31 ©2010 An Iodhlann All Rights Reserved www.aniodhlann.org.uk Malcolm MacArthur transporting groceries in 1904 (T71) Plough Because ploughs were always pulled, the harness for a plough had no briogais over the back of the horse.
At the back of a plough there was a board with a peg (smuiseal) to adjust the width of the furrow.
Usually this was 8”, but lea ground, which had not been cultivated for four or five years, would need a 7” furrow because it was more compacted (Hugh Archie MacCallum).
Lachie Campbell tells this story.
The old men were terribly particular about their ploughing.
It had to be just right.
John MacLean (Iain Alasdair Iain) once ploughed his croft for potatoes.
He wasn’t happy with a slightly crooked furrow in one corner of his croft in Cornaigbeg.
He harrowed the whole field and ploughed it again. ‘The potatoes wouldn’t have minded!’ Lachie says now.
Ploughing was done by men as it took a lot of strength, particularly lifting up the handles to dig the point in at the start of the furrow.
However, in living memory, Mary MacKinnon from Seaside in Vaul ploughed her croft (Margaret MacInnes).
Other horse drawn machinery Formerly, much of the work on farms was done in the Lowlands by oxen and in the Highlands by teams of native ponies.
The work was slow and very labour intensive.
The development of the heavy horse enabled the use of new, much more efficient, iron ploughs and other implements.
It also stimulated the invention of many labour-saving machines such as reapers for cutting corn and hay, swath turners, horse rakes, horse mills and seed broadcasters.
The invention of the binder, pulled by three horses, rendered redundant great squads of sheaf tiers, usually women.
Even for years after the Second World War it was commonplace to see these horse powered machines at work (Robert Beck). 32 ©2010 An Iodhlann All Rights Reserved www.aniodhlann.org.uk Robert Beck: A horse fork for building stacks.
A very simple apparatus.
The most complicated thing you needed was the horse! You had a big pair of shears and this pair of shears went into the hay and lifted about a quarter of a ruc [pile of hay].
And there was a tripod and a pulley block and the rope came down from the pulley block to the horse. [When] the horse moved forward [the shears closed] and up and up it went and somebody on the stack levered it round to where you wanted it to go.
You pulled the rope, the shears [opened] and [the hay] fell.
A great thing! Hector Campbell: Tom Barr was hiring labour for haymaking.
He was paying them 10 pence a day, and they wanted a shilling.
And he wouldn’t [pay].
So he sent for one of these forks…and the horse did the work of ten or twelve men…There was a big hayshed.
He paid his men 10 pence a day.
No food, nothing.
They had to walk home at dinner time.
They weren’t good old days (Robert Beck, AC2).
The horse drawn hayrake (ràsal mòr) pulled the cut hay into long lines which were hand raked into piles (prapagan). John MacLean of Kilmoluaig, using a hayrake in the 1940s (S31) Gott Bay Pier The Gott Bay pier was built in 1913 with a set of rails running down it.
A pony belonging to Alan MacFadyen, Ailean MacDhonnchaidh, Gott, pulled a small bogey from the boat to the store. 33 ©2010 An Iodhlann All Rights Reserved www.aniodhlann.org.uk The Gott Bay pier pony taking a break in the late 1920s or early 1930s (D112) Horseflies Horseflies, or clegs, tormented the horses in summer.
It wasn’t easy for the horses to work all day in the summer with the horseflies.
You had to work just in the early morning and late in the evening.
They were eating them.
You had to stop (Hugh Archie MacCallum talking to Maggie Campbell, AC394).
The lifespan of a heavy, hard-working horse was relatively short – a ten year old working horse was considered old.
Ponies were longer lived – some lived to over 30 (Robert Beck, AC2).
Once a horse was too old or ill to work they were sometimes killed.
The late Alasdair MacDonald, Druimasadh, told of a spot between Balevullin and The Green where the path runs near the cliff.
Horses were backed over blindfolded when they could no longer work.
Neil MacArthur, Kilkenneth, remembers his father telling him of how he and John MacArthur, Middleton, had to bury Archie Kennedy’s horse in Kilkenneth.
The ground was hard and the hole was too small.
There was nothing for it but to cut the horse’s head off before burying it. 34 ©2010 An Iodhlann All Rights Reserved www.aniodhlann.org.uk
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