November 1, 2008

Northumbrian milking machine tales: Modern Contraptions and Young Upstarts

Byres, hemmels, shippons and mistles - milking machine tales
by Jack Dent (2005)

When I was fitting, I installed a weird contraption on a farm just outside Hexham; it was called a Runway Parlour and was very successful. First I suspended a runway track around the cowshed, and from it I suspended a cradle which supported a standard 10-gallon milk churn. The churn had a flat lid with a pulsator and inlet spigots. The vacuum pipe was also mounted on the runway and the cows were milked through the back legs.

Nothing new in that you may say, but remember this was 1953 and the milk was taken in a metal churn to the dairy and cooled with rotary turbo coolers which was a very efficient system.

I worked on a farm in the East Riding of Yorkshire and it was not a happy place as there was continual conflict between the farmer and his three sons. The lads had threatened to go on strike if he didn’t get a milking machine, and he was much against such newfangled things as he couldn’t see how they could be as clean as hand milking. All the time I was working there he kept coming into the cowshed and telling me that if it didn’t work right, I could take the damned thing away as it was going to be most uncomfortable for the cows.

However, I completed the installation, which was quite a big one for 40 cows. We milked for the first time on a Wednesday night and everything went off smoothly. I think that the cows were pleased that the old man was not there creating the bad atmosphere that constantly accompanied him.

Next morning we milked again and that was the end of my tutelage. I was gathering up my tools ready to depart when he stormed into the cowshed waving a letter. He was waving his stick at me too and I thought I was about to be attacked. He shouted – “I bloody told you, so take the bugger out of here, and give me my money back”.

I finally got him to tell me what the problem was and he said – “Look at this letter from the dairy. My milk has failed the test, and in over 40 years I have never had any milk sent back. It’s a damned disgrace. I knew it would happen, but I let them bloody lads take me into it, and now look what’s happened!”

But my reaction was one of great relief and I’m afraid, and I didn’t endear myself to the old boy as I burst out laughing – the result I’m sure of the relief! I had great pleasure in pointing out to the old chap that the milk, which had been extracted by machine, was still on the milk stand waiting for the lorry to pick it up!

I thought the old bloke was going to have a fit. He was absolutely stunned and turned around and went across the yard muttering about modern contraptions and young upstarts.

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