In the 18th century, every household had a spinning wheel and many had a loom to weave linen, which was made into skirts, sheets, etc.
First the material had to be bleached. A plot of clean grass beside water, was ideal, known as a ‘bleach green’. It was covered with linen, watered and dried repeatedly until it was while. Dogs with muddy paws walking over the material were an occupational hazard.
When parental supervision was strict, girls made sure not to neglect watering the linen last thing at night, as provided an opportunity to have a brief meeting with the boyfriend on the bleach green!
Home scutching was a social event for all girls in the district to come and scotch someone’s crop and there was a dance at the finish. Next day it was someone else’s turn and another dance to finish.
This was termed ‘ a camp of scutchers’ – men wore white linen shirts and leather braces called ‘gallouses’, which left all but indelible stains on the shirts. Women were highly esteemed, who could have a laundered shirt without brace marks.
Farmers brought their bags of grass seed to Newtownsaville every Thursday to have it certified by Mr. Johnston from Clogher. Bob Paisley and Jackie Orr were his assistants. As with the port market, Dan McSorley presided over the weight bridge, or in his absence Owen Hackett too over.
‘Johnston had ‘auger’ which he put about 4 inches into the bag and took out a sample. He scattered this over his famous black book and from its appearance he could tell its grade.
Never to be deterred, the farmers had ways of ensuring that they got the top price for their seed. One method was that when filling his bag, the farmer put a bottomless bucket in the bag and pour the cleanings an ‘durt’ or ‘gillseed’ in to the bucket while the better quality seed was placed around this. As the bag was filled the bucket was pulled up until near the top when about 4-6 inches covered the chaff.
On occasion, Mr. Johnston would perform his task from the barstool in McSorley’s Samples were brought in for his approval…
“Johnston would be drinkin’ in McSorley’s and they’d put somebody’s good grass seed on the top of their sack. They’d give Paisley half a crown and he’d bring the same from the top intil Johnston and he’s say “top of the market for that”, and sure hit was only durt.”
Bob Paisley sometimes was not so easy to get round; as one farmer discovered: “Oul Pat hadn’t good seed so he touched up Bob to get him some. He took him until the pub and said to Mrs. McSorley, ‘A pint of stout and whatever Bob wants’. Bob spoke up and said that seein’ as he had a bad chest he’d take a brandy. So Pat says, ‘Just give him his brandy and we’ll for get about the stout.’ Poor Pat hadn’t reckoned on bribery being so expensive as it was!”
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