A feature of the stack yard: stack pillars

12419368_431055223754450_7835287788043450118_oIt isn’t often that we see threshing displays in Scotland which include built stacks of grain to be threshed.  Usually sheaves are delivered on trailers or carts and the sheaves forked from them.

The display at Strathnairn Farmers Association Vintage Rally and Display in 2014 included a stack built on iron stack pillars.  These pillars and their associated framework which linked the pillars together were used for vermin control and also ventilating purposes.

12496310_431055443754428_2704891532918616396_oStack pillars were an important feature of the stackyard in Scotland, and also formed an important part of Scottish implement making from at least the 1850s, with some large makers being well-renowned for them.

Stack pillars were made from a number of materials, depending on what was available locally.  They could be carved from stone, or made at tileworks (which also manufactured troughs for byres and other products).  In these cases, they would be linked together by a framework made of wood, or other materials.

Most frequently, the pillars and their associated framework were made of iron, by local foundries.  Some of these foundries were important makers, also manufacturing a range of different designs of pillars and associated framework to meet the needs of farmers, and also regional differences in stack-making.

12473884_431055903754382_1997250642053217128_o Especially noted makers included Charles D. Young and Co., Edinburgh (one of the earliest exhibitors at the Highland Show in 1852), John Robson, Glasgow (from the mid 1850s), Thomas Perry & Son, Glasgow Young, Peddie & Co., Edinburgh and Glasgow (both from the late 1850s).  Later ones included Thomas Gibson & Son, Edinburgh, Brownlie & Murray, Glasgow, and A. & J. Main, Edinburgh.

A number of these iron pillar makers were also associated with the making of other iron-work for Scottish farms.  For example, Brownlie & Murray, Possil Iron Works, Denmark Street, Glasgow, from the mid 1878s, was also a maker of iron fences, gates, bridges and roofs; the firm later described itself as “structural engineers”.  Another maker, Thomas Gibson & Son described their activities as “iron and wire fence, iron gate, and wire netting manufacturers, wire workers, smiths, engineers and agricultural implement makers’ in 1869.

12491927_431056310421008_5312205373437043277_oSome farms did not use stack pillars. Instead, they used a round circle of stones and boulders which were raised from the surrounding ground.  These remained a fixed feature of the stackyard throughout the year.  They, however, still served, to help to keep the bottom sheaves off the ground.

Stack stones were an important part of the stackyard, but one that we rarely see around the vintage rallies today. But they were also part of the heritage of agricultural implement making in Scotland which should also be celebrated.

The photographs were taken at Strathnairn Farmers Association Vintage Rally and Display, 2014, Aberdeenshire Farming Museum, August 2014, and National Tractor Show, Lanark, 2014

© 2016 Heather Holmes