by the Rambler 1/12/2000
ON woman of three cows, agra
Don't let your tongue thus rattle
Oh dont be saucy, don't be stiff
Because you may have cattle"
This ancient verse reflected the relativities of a bygone age, when the norm for an Irish peasant was one cow. Many had to be content with a goat to provide them with milk. I met many of them in County Tyrone.
When I encounter a herd of several hundred cows being moved along the Seven Mile Straight, or nearer home, I am inclined to long for the days of the woman of three cows. Road rage cuts no ice with a couple of hundred Ayrshire's.
When farmers' wives were content to milk the few milch cows that they owned, by hand, they made do with a saucer. or a large spoon, when they needed to skim the cream off a bowl of whole milk. but eventually those who had cattle sought some better way of doing it
The mechanical hand-operated cream separator came as a boon, locally about 80 years ago. 'Melotte' and 'Alfa Laval' were first in the field.
The first one that my parents got caused quite an embarrassment for the local supplier. I well remember all the details. A good neighbour called Bob who had one, took Dad to the local hardware merchant to make a purchase. He had a trailer for his car which was handy.
Bob was a bit tight fisted and impetuous and when the merchant refused a discount for cash he didn't like it. When they unpacked the new machine some milk seeped nut! Bob was livid, then he chuckled. "right Joe." he chortled. "Bung that thing back on the trailer. We're for McStockarts." (That's not the right name).
Within minutes, the separator was on its way back to the town centre. Bob waited there till a few customers had entered the shop then he said, "come on! Now! We'll fix McStockart. Wait till I get at him."
The separator was duly dumped on the shop floor and Bob went for the proprietor (Verbally, of course) accusing him of trying to palm off a second-hand machine. The poor old merchant really was embarrassed. Some customer had indeed had the machine on trial for a day, and brought it back. Needless to say. Bob got a replacement at a discount. It really made his day.
Home butter makers found the cream separator a grand invention. The only snag was the multiplicity of metal components which had to be scalded and sterilised after each use. There were about a dozen concentric conical metal discs enclosed in the unit which did the separating. These were stacked around a spindle inside a heavy steel bowl, ridged and perforated, and held secure by a stout screw cap.
By turning the handle of the machine, manually, at a moderate pace, gears set the separators rotating at high speed. Whole milk was let down from a reservoir tank mounted on top of the machine and, within the rotating unit, cream which was light was propelled upwards and ejected cut of a purpose designed spout. The skim milk was discharged via a large spout at a lower level
I'm sorry I am unable to demonstrate, but I hope I have not confused readers.