Baskets and Cereal Grinding. Outer Hebrides

Various woven containers are associated with grinding cereals, whether by hand or in the Norse Mills.

1.Woven sacks or ‘seic’. These were made of ropes of rushes.

Various freestanding containers made of docken stalks, straw and marram grass

2. ‘Sasag’, a container for meal waiting to be sieved. 4′ wide and 9″ high.

3.’Loban’, used for holding rough meal(‘garbhann’). Made of straw, smaller than sasag.

4. ‘Rusgan’, used for holding husks(‘cath’). wide brimmed.

5. ‘Ciosan’, a compact small basket . Made with marram grass.

The rotary quern was used for grinding cereals up until the early decades of the twentieth century in parts of the Isle of Lewis. This consisted of two circular stones with an eye at the centre. The upper stone was rotated using a wooden handle that was embedded towards the outer edge. The person using the quern turned the stone with one hand and fed the grain into the eye of the upper stone using the other hand. Sometimes a small basket, a ‘ciosan-bafair’, was used for this.

Marram grass sacks were used in Uist to dry the grain before milling. The barley sheaves were placed in the sacks and then the sacks were hung over and open fire. This was before kilns were used. Kilns began to be used from the early eighteenth century.

Dawn Susan


The Norse Mills of Lewis    Finlay MacLeod

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