Monaghan hayfield (1950)
During the interval in attending to the flax crop, the hay
has been growing, and is now ready for cutting. The earlier
cut 'hayseed crop' has been cut, hand tied in sheaves and
arranged in four sheaves per stook (as in an oats crop)
and left in the field. Later after the ripening process
they are built into huts (small circular field
There they will remain until it is time for them to be drawn
home to the haggard where they will be re-built
into larger stacks, or reeks in readiness for
the travelling threshing machine. Some years earlier (1940),
hayseed huts stayed in the field until local men using hand
operated flails with which they threshed the
seeds from the stems on large tarpaulins, or close meshed
jute sacks stitched together to form a flailing floor.
Here we depart the hayseed crop bearing in mind
the war years still cast a a long shadow well into the first
half of the year 1950. Then the time came to save the important
second cutting permanent and meadow land using
the horse drawn reaper, or a mans scythe for smaller
land holders (or even in adverse weather conditions). In
spite of expert advice, little hay was being cut early as
recommended. Bulk was still the keynote rather than the
lesser bulk quality. Mid-July was a traditional starting
time, and for the majority it was the hayseed harvest
rather than the permanent meadows which might start in mid-August.
Weather conditions, and those for growing flax would determine
the rotation of the hay harvest.
Overall, anything from mid-July to late September was a
long drawn out season in field work. In most localities,
owners of a reaper or mill were few in number.
I remember at most two one horse reapers operating
their clattering serrated blades. The daily output of such
an apparatus on most hilly fields might yield a hard earned
cutting per day. On the other hand, the smaller farmer with
his scythe might have a fight for his harvest during most
of the summer in cutting, lapping, eventual cocking, and
later into huts or smaller field stacks. Enough
to fit into a small barn. Cutting the hay crop by scythe
or reaper is a mere preliminary to the amount of work which
is to follow. On the smaller farm saving the hay
was very much a hand tool operation, and often where there
was medium to large families, all the able bodied members
participated in the work of the harvest. Many graips, pitch
forks, and hand rakes soon saw small fields in hay cocks.
On the larger farms where there were one or more horses
there was a variety of equipment to hasten home the hay
crop. After a period of cut hay in swatches now well seasoned
a horse drawn hay rake, or a hay sweep, or tedder
turned and tossed the crop to benefit from sun and wind.
In favourable conditions the hay would be built up in small
field cocks. Days later they would be built into larger
field cocks. Large cocks required ropes to protect against
windy conditions. In early periods, hay ropes were made
in the field. The hand operated rope twister
was made from plain bull wire with a hooked
end which held the hay being paid out by an
assistant. Among older men were still some who could twist
a rope, literally by long experienced hands. Eventually,
in late Autumn, the hay cocks were drawn home, some on horse
drawn low flat platform carts called hay floats.
On medium and small farms cocks were towed home in a fashion
of a horse fitted with a long chain around each cock, and
towed into the haggard, (or stack yard) to be
built into final stacks or reeks.
As yet, there were but few large open hay sheds, but some
wise farmers did have reasonable stone built barns to hold
at least part of their hay harvests. The smaller farmer
was often obliged to make bardrogs or tied bundles
expertly drawn from the round hay stack during the winter
foddering, twice a day. So concludes the hay harvest. But
bear in mind the threshed seed hay crop had little food
value. Most small holders encouraged their live stock to
seek for fodder amidst their few fields in favourable weather,
so that some hay be available in adverse winter conditions.
(1) Some haymaking equipment of 1950 = A hay tedder, designed
to turn the swathe, and at the same time tossing the hay
to expose the under side to the wind.
(2) The hand rake. To glean the field, so that all the hay
is safe in field stacks.
(3) The drag rake. Introduced in the 1880s, recommended
for use by ladies!! A wooden framed steel toothed monster.
I only remember seeing one specimen outside our locality.
Now extremely rare.
(4) Side delivery rake. A collecting machine for gathering
hay into areas where cocks were to be built in the field.
(5) The horse drawn hay rake. Another item on the larger
farm to collect for hay cock building.
(6) The tumble rake. A horse drawn wooden device for turning
swathes, and later to draw hay to cock builders
(7) The hay float. A low flat cart featuring a tilting body
platform, having a mounted winding winch to draw field cocks
to haggard storage.
(8) The hay stack. A circular shape with a sharp conical
(9) The hay reek. Large cottage shaped oblong featured on
(10) In conclusion about general hay and hay making, to
secure hay in field or haggard, hay ropes made
by hand with a rope maker were common, but soon dispensed
with the introduction of the commercial hay rope. It became
available in general hardware shops, and was known as Hairy
Ned a jute composition in a bituminous solution to
preserve it against rats and general rodents! (Such is the
tale of past years in hay making).
Taken from Monaghan's Match