The Avondhu - By The Fireside
The day of the thrashing
As Autumn leaves were falling and a coolness was in the air, heralding the signs that winter was on its way, there was one more chore in the farmers’ calendar that had to be done, the
thrashing of the corn.
‘The Fields of Gold’ would be harvested in late summer. The sheaves would be tied into bundles with twine and stored in the farmyard, to await the arrival of the ould thrashing mill. Preparation would be well on the way, provisions would have to be in big supply, to feed the ‘Mitheal’ that would descend in the farmer’s yard. It was backbreaking work. Strong men would be needed to lift the huge bags of grain, into the barn.
The sound of the big iron wheels of the thrasher, could be heard for miles. The noise signalled to the neighbours that the time was now. The help was always rewarded. There was a great togetherness between neighbours of that era. The woman of the house would be flat out, laying out the table. A mountain of bread and ham would be quickly devoured, all washed down with gallons of tea. The keg of porter would sit patiently in the corner of the kitchen and the bottles of red lemonade would adorn the dresser. Not everyone would like the ‘black liquid’, so all taste buds would be catered for.
As the machine rolled into the farmer’s yard, it had to be rigged up to the tractor, two large bags would be fitted to the front of the mill, to gather the golden grain, as it rained down in torrents. Two men on top fed the sheaves into the barrel, as it shuttered and howled. The noise was deafening. The men doing that work had to keep their wits about them, as one mistake could spell disaster. The drum separated the grain from the straw and the chaff.
As children, we had great fun tossing the chaff. A little mouse could run for its life as the cat scurried after it, hoping to make a kill. A few men would take a break, to rub the perspiration from their brows, to have a smoke of a cig or the draw of a pipe and the smoke was blowing in the wind. The straw would be built into a large reek and secured safely against the elements, as it would be required as bedding for the animals during the winter.
As the shades of evening were falling and the last sheaves were being pushed into the barrel, the shuttering of the ould thrashing mill was slowly, slowing down.
The farmer was happy with his yield of grain, he wished all his neighbours’ good health and happiness, for many years to come. The hungry gathering was making its way towards the kitchen, where upon the prepared food was very welcome and of course, a wellearned rest for the aching bodies.
When the men had ate their fill, it was time to relax and unwind. A little light entertainment was called for. Against the glow of the peat fire, the refreshment went down a treat. It was time to move back the table and take to the floor, be it a dance, a singsong or a recitation, the people of that era made their own entertainment. It was a time before TV, phones or social media. Although it has been many ‘moons ago’, the gathering of that night has long left the scene, but the memory still lives on.
Modern machinery has taken over from that back-breaking work. Despite the hardship of the work, there was a lot of banter around the day of the thrashing. The ould thrashing mill has been made redundant, its remains may be found, in some old scrap yard, ‘it’s job of journey work’, well and truly done.