Tuesday Dec. 29, 2020’s Smile of the Day: The Threshing Machine

On this Day:

In 1834, John Avery and Hiram Abial Pitts were granted United States patent #542 on December 29, 1837 for devising the first steam powered machine that automatically threshes and separates grain from chaff, freeing farmers from a slow and laborious process. 

A threshing machine or a thresher is a piece of farm equipment that threshes grain, that is, it removes the seeds from the stalks and husks. It does so by beating the plant to make the seeds fall out.

Before such machines were developed, threshing was done by hand with flails: such hand threshing was very laborious and time-consuming, taking about one-quarter of agricultural labour by the 18th century. Mechanization of this process removed a substantial amount of drudgery from farm labour.

The first threshing machine was invented circa 1786 by the Scottish engineer Andrew Meikle, and the subsequent adoption of such machines was one of the earlier examples of the mechanization of agriculture. During the 19th century, threshers and mechanical reapers and reaper-binders gradually became widespread and made grain production much less laborious.

Modern day combine harvesters (or simply combines) operate on the same principles and use the same components as the original threshing machines built in the 19th century. Combines also perform the reaping operation at the same time. The name combine is derived from the fact that the two steps are combined in a single machine. Also, most modern combines are self-powered (usually by a diesel engine) and self-propelled, although tractor powered, pull type combines models were offered by John Deere and Case International into the 1990s (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

What did the farmer say when he found out his son had chosen a career in finance rather than taking over the family wheat farm?  He’s going against the grain.

Second, a Song:

Foster and Allen are a musical duo from Ireland consisting of Mick Foster and Tony Allen. In their 40-year career, they have released over 30 albums, many of which entered the UK Albums Chart. Along with “A Bunch of Thyme” (entering the Irish chart in 1979 and becoming their first No. 1 single), “Maggie” became a No. 1 in New Zealand for four weeks, making the two songs their signature tunes. They started in the 1970s as a duo, but in 1982 they added a band to their show. They have achieved album and video sales in excess of 22 million worldwide.

Foster and Allen began in 1975 when they were playing in country music bands around Ireland. Soon after they formed a small group and went over to the UK to work the Irish music venues on a short tour. At this stage they had the idea of working together as a duo, playing easy listening music with traditional Irish instrumentals.

When their UK tour finished, they decided to let the band return to Ireland whilst they stayed behind to try to break into the public eye. They played several venues in the London area and the reaction was favourable; they decided to remain as a duo, and Foster and Allen was formed. After a time working around the circuit in the UK and Ireland, they released their first single, “The Rambles of Spring”. This made an impact on the Irish market and Foster and Allen were soon in demand for cabaret venues all over Ireland.

At the end of 1979, Foster and Allen released the single, “A Bunch of Thyme” in Ireland, and it entered the Irish chart. Despite the romance and charm of the music and lyrics the song is in reality a warning to young women to protect their virginity. The girl in the song ultimately ignores the warnings and becomes infected with syphilis. It became their first number one single, and stayed on the chart for 40 weeks. It was not until 1982 that this single was released in the UK. It was played by all the radio stations in Britain, and peaked at No. 18 in the UK Singles Chart. At the time, Foster and Allen were in the United States on a tour. They were contacted and told to fly back to the UK to appear on BBC Television’s Top of the Pops.

Demand for Foster and Allen’s services at venues all over Ireland and the UK increased. They released another single, “Old Flames”, which peaked at No. 51 in the UK chart. They undertook their first concert tour of the UK in 1983, and this tour was boosted by the release of another single “Maggie”. This reached No.27 in the UK Singles Chart and became a No.1 in New Zealand for four weeks.

Foster and Allen have toured Ireland, the UK, the US, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. They have also had their own TV series on RTÉ Television in Ireland (per Wikipedia).

Here are Foster and Allen performing “The Old Threshing Mill”.   I hope you enjoy it!


Thought for the Day:

“An editor is someone who separates the wheat from the chaff and then prints the chaff.” – Adlai Stevenson 

Have a great day!

© 2020 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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