[From Manx Soc vol 16, 1869]


This term is used for the finishing of reaping corn, when the last handful is cut; this is bound up with ribbons, and what Wild flowers come readily to hand, and borne by the Queen of the Mheillea, some female favourite of the harvest-field, to the highest part of the land where the reapers express their joy in loud huzzas. On these occasions it is usual for the farmer to provide a supper at which the reapers, young and old, assemble with the family and friends of the " Bigman," all being on that occasion on an equality ; the evening is often concluded with a song or merry dance.

On this custom William Kennish remarks on the person who had the honour of cutting the last handful of corn.

To be the first to cut with friendly hand
The last oat-sheaf the farm that year did yield
To form the maiden in its usual style,
With ribbon-bows and plaited straw-made arms;
Then with a light-heefd skip and playful smile,
Which added beauty to her native charms,
She bore it forth in triumph in her hand,
Leading the shearers to the highest ground,
Where met the rural and the happy band,
Whose hearty cheers did through the air resound;
Proclaiming loudly thus, with three times -three
Expressive cheers, the welcome harvest-home;
Then homeward bend their course in mirthful glee,
Where the brown ale o'ertopp'd the jug with foam,
And hotly pepperd by old thrifty Peg,
With jovial pranks the rusties to inspire."

This festivity is of the most remote antiquity, and may have come down to us from the Jews, who rejoiced and feasted at the getting in of harvest. That extraordinary and unfortunate man, Eugene Aram, wrote an essay on The Mell Supper and Shouting of the Churn, in which he traces them from pagan ceremonies, and are spoken of under various names in different countries, as Mell Supper, Churn Supper, Harvest Supper, Harvest Home, etc.
Herrick, in his Hebrides [sic Hesperides], records the jubilant doings of the " Hock Cart or Harvest Home," where-

-" On the lord's hearth
You shall see, first, the large and chiefe
Foundation of your feast, fat beefe
With upper stories, mutton, veale,
And bacon (which makes fulle the meale),
With several dishes standing by,
And here a custard, there a pie,
And here all-tempting frumentie."


Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001