Around many a family farm that have older sheds there can often be found vintage machinery made redundant by new technology and progress generally.

Often left to slowly decay, the owners are full of good intent with regard to the preservation of these bygones, but seldom have the time to put it into practice.

On occasion though, the thought is made deed, with one such farm being that of the Kearney brothers, in Littleton, Co. Tipperary.

Patrick and Donal had put away the thresher, or ‘mill’ as they more normally referred to, some years ago, as it had featured largely in their childhood. It had been left for many years before they actually set about getting it back to working condition.

Loading the sheeves into the drum was a three man job and was still done this way up until the early sixties
Loading the sheeves into the drum was a 3-man job and was still done this way up until the early 60s

Little history but a lot of family memories

While in many restorations there is great attention to the history of the subject, its age and other significant dates in its life, this particular rebuild was far more a matter of attending to the family legacy, rather than the detailed documentation of a historical artefact.

What is known about the ‘three foot’ thresher is that it was built by Ransomes of Ipswich and is at least 100 years old. There is even the suggestion that it was built around 1890, making it older still.

Fordson tractor power thresher
The Fordson’s radiator required regular topping up during the afternoon, but that was considered usual for the tractor

It is also known that it came to the farm, most likely from England, sometime after the war, and was powered by the same Fordson tractor that powers it today.

It was at work for around 12-15 years before being displaced by a trailed Claas combine belonging to a neighbour.

Out of work but not out of mind

Although the mill was neglected, it was never totally forgotten and had been brought out for various events up until 30 years or so ago.

Family gathered to see ransomes thresher mill
Many locals had their memories stirred when seeing the mill working again

What is also certain is that when it was parked up in the shed, the front end was exposed to the elements, meaning that there was a considerable amount of damage done to both the cladding and the wooden frame in that area.

Mechanically, there was not too much that needed doing to bring it back into service, the major task of the whole restoration being to remove the rotten front of the frame and replace it with new timber.

Family member Donal Kearney bags Oats produced from sheaves
Bagging off the oats was Donal Kearney

The brothers can well remember the mill in use during the 60s, as can Michael Fahy, a neighbour whose father used to help feed the crop into the drum.

It was this gentleman who then purchased the Claas trailed combine before a third brother, now sadly passed away, purchased a pair of Matadors to harvest the rapidly expanding farm, and so the mill was parked up.

A complete set

In addition to the mill, there is also a fully restored straw elevator, but this was not working on the day, the straw being transferred into a waiting round baler by hand instead.

clean sample of oats
The mill was providing a clean sample of oats with little admixture

The crop being threshed was oats, and the mill was providing a clean sample with little crop residue or other trash within it.

Indeed, it begs the question as to just how much cleaner would the grain be from a modern combine; there didn’t appear to be a great deal of room for improvement.

The Fordson driving the thresher also arrived on the farm after the war, and is thought to have been built in 1942 or 1943. It was originally on steel wheels but was converted due to the many miles it was doing on the road pulling the outfit around farms.

Family photo Patrick and Donal Kearney by the restore machine.
Patrick and Donal Kearney by the restored machine. Michael Fahy’s (centre) father would help work the machine when it first arrived in Ireland

This was its second running since restoration and a small group of family and friends were gathered together for the occasion.

To see the mill running again was a moving occasion for all concerned and a fitting tribute to the hard work and effort that was put into its restoration.

It may also inspire others with hidden gems lying in dusty corners to haul them out and bring them back to life.