Winter and the festive season provide a host of quirky events. There are Boxing Day dips in the North Sea, an annual village cricket match between Malham and Appletreewick often played in snow and then there’s a ‘thrash’ of a different kind in Welwick near Patrington in the East Riding on December 27.
‘The Christmas Threshing’ began as the Christmas Crank-Up in 1992 and is run by an enthusiastic and committee-dodging group called the Holderness Threshermen. The Thresh takes place on Paul Clappison’s Haverfield Farm and sees Mick Wilkin, farmer at nearby Elder Lodge take charge.
“We get somewhere between 200-300 people every year. It’s a social event that brings us all together, raises funds for charity and the threshing is with a Ransome Medium 54-inch drum and an Oliver 90 tractor. Last year we threshed a heap of wheat with some of the grinding corn providing two bags of wholemeal flour. It was Paul’s wheat and the variety was Leeds.
“We don’t have or want a committee, all we do is pick up the phone and people come for the craic and the thrash. It’s a good way of blowing away cobwebs after Christmas and we also organise a little tractor run led by pipe smoker Alec Lyons. If it’s snowing as it was one year it’s definitely not something for the faint hearted.
“Threshing was a regular autumn and winter activity until combine harvesters came along. My great-grandfather James Wilkin was a threshing contractor. He started going around farms in Holderness in 1909. I remember us threshing in the 1950s and finishing in 1960.
“The threshing machine we use for The Christmas Threshing is one I purchased from the Dyson family in the village of Preston. It started its working life a stone’s throw from Haverfield at Newlands in 1936. Threshing would take place as and when grain and straw was wanted, which is why it wouldn’t have been uncommon to see threshing take place at Christmas.”
Fundraising for charity comes through monies offered for refreshments, a raffle and a mini-auction. Since 1992, more than £27,500 has been raised.
Chris Rooks of Rolston, a retired nurse whose husband Jeffrey worked on farms in Holderness is involved with the event’s “catering corps”.
“Whoever turns up gets given a job. It was Mick’s wife Jean who first roped me in. There’s a lot of carrying and fetching to be done and the event just keeps growing.
“It’s only 10am-3pm but we attract people from as far as Scarborough, Lincolnshire and the West Riding. We get through quite a bit of bacon, soup and bread rolls.
“While most of us here today are of a certain age we had some 16-17-year-olds threshing last year too.”
The Christmas Threshing spawned from the Welwick Heritage Weekend that started at Bernard and Mary Blashill’s Moat Farm in Welwick in 1989. Bernard died in a road traffic accident but Mary carried on hosting the weekend until 2014 when the Holderness Threshermen took it on at a new venue close by. Mick was involved with the first heritage weekend alongside Bernard.
“I remember one Saturday dinnertime Bernard rang and said the church was putting on a heritage weekend and they wanted a few engines on display for when people were coming out of church. We had a threshing machine with the drum turning over and that was the start of Bernard’s time when he became known as The Welwick Relic. What he and Mary did by hosting the event for so many years saw charity fundraising of over £100,000.
“The best thing of all with old machinery is to see it actually working and that’s what we did and still do now.”
The Holderness Threshermen have continued what started at Moat Farm. They now run the weekend in October, which this year included a tractor run, classic car run and vintage ploughing; as well as The Christmas Threshing.
“We’re already looking for something different to provide another unique attraction for 2017. We don’t spend money though, so if you’re an enthusiast with something really great from years ago let us know. You could be the star for next year.”
MOVE TO MACHINERY SPARKED RIOTS
Paul Clappison has hosted The Christmas Threshing at Haverfield since 2008. His parents moved to the farm in 1955.
“The first year they were here everything went through the threshing machine. The second year it went half to the threshing machine and half through the combine, after that it was all combined.”
The first threshing machine was manufactured by Scotsman Andrew Meikle in 1786. Threshing was the first power driven way of separating grain from corn. The Swing Riots in 1830 are alleged to have starteddue to farm workers rebelling over threshing machinery taking place of manpower.