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.

18 thoughts on “Harvesters

  1. Nick

    That’s a rather attractive sculpture. The sickle and the threads of flax are beautifully done.

    Interesting facts about growing flax. So why did people stop using it?

  2. Grannymar Post author

    Nick, I like this one too. Perhaps it is because it is easier to see what the sculpture represents.

    Pure linen involves an enormous amount of after-care and in today’s busy world people are not prepared to spare the time. In my young life most hotels used linen tablecloths and napkins, now it is mostly placemats or wipe-down. When was the last time you sat to a table in a private home, that was covered in linen?

  3. steph

    Beautiful sculpture but pity about it’s location.

    I think it could be a distraction to drivers when approaching the roundabout. It would be better placed near an open stretch of road so that drivers could safely take more time to admire it as a local landmark.

  4. Helen McGinn

    I like it. We have sculptures appearing on roundabouts now too; my favourite is on the road to Loch Lomond when a huge metal structure appears with birds flying overheard. Very cool. x

  5. kenju

    I like that too. I also like linen and have worn it all my life.

    Re Helen’s comment about Loch Lomond, I’ve thought about it all my life when singing a song about it and always wanted to see it someday.

  6. Magpie11

    I love linen….

    Donegan….interesting name..my Italian ancestors and relations were are convinced that their ancestors came from Donegal as carpenters back in history and took their name with them…Donegani..

  7. Grannymar Post author

    Steph – I like the idea of Road art and it gives passengers something to look at instead of the speed the driver is doing.

    Helen – Are they Swans? There is a sculpture like that at Antrim Hospital. Someday when I am passing I will swing by and take a picture.

    Judy – I enjoy the crisp feel of linen, but I hate the creased look after an hour sitting in the outfit. I have been to Loch Lomond a couple of times in different seasons and enjoyed my visits.

    Magpie – We will make an Irish man of you yet! 😉

  8. MountainWoman Silver

    I have just looked at not only the sculpture photographs but the rest of your previous photographs. I am not fond of green, but the landscape especially with the geese was outstanding. Looks like I will have to put Ireland on my places to visit.

  9. Nick

    Flax seeds are also a source of linseed oil, which has medical benefits, is used to oil cricket bats and is also used in paint, putty and woodstain. I’m surprised it was thought no longer of commercial interest. Lots of countries are still producing it, in particular Canada and China.

  10. Grannymar Post author

    Magpie – Everyone has a little drop of Irish blood in them! 😉

    MountainWoman Silver – At this time of year the days are short and temperatures low. Today it was 2°C all day with a fog too lazy to lift. When coming to Ireland, dress like an onion with layers that are easy to peel.

    Nick – I think that the flax produced here in Northern Ireland was all used for table & bed linen and for shirt making. I am guessing that perhaps it had something to do with the particular type of flax produced, or the weather conditions it was produced in.

  11. wisewebwoman

    Interesting sculptures, I love such tributes to forgotten trades or that considered menial work.
    I inherit quite a lot of linen shirts from a well to do patron and I agree GM, they look like a dog’s breakfast after an hour of lounging about and standing strictly at attention is very tiresome in social surroundings.

  12. Baino

    Long before the British entertained the idea of sending convicts to Australia it was considered an economically viable colony which would be suitable for the growing of flax! There bet you didn’t know that. Then they discovered New Zealand of course which was even better for flax due to the cooler climate. Now if they could make linen that didn’t crumple . . . .

  13. Grannymar Post author

    WWW – I too like to be able to sit on my shirt tail. 😉

    Baino – You are correct, I did not know about flax growing in Australia or indeed in New Zealand either!

  14. Grannymar Post author

    Magpie – Talk to WWW, she might strike a bargain! 😉

    Judy – There are still some more to discover and photograph.

  15. gaelikaa

    Interesting………there is an old man living on the same road as me, a retired doctor who was in the Indian army many moons ago, as far back as the British times (he’s really elderly!). I visited his house one day with the kids, who were invited to the birthday party of his grandson. And would you believe, he had the most interesting thing to show me? A beautiful, cherished piece of table linen which he had purchased when he visited Ireland in 1957 or thereabouts. I was amazed to see that!


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