St Johnston - Carrigans     ~ Co Donegal.

Carrigans Flax Mill

For many years, up to about 1951, there was a flax mill in Carrigans.

It was located where the CCCP complex now stands. It was one of the largest flax mills in Donegal and was owned by the Herdman company. Part of the process of producing linen from the flax plant was known as ‘scutching’. This entailed a machine ‘beating’ the plant, so to make the extraction of the flax fibre possible.

The last manager of Herdmans’ mill was Leo McGurk, who was manager from 1940 to 1951. Among his staff was a local man, called Moses Wray, or more commonly Mosey. Mosey was one of those village bards, numerous throughout the country in days gone by, who although poorly educated, had a talent for composing poetry, mostly based on local people and events.

One of his poems, which he called ‘McGurk’s Scutching Machine’, was written about 1941.

Away down by Carrigans, there's a scutching machine,
The finest oul patent, you ever have seen.
The belts that are on her, they go up and down,
And she scutches more flax than the mills all around.

McGurk, he's the gaffer, a hard working man,
He'll come up to the laft, but he won't let you stand.
The lint is not shuck, it's plain to be seen,
You'll break the wee plate on the scutching machine.

When you go down to the toilet to get a good smoke,
McGurk, he steps in, you'll find it's no joke.
"Come on now, young laddies, will you get up abeen
And get back to your work on the scutching machine."

The season's now finished and the flax is all through,
There's nothing for us now but to join the bru.
But there's one thing, I'll say, and this I do mean.
"To hell with McGurk and his scutching machine."

Many thanks to Phonsie Browne, from St, Johnston, for keeping this poem alive, so that we have it written down for posterity.

Frank McGurk,