Eily’s Report – 19th April

Dia is Mhuire díobh go léir a chairde and welcome to my  report.

With the ties of Lent behind us and a wonderful Easter also slipping away, we can begin to plan the rest of Spring -March ,April and May, I have to make a note of them as I’m never quiet sure of the months of each season. May seems so far on in the year that you could be forgiven for thinking that it was summer but summer it is not. In my youth “Spring Work” was the most important thing of the year and because there were none of the mod cons of today to get the work done it required careful planning and meticulous use of time to prepare the land for the planting season. Everything going at a slow pace, walking pace I suppose. To plough a field turning just one sod at a time took days instead of the super fast methods of today, where a tractor pulling a four or more board plough can do the likes in a matter of hours. If my memory serves me rightly, most of that work would be done in March or April, depending of the type of land and the weather. Preparing for the Spring Work was a ritual in itself. The preparing of the horses and their tackling was paramount. Harness makers were a very important part of the process. In some places the harness maker came to the farmhouse where all the bits and pieces were put before him. I can remember as a very small child when such was the case in our home. His name was Billy Alex, don’t know if that was his full name but I never heard of him being called anything else. He was deaf and dumb and known to have a fiery temper. Our Dad told us that if we went near him, he would stick us with the awl. This was to make sure that our small fingers didn’t go off with his pliers and treads and his other pieces of equipment. He worked where the light was best at the big kitchen window ,with the straddles and britchens etc strewn on the floor around him, and he came every day till all were repaired. We would watch him with interest from afar and were fascinated by his craft. The horse collar required special attention, had to be packed with curled hair paying special attention to where the most pressure would come for the beast of burden. If it wasn’t done properly it would redden the horse’s breast and nothing could be worse on a busy ploughing day. It didn’t always turn out right and I can recall my Dad coming in from the field and get part on an old sock, pack it with some curled hair to put inside the horse collar to take the pressure of the wounded part so ploughing could continue. We would watch Billy making the special wax hemp he would stand the awl on the wooden window sill and use it to hold the hemp using the required number of lengths which he would twist running the end down along his knee ,and then rubbing on the ball of wax which made the end product a strong durable yarn to sew/repair the thick leather harness in place. As he worked, the everyday things went on in the other part of the kitchen. The  iron range was stoked up with turf and sticks to bake the daily bread and to  cook the dinner for us all, Billy included, and we eyeing him out of the corner of our eyes in case we angered him in any way. And get  stuck with his awl. My Dad would rush in from the fields ahead of the rest and make a cake and put it in the oven to bake while eating his dinner, my brothers warned to keep up the heat . In hindsight I’m sure  poor Billy  was harmless but our Dad had to make a strong case so that we’d obey in his absence. The harness maker brought the things he needed for his work, the leather and tacks, hemp, wax except the curled hair. This my Dad would have for him. Made from the long hairs from the horse’s manes and tails which was always carefully saved at clipping time. He would make it into tight curls in much the same way that little girls wrinklets were done and tied up tightly then put into a pot of water on the range and boiled for hours until the shape was set. When dried it was all teased out to form a mass of springy ,unyielding filling for hardworking horse’s harness. All finishing covering was done with strong white coarse cloth with blue lines and to see them showing as the beast of burden pulled the plough was a proud moment indeed for both horse and man.

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Millstreet Pipe Band

Millstreet Pipe Band are looking for Former Members to consider rejoining the Pipe Band. Rustiness is fine, training provided!🙂 If interested, please call into band practice in Millstreet GAA Hall next Friday night (22nd April) at 8.00p.m. Or you can ring the band mobile at (086) 8966163. Please think about it, we’d love to see a few coming back to us.🙂