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From the Crooked Spade to the Grinding Mill

By Kenneth Campbell - Added 15/04/2014

Audio of Kenneth Campbell telling us about the demise of the “cas-chrom”, the advantages of the common spade, how people gave up grinding their own meal at home and how they fed their cattle, particularly cows that had just calved. Dur: 2.03

The “cas-chrom” or crooked spade is an implement peculiar to the Highlands and one of great antiquity. However, by the early years of the 20th century it had been discarded as more and more people turned to the labour-saving horse-drawn plough. This was not an option on the east coast of Harris where the ground is too sparse, rocky and boggy to be worked in this way. A spade, although it didn’t lessen the labour by very much, was more user-friendly. The spade turned the soil more evenly and was also used to dig out ditches between the rigs or “lazy-beds” as they were named by people who had obviously never laboured over them! The earth cleared out of the ditches, added to seaweed or manure hauled from shore and byre, gave a good base for the planting of potatoes, oats and barley. The barley was plentiful and acted as winter fodder for cattle. When a cow calved it was given a barley bannock or brose.
A grinding-mill was built by Lord Dunmore in Miavag and the grindstones in people’s homes were destroyed as they were no longer required. Kenneth’s grandfather, Matthew MacAulay, was the first miller in Lord Dunmore’s mill in Miavag.