Hay­mak­ing in the 1950s

The Arran Banner - - News -

By Dr Iain Glen

Nowa­days, the gath­er­ing of win­ter fod­der for cat­tle is highly mech­a­nised with hay hope­fully cut dur­ing a good set­tled spell and once suf­fi­ciently dried in the sun, con­verted into large, round, plas­tic-cov­ered bales.

Al­ter­na­tively, it is of­ten carted in high-sided trail­ers, filled us­ing a se­cond trac­tor with a for­age har­vester, to make silage.

My rec­ol­lec­tions of hay­mak­ing at Park­house in the early 1950s go back to the era when hay was made into ricks in the field and a few weeks later, rick­lifters were used to cart the ricks into the farm stack yard, where large hay stacks were built.

My fa­ther’s early ca­reer in­volved giv­ing ad­vice to farm­ers on soil im­prove­ment and ma­nur­ing mean­ing when he came to farm him­self, the re­sult was usu­ally a heavy hay crop which took a lot of dry­ing.

Although it might be turned two or three times, we of­ten had to go up and down the swathes shak­ing out big­ger clumps with a hay fork. Once suf­fi­ciently dry, a multi-pronged sweep was at­tached to the front of the trac­tor to gather the hay in for rick build­ing.


This equip­ment su­per­seded the Tum­blin Tam that my un­cle John Sil­lars at Cairn­field used with a horse for a sim­i­lar func­tion. To build a rick, a cir­cu­lar layer of hay was made and then three 6ft to 8ft poles were tied to­gether with a twisted roll of hay to make a sup­port­ing tri­pod and placed in the cen­tre.

Hay was then forked around and on top of this tri­pod to build a rick which would be about 6ft wide and about 10ft high. As a young­ster, my job, once the rick had been com­pleted, was to ‘pook’ all around the base, pulling out hand­fuls of hay to pre­vent waste as the rick set­tled down over time. The hay that was re­moved went into the next rick.

When it came time to bring the ricks in, the Cor­riecravie com­mu­nity worked to­gether bring­ing our rick­lifters with us. Rick­lifters were pur­pose built trail­ers which could be tipped up and re­versed into the base of a rick.

Two stout ropes were pulled from the rollers at the front and at­tached to each other with metal clasps be­hind the rick. A han­dle was at­tached to a geared wind­ing wheel linked to the rollers at the front and the rick grad­u­ally pulled onto the rick­lifter which clicked flat again as the weight came for­ward.

As young­sters, we liked to en­sure the rick was far enough for­ward for us to hop on the back for the ride to the stack yard and our pref­er­ence was for Don­ald Craig or Don Brown as they drove a bit faster than fa­ther or James Brown.

At the stack yard, the rick­lifter was tipped up again to slide off the rick for the stack builders and re­turned to the field for the next rick.

At Cor­riecravie House, Jack Brown ar­ranged for the con­struc­tion of a horse fork for the work of the stack builders. This had a tall cen­tral pole sup­ported by stays. A rope at­tached to a grap­ple fork passed through pul­leys at the end of a der­rick and was led to an­other pul­ley at the base of the pole.

From here the rope was passed along the ground and at­tached to a horse’s har­ness. The grap­ple fork when ten­sioned gath­ered a great bunch of hay and as the horse was led for­ward this was raised and when above the level of the stack be­ing built, pulling a trip chord caused the load to be de­posited on the stack. All the metal work for the horse fork was made by Mr Ste­wart, the Slid­dery black­smith, who was an ex­cel­lent crafts­man.


I would have been about 14 when fa­ther ac­quired a static baler and for a year or two we still built ricks but fed them into the baler in the field be­fore cart­ing the bales into our hay shed.

My job was to sit on a bale on one side of the baler as the com­pressed hay was emerg­ing. Two lines of baler twine were fed up from the other side. These were caught with the up­turned ends of a U-shaped steel bracket pushed through from my side and re­trieved in the gaps be­tween the thrusts of the pis­ton com­press­ing the hay. The twine was cut and tied in a reef knot to the loose end re­main­ing from the pre­vi­ous bale.

This same baler was be­ing used to bale straw in the hay shed when a fire started which de­stroyed ev­ery­thing in the stack yard, the trac­tor and the hayshed.

I was a pupil at Keil School at the time but can con­firm from Hamil­ton Broth­ers’ records that fa­ther or­dered a new trac­tor on Novem­ber 6 1956. I also heard that a son of one of the fire­men in at­ten­dance said this fire was bet­ter than the usual Novem­ber 5 bon­fire!

About this time, balers which could pick up hay di­rectly from the swathe, ap­peared. We still had to get the hay dry enough to be baled but, from then on, the spec­ta­cle of a row of tidy ricks dis­ap­peared from hay fields.

Writ­ten with as­sis­tance from Dr Don­ald Brown who still bears a scar, the re­sult of catch­ing a finger be­tween a rope and roller on a rick­lifter.

Photo taken about 1955 of Iain, se­cond from right, work­ing at hay time with the Craig fam­ily from the Cor­ries with Don­ald Craig on the left, John and their fa­ther Peter on the right.

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