The Wexford Thatcher – review

‘The Wexford Thatcher’ episode from the Hands series is a tale of thatching in the South East of Ireland, taking the us right through from the harvesting of the straw to Paddy Casey the master thatcher applying his craft. Growing, Harvesting & Threshing We visit the farm of John Rochford on ‘a fair September morning’ to witness the cutting of the oats that would have been planted around April. His children John Joe, Raymond and Rosie lend a helping hand with the day’s work. The Rochford’s use a 6ft Albion power driven reaper and binder to harvest the straw. The reaper and binder cuts the corn which then falls on a platform canvas, two other canvases then take the corn off the platform and transport it up to a tying mechanism. When enough corn has been gathered to create a sheaf, a tripping mechanism throws it out tied and knotted with binder twine. Although this machinery appears unproductive by today’s standards – it all comes down to quality over quantity. Straw harvested by this method is superior for thatching as it cuts the straw lower down and doesn’t cause it to split or become brittle like the modern combine harvester does. Livestock also prefer the corn dried in the sheaf to the artificially dried corn of the harvester. This method has almost completely died out in this country and reaper and binders are now only seen in vintage machinery shows and exhibitions. The next stage is to gather the sheaves into stooks – stacking them together upright in bunches of 3-4 so they will dry. When I was younger...