History Group Talks December 2008

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Farming Implements and Tools of the Past.

speaker Rodney Cruze

assisted by Mike Hallett


Rodney Cruze, one of our members gave a very interesting illustrated talk about Farming Implements and Tools of a 'Bygone Era'. He was assisted with his reminiscences' by his cousin Mike Hallett and technically by Roger Claxton.

He brought with him a vast collection of old hand tools and implements and it certainly caught the imagination of several people for various reasons.  Firstly there were people who had used some of the tools themselves and there were others that had no idea what they were, or what they could have been used for. This is the joy of a history group like ours, as it has amongst its members, such a diverse community and so creates such a wealth of interest. The first part of the talk centred on the sheep industry and shearing in particular. How the craft of sheep shearing has developed from using 'blades'. By this we are talking about hand shears. Two sharp blades joined by a curved spring, which by closing the blades by hand, slices through the wool, then release the hand pressure and the blades part ready to cut another amount of wool on a style of cutting ones hair with scissors. These blades had to be kept very sharp so as not to pull on the wool, which in turn would make the sheep jump and become very irritable. These blades were then superseded by a form of ‘clippers’ again on the style of what a hairdresser of today would use. The early ones were driven by a hand turned mechanism. Eventually an engine was used for this purpose and now they are driven by electricity. The variations and evolutions were all on display. Mike then expanded on this, relating how he had travelled to Australia, New Zealand and Norway as a professional sheep shearer, and he related his experiences and some very humorous stories. He sheared some years as many as 80,000 sheep. The next thing considered was the cultivation of the land. Rodney brought some early plough shares. The earliest was an iron share that fitted onto a wooden plough frame. Illustrations of many old implements were displayed for us by Roger from a DVD that he had put together for the purpose. The evolution of the plough from oxen, horse, traction-engine and tractor propulsion was demonstrated. The design of other cultivating machinery was also discussed.  The harvest was the next season to be looked at. Grass for haymaking and the corn at harvest time was cut with a scythe, an acre a day was considered good going, some fields take their names from such events referring as to how long it took to mow, ‘three mowths’ three days work and so on. With the introduction of the wheel and with horsepower, machines were developed, with a knife made up of several sections propelled forward and back on the same style as the sheep clippers, the grass-machine developed. This gradually developed into a reaper for the corn harvest with the stalks of corn brought together into a bundle, that was then bound by hand, using a few stalks from each bundle made into a ‘beam’. Gradually beaters were added and a mechanical knotter and the ‘binder’ was created. The sheaves were then stood in stooks or stitches, the name depending on the district lived in. These stood in the fields for ‘10 dews’ before harvesting into the corn ricks which were then thatched and remained there until the thresher arrived driven by a steam engine or later a tractor. Some farms had their own barn thresher, early models worked from shafts and pulleys worked from a horse driven ‘whim’ in the farmyard, later belt-driven from a tractor. Now of course it is a Combine Harvester’ that does all the stages in one pass over the field, cutting and threshing the cereals, early models bagged the corn, now the corn is transferred into large trailers and carried direct from the field to the barn or silo for storage, the moisture content being of prime importance or the grain will spoil. From horse driven barn machinery and horse drawn wheeled machinery, the development of stationery engines, these then fixed with wheels became moving machinery. The development of steam driven equipment and then through tractor vaporising oil (T.V.O.), petrol, diesel and today with some fuels even made from crops, the whole evolvement of the agricultural industry was explained. This talk brought home to many the importance to the nation of maintaining a vigorous and successful agricultural industry and how it has evolved during the past one hundred years or so. The variation in farming techniques and the evolution of the industry was explained and the reasons for the variations of crops and the breeds of livestock all made for an interesting look at “Farming Through The Ages”.

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