BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

16 October 2014
your place and mine
Your Place & Mine Radio Ulster Website

BBC Homepage
BBC Northern Ireland
greater Belfast
contact ypam
about ypam

print versionprint version

Contact Us

Spokesman of the Glens -
Working Lives

Glenarm Wheelwright still turning wood, spinning yarns and playing the fiddle at 80

Davey George McCrory

In a dimly lit workshop on the outskirts of Glenarm in County Antrim, Davey George McCrory keeps the skills of the wheelwright alive. With a mind as sharp as his chisels, his passion for craftmanship remains unblunted by time, or the loss of a world that turned on wheels made of wood.

Davey George has kept the wheels turning for 60 years
Davey George has kept the wheels turning for 60 years

Davey, who turned 80 in December 2004, still demonstrates the art of wheel-making that he learned as an apprentice in McMullan's joinery shop during the second world war. His first lesson in wheelmaking, he says, was learning how to select the trees that would be felled for the timber that would, after at least 11 months seasoning, become the raw material for carts for the farmers of the Glens.

He explains that Elm was needed for the nave, or hub, of the wheel because it resisted water well and didn't split easily, which was important because the mortises for the spokes, usually 12, had to be cut from it as well as being bored out for the axle.

Video Clip 1: Davey demonstrates how timber is chosen



Whereabouts in the forest the tree grew also affected the qualities of the timber. Curiously so did the gender of the tree.

A female tree was the one wanted and Davey learned to recognise a female tree by its appearance. "The bark of a female tree," he says, " is finer than the male, its whole appearance tidier and more elegant. "In the whole of nature, it's only birds where that's not the case. The hen is a dull, drab thing, not like the rooster or the peacock, for instance."

A partly built wheel in Davey's workshop

Oak was used for the spokes because there is a certain amount of 'give' in it. Ash was the choice for the outer ring because of its strength and because it bonded well with the iron hoop that completed the wheel.

Once the timber was felled and cut into slabs it was carefully stored to allow it to season. "Those slabs were then stacked with wedges in between to provide an air-gap making sure they dried out evenly." says Davey. Taking care of the materials from the very beginning meant that the finished product, the cart, would last for 40 or 50 years, depending of course on what its working life was like.



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy