Daily Archives: November 28, 2009


I found the harvesters in the middle of the road.

Cutting Flax.

This time the 3D steel sculptures are to be found on an A8 Belfast to Larne road roundabout, at Coleman’s Corner. They depict and give tribute to the backbreaking work of the flax harvesters working in the fields to gather flax for the nearby linen mills.

These sculptures were designed by Skelton Rainey, the leisure services department designer for Newtownabbey Borough Council.

This roundabout is sponsored by a local business.

Now I will never have the knowledge of Peter Donegan but I can at least try to share some information about Flax:

Flax is the common name for an annual herb of the Linaceae family, especially members of the genus Linum, and for the fibre obtained from such plants. The stem varies from 60 to 120 cm in length and consists of fibre bundles lying between the outer bark and a woody core. It requires a temperate, moist climate and good soil to flourish, sown around the end of March, the plant starts to bloom at the end of May. Because it is a ‘heavy feeder’, it cannot be grown on the same land year after year and so it is be rotated with other crops.

Most flax matures in 90 to 120 days and usually is ready in August. There are three degrees in the ripening of the flax grown to make linen: green, yellow and brown. The yellow has proved to be the most suitable for fibre production. Flax that is pulled too early -green – produces very fine but weak fibres. On the other hand, in overripe flax – brown – the stems are strong but brittle but produce too high a proportion of undesirable short fibres (‘tow’). When the flax is yellow, the fibres are long and supple, and therefore ideal for further processing.