough out certain fields to grow corn to help with the war effort. most farmers would have only one days threshing, an exciting time for children like myself to hear the steam engine coming, often at least a mile away in semi- darkness

The head gear of the various individuals is yet another part of the story, it included the owner of the Thresher perched on the engine with the customary train drivers felt cap, which always had a liberal ammount of oil and grease set into the material. while the farmer near the steam engine had a better quality trilby than the workers on the stack!

Watching the adept manoeuvres of the driver of the steam engine in the flickering  lamplight of a stable lantern furnished me with a childlike determination that I one day, would drive a steam engine, which never came to fruition. I still attend steam rallies,just to get the smell and noise of those far away days.

Threshing time at a farm in Aberford Leeds in1936

By courtecy of the Yorkshire Post

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