The Whitehouse MacLeans with a horse-drawn reaper in around 1920.
Photograph of the MacLean family from Whitehouse with a horse-drawn reaper.
Courtesy of Mr Angus MacLean
The MacLean family from Whitehouse, Cornaigbeg are pictured cutting corn with a horse-drawn reaper. This was a tremendous advance on the sickle and scythe. Use of the scythe needed strength and skill and one man could cut only a quarter acre in a day.
Two men sat on the reaper, one to guide the horses which walked beside the standing corn while the other tilted the reaper’s platform when enough corn for a sheaf had gathered. He then pushed it off with an angled rake. The sheaves were tied by people following behind the reaper.
Binders pulled by three horses replaced the reaper. Mechanically operated implements drawn by tractors eventually took over after World War II.
Black and white photograph of cutting corn at Whitehouse.
Cutting corn by reaper at Whitehouse, Cornaig. L-R: Donald MacLean (Big Donald), Charles MacLean (Curly), Tom MacLean, Hector MacLean (Curly’s father), Donald MacLean (father of Tom and Big Donald), unknown, Murdoch MacLean (Curly’s brother).
Cutting corn by a reaper was a tremendous step forward from the sickle and scythe. Sickle work was done mainly by women. Four or five would work together cutting handfuls of corn at a time which were then tied together by the men. The scythe had a blade approx. 2.5 ft long (85 cm) and was handled by the men. A man could cut fully a quarter acre in a day.
The reaper was powered by horses. A cross-member board 4 ins by 2 ins (10 cm x 5 cm) and 4.5 ft long (137 cm) was bolted to the cutting blade of the reaper by hinges, allowing it to operate up and down. Ten strips of wood 4 ins by 1 in (10 cm x 2.5 cm) and 2.5 ft long (75 cm) were placed at 4 inch (10 cm) intervals at right angles to the cross-member. A pedal which was attached to the cross-member was pressed down by the worker’s right foot. This allowed the corn to gather on the platform. He then released the pedal and the platform tilted to the ground. The corn was finally pushed off with the tilting rake. Enough corn to make a whole sheaf then lay on the ground in readiness for the people following behind to tie it. Note the central figure, Hector MacLean, has a tilting rake specially designed to remove corn from the platform.
Binders pulled by 3 horses replaced the reaper. Mechanically operated implements drawn by tractors eventually took over.