Toose, George (b.1901)

George Toose lived and worked on a farm in Odcombe near Yeovil.  He kept a herd of Dorset Horn Sheep; selling wool at market in Dorchester and Yeovil, and lambs at Stolford fair.  George Toose had a small herd of cows; and kept chickens, he also grew wheat, barley, and flax, and harvested hay annually.


Dorset Blue Vinney cheese was made on the farm when George was a boy. Blue Vinney was a hard, dry cheese made from skimmed milk. In 1939 George was president of Dorset Horn Sheep Breeders Association, his father had been president in 1909.

Labourer cutting hay by hand c.1900. Labourer cutting hay by hand c.1900.
Sound File
Listen to George Toose - 1.90MB Duration 4:08 min.

AH: Can you tell me now about your hay harvest then?  Can you explain to me what you did?


GT: Well, when I started first, we had a two horse-mowing machine, which we used to start off at 4 o’clock in the morning, had to get up and get the horses in, get out in the field.  I used to drive the mowing machine for a couple of hours and the carter used to sharpen the knives, ready for the rest of the day.  And I’d go off... he’d go home to breakfast during that time, when he’d finished sharpening his knives, well I used to go home to breakfast, and then he’d carry on mowing until the horses were wanted for turning hay elsewhere.


We had two swathe turners in those days, they’d go out and turn a ten-acre field in a couple of hours.  And that was left to dry for that day, and then turned again the next day - hoping to get it dry enough to cart.  Well, that meant to say it was rewed up there, as we used to call it, with a ordinary hay rake, tip the handle; and then the wagons would come along, two men each... one man each side the wagon, pitching it up on the wagon with a long ‘pitching pick’ as we used to call it.


And the man on the top making the load of hay, when it was up, well as high as they could pitch it, sort of style, that was roped down and taken to the rick and unloaded loose on the rick, and the rick-maker would build a rick with it.  And that’s how we carried on, how haymaking was finished.


Course we got wet weather - it meant turning the hay several times, and my father was very keen on what we used to call ‘pooking hay’.  I don’t suppose you know what that means.  We used to make a we used to make little heaps of it, and put what we used to call a ‘nightcap’ on it, and scratch it down and that would shoot the wet quite a bit and keep it dry and then when we’d got a nice morning we’d go out and spread this all about and when we thought it was dry enough, rew it up and cart it in to the rick.


But again, in a good many cases it was quite black, and not very useful...  Then later on the side-rake was invented, that was a wonderful machine we thought, the horse went along and it rewed it in, the side and left a row right up through the field.  The men used to like that for pitching because it held together better.


And then of course in 1918 the hay loader was invented and we thought that was a really wonderful machine.  It was an absoute man-killer to take the hay away from the hay loader and build the wagon with it, very, very hard work, and they existed until the present day baler came along.


AH: Do you ever remember the hay being cut by hand?


GT: No, I can’t, but my father had hundreds of acres cut by the scythe in his younger days.  They used to say a man could cut, on average, an acre a day with a scythe.   If ten men went out into the field in the morning they’d cut ten acres of hay... grass, I should say.  And also my father, in his younger days, he used to cut the wheat, oats and barley with a hook, hook and crook as they used to say - and tie it up by bonds.

Copyright Information
Copyright. This recording was made by Ann Heeley in 1980. Photograph ©SRLM. For access to full interview please contact the Somerset Heritage Centre.