Here is a photograph of my mother, Eleanor Quinn, in a corn field in the late 1950s.  This was taken on the family farm at Carrydarragh, just outside Moneymore.

carrydarragh farmer moneymore

Eleanor Quinn on the family farm at Carrydarragh, near Moneymore

Corn fields were just a little before my time.

I do recall the old reapers, some still functional – laying around in the barn – and have some very vague memories of sheaves of corn in a few fields.

Fields of Gold

There were plenty of scythes in my time. Indeed, before tractors came along, scythes were used to cut a field of grain. The men would typically work around the field clockwise, starting along the outside and finishing up in the middle of the field. Scything resulted in the seed-heads being more or less aligned. Those were then picked up by the farmer and his workers, and tied into sheaves.

A sheaf is a bunch of cereal-crop stems bound together after reaping, traditionally by sickle, later by scythe or, after its introduction in 1872, by mechanical reaper-binder.

They would use other cut stems as ties, to keep the sheaves together.

The farmer’s team of workers then would stand the sheaves up in stooks to dry. You can see the stooks in the photo at the top of this page.

Between three and eight sheaves would make up a stook. This structure formed a self-supporting A-frame. The grain-heads were at the top of the stook.

The grain was therefore well off the ground, well ventilated, and able to dry. When partially dried, the sheaves of corn would be then loaded onto a cart and usually placed in a farm barn for further drying (or sometimes built into a big thatched stack).

In the late 1950s photo above, I imagine mum’s family used a tractor to pull a reaper, to cut the corn. But maybe they still used a horse to pull the reaper.  She did sometimes speak of their horse, Barney. He is in one of her old photos – which I have been unable, this week, to set my hands on. (update, I later, when working on another article, found Barney’s photo.)

To get an idea of how corn/grain was reaped, I have added a few videos near the bottom of this page. 

Moneymore Young Farmers

Here’s a wonderful old photo of my grandfather, William Neely Quinn.  He died in September 1974, so I am guessing this newspaper clipping is from the 1950s or possibly 1960s. This is a clipping that my mum had saved. 


Some Related Videos


DIED IN CORN FIELD. The sudden death occurred on Friday afternoon of an old man named John M’Caughey, who resided alone at Magherabuoy, near Dungiven. Deceased was a carpenter, and well known in the district. Although 78 years old, he was active for his age, and apparently in his usual robust health up to the end. On Friday afternoon he was at harvesting operations, when he fell in a dying condition and expired almost immediately. Dr. B. Lane (coroner for the district) held an inquest at Magherabuoy on Saturday morning. James M’Closkey, Magherabuoy, deposed that the deceased was working with him in the corn field on the previous day, and left to go home about 3 p.m. He had only gone a short distance when he fell down, and expired in a few minutes. Dr. Arthur G. Martin. J.P.. Dungiven, deposed that death was due to apoplexy, and the jury found accordingly.
Ballymoney Free Press & Northern Counties Advertiser, 27 September 1917
Ballymoney Free Press & Northern Counties Advertiser