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Gorticashel Flax-scutching Mill

Click here to enlarge. Gorthicashel Flax-scutching MillScutching is the process of extracting linen fibres from flax stems.  Working in a scutch mill was a highly dangerous occupation. Scutchers were at risk from machinery that could not be stopped quickly in an emergency; the air was thick with unhealthy dust and there was an ever-present danger of fire. On at least two occasions this mill was seriously damaged by fire.

The process was originally done by hand, but was mechanised during the second half of the 18th century. Scutch mills were sited on suitable rivers in flax-growing areas.  First the flax crop would be pulled by hand (cutting would result in shorter fibres), retted (softened and partially rotted by immersion in still water) and dried.  

Then the flax would be taken to the scutching mill and passed through cogged rollers to break up the outer layer and the woody core. The first scutcher would guide the bundle of flax stems into the path of the spinning scutching blades to remove  unwanted material. The next scutcher woild repeat the process with the blades at a finer setting until all the unwanted material was removed and a bundle of flax fibres was left.

Scutching was an autumnal activity. Flax was pulled in July/August, retted for six to eight weeks and then dried. Mills would collect the flax from the locality and scutch the lot, fitting the work conveniently around other farm work. Since it was an indoor job it could be done once the year's outside work was completed, giving the mill owner the advantage of a cash-earning activity during the autumn and winter.

Original Location: Gorticashel townland, Gortin, County Tyrone