Thomas Newell - July 2004
I helped my granny to put the outer shell mixed with
sack on the back of the open fire, it stayed lit
all night, we called it scows.
Janet Treanor secretary Co. Armagh Vintage
Vehicle Club Ltd - July 2004
Congratulations to Tullylagan Vintage Owners Association
on their Flax growing. Last year, 2003, some of the
members of Co, Armagh Vintage Vehicle Club Ltd, namely
the Corbett Brothers from Dromara Co. Down grew a
of acres of flax and a flax pulling evening was held
later in the year with the proceeds going to charity.
This effort came about because the Corbett Brothers
had spent many years restoring a flax pulling machine,
nine I think, and this was used to demonstrate machine
work along side the age old art of pulling the flax
by hand. As a result of this endeavour the process
been repeated this year and the flax pulling demonstration
is to be held on Wednesday 25th August 2004, at 7pm,
on the land owned by Mr Alec Corbett Katesbridges
Dromara Co, Down. Entrance fee: £2, all donations
will go to local charity. In connection with this age
old crop and the relating skills we at Co, Armagh Vintage
Vehicle club Ltd are featuring the Threshing Mill, all
vintage & rare harvesting equipment and also demonstration
of flax pulling equipment at our annual vintage rally
to be held in Gosford Forest Park, Markethill on Saturday
7th August 2004. I would invite anyone with threshing
mills, harvesting equipment or flax pulling equipment
to get in touch and indeed come along on the day.
Miss K.E.Hamilton - June 2004
Granda took fields (set to him, or let in today's lingo)
to supplement the meagre income so essential for rearing
his brood! The lint dams were ALWAYS set well away from
any living soul as they were offensive by nature. Flax
after flowering was harvested and then smolded in the
dams. After that it was left out in the "whites",
which were the fields surrounding the dam, to dry. There
are MANY fields still to this day in Ireland which carry
the scars of flaxing.
The flax had a tough exterior coating, the green casing,
which had to be stripped away to get at the good stuff
inside; in order to do this, scutching machines were
employed. These rather crude instruments had rows of
blades,which were VERY sharp, passing back and forth
in a cutting action. As this was going on the scutcher
held a small bundle of flax stems in his hands, much
like a bale of grass or string. He then 'thrashed' the
bundle into the blades and pulled them through again
(which as they moved back and forth stripped away the
outer shell). On many occasions the scutcher 'misjudged'
these blades and 'donated' 1 or 2 fingers in the process.
Putting your hands together, one in front of the other
and sliding your fingers to and fro will give a simple
idea of the action of the blades.
In the bible we read
of God stripping away as 'tow' - (Isaiah ch1v31 or ch43v17)
- or taking from us the rubbish that has built up around
us - this 'tow' is the scraps of outer shell on the
flax that serves no purpose and is indeed rubbish more
often burned in the corner of the whites. (However,
in poorer homes, it was sometimes gathered to stuff
the mattresses that were sagging but the stink...boy
After the drying and bleaching in the whites, and the
hard work of the scutching, the worker then had the
raw fibres of what, after threading and spinning, would
become a very fine woven cloth.
Did you also know that the weaver who makes the cloth
only sees the back side of the fabric as he is working?
Not until he puts that last thread in place does he
see the results of his labours.
The smell of the lint dams, the
sound of the scutching machines, the sight of the flax
left out on the fields to dry - share your memories
of the linen process here on the site. Does anyone have
any pictures or photographs? - Editor
Miss K.E.Hamilton - May 2004
My granda took fields to grow flax when he was younger
towards the Black lough near Cloughmills. He was a scutcher,
one of the few that didnae lose his fingers at the job.
The whitfield or whitening/or/drying fields were all
around the area with the lint dams also nearby, a favourite
haunt with us as wanes to have a picnic in the summer
months. Although I live in Cardiff now, I grow flax
every year in tubs, baskets and wild in my gardens,
in fact anywhere there is a patch of bare soil... but
the seeds I use are a more golden colour, American I
think, and delicious shook over the cereal in the morning.
Still a wee pale blue flower though.