Friday 29 April 2011

Y is for Yoke – that is what Y is for ...

A tradesman delivering goods with a yoke
at the turn of the 1900s

When I looked I got directed to the beast of burden – the ox ... but the frame of wood – the yoke – early on had been used by man as a carrying frame.  The lightweight willow yoke fits across the shoulders, transferring the weight from the arms to the shoulders, making it easier to carry than by hand, as it keeps the containers away from the legs.

These pieces of rural farming equipment would have been essential in the fields, woods, or even on the sea shore ... the containers carrying milk pails or possibly maple syrup buckets in North America, and through the centuries adapted to each ‘modern’ way of life.

The early containers would have hung from twine or rope, then chain metal became available and would have made stronger fixings ... the baskets too changed over time – willow baskets of various shapes, hide buckets, before metal (tin) pails came into being.

Lovingly and beautifully hand planed, carved wooden yokes – giving the family a thing of beauty to be treasured, by caring for the wood, for its many years of work ahead ... each pair of containers appropriate to the job at hand .. .

... seed containers, fruit or vegetable ones, fish baskets, delivery baskets, milk, water, or used in industry ... hoisting coal, rubble and minerals ... even livestock and small animals transported along the highways and byways of the land.

Milkmaid's Yoke from Easdale Island Folk Museum, Oban Argyle
These yokes with their containers were man’s workhorse for the many tasks that life demanded for centuries ... smaller jobs, specialised jobs that were more appropriate to be done by hand through the use of these ‘hanging baskets’.

The yoke would be approximately 40” across, sitting on the shoulders, with a cut-out for the back of the neck, permitting heavier loads to be carried with less chance of spillage.

In an age where “time is money” ... there is now no longer a place for something that was labour intensive and long lasting ... perhaps the “milkmaid’s yoke” is now only of historical interest ... we do have the wheel ... but it’s good to remember!

This is a Yoke  –  that is what Y is for ..

Part of the ABC - April 2011 - A - Z Challenge - Aspects of the British Countryside

Milkmaid's Yoke from Easdale Island Folk Museum

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

PS .. I'll be Wedding Watching today .. back tomorrow ...  Cheers!!


India Drummond said...

These days, few things are labour intensive and long lasting... I think that's why I like books. They're both. =)

Talli Roland said...

I remember the first yoke I saw - it was brightly painted red wood, and holding together massive oxen! Interesting to learn some of the history behind them.

I'm over here 'coz my blog has gone missing

Short Poems said...

What beautiful choices for Y, Hilary!

Sara said...


I hope you enjoyed the wedding:~)

I liked this "Y" post. It's almost a shame that we don't use modernized yoke, especially considering how much most people carry -- laptops, books etc. Yokes might balance the weight better and cause less shoulder or back pain.

Hey, just one more letter!!! Are you planning on celebrating:~)

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I could use a good yoke to help with the wood. Or not. LOL.

Happy wedding watching, Hilary.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ India .. what a wonderful comment and I'd absolutely agree with you .. it is 'horrid' how ephemeral a great deal of human life is .. Now books that's a different story ..

@ Karen .. yoke for oxen too .. but the yellow of an egg is an yolk (or a yolk) .. ze English and their spelling!!

@ Marinela .. glad you enjoyed the 'Y' ..

@ Sara .. brilliant to see you here .. well yes and no - there's a story attached .. a blog post for next week I think!

You're right re a modernized yoke .. I certainly could do with one when I walk back from town with the shopping!

I know - Zed tomorrow morning .. fun - no I don't think so .. I am pleased I've done all ABC - Zs - but normality prevails. I might pop over for a glass of champers if you're on ....?

@ Joylene .. ah - help for the wood .. yes I'm sure the yoke did that too ..

Yes - watched The Wedding with my Mama .. and now am going to watch the highlights in peace ..

Cheers everyone .. it seemed a really happy Wedding Day .. enjoy your weekend .. Hilary

vered said...

You're going through this challenge effortlessly!

Southpaw said...

I've seen those milkmaids yokes used in old movies.

Mason Canyon said...

It's a shame that youngsters today have no idea how important the yoke was at one time. Great reminder, enjoyed your post.

Thoughts in Progress

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Where we live now we see the occasional Amish farmer with a horse in a yoke working the fields.


A good Y word, enjoyed your writing of it.
Yes a good wedding wasn't it.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Vered .. it's been fun .. so it has sort of gone along quite easily .. really appreciate the comment.

@ Holly .. that's a good point about the movies .. they are shown or were used occasionally ..

@ Mason .. people are going back into crafts .. but as you say I can't see the yoke coming back. Thanks - glad you enjoyed it ..

@ Sharon .. interesting to read the yoke is used with a horse in the field .. oxen are still worked that way too ..

@ Yvonne .. thanks - I enjoyed writing about it .. something I hadn't really thought about ..

The Wedding was good wasn't it ..

Thanks everyone .. good to see you .. now onto Z! Cheers - Hilary

Anonymous said...

Goodness it looks so heavy and hard. I get shoulder and neck ache just thinking about it. It amazes me how people can carry such heavy loads atop their heads too.

Wasn't the Royal Wedding lovely? And the sun decided not to outshine the bride :O)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Madeleine .. it does doesn't it look terribly heavy .. but then people were much stronger then .. and walked everywhere etc

Then again as you say carrying buckets of water on their heads as the Africans do .. looks so uncomfortable .. and with their arm holding it there ..

Yes - the Wedding was beautiful .. a real British affair .. and the sun making its presence felt a little .. I thoroughly enjoyed it ..

Cheers Hilary

MunirGhiasuddin said...

When I was a little girl, I always wondered as to why people carried a "balance " across their shoulders. I should have asked some one. Now I know that it is a "Yoke" and it is made for some purpose. Thanks for the info.
My husband woke up early in the morning to watch the "Wedding" yesterday. He has special attachments with the affairs in England as he lived in England for eight years. I lived there for two. The Wedding was beautiful and I hope that the couple lives to be an old old couple.God Bless:)

Anonymous said...

I have seen some of these family embellished yokes in museums. Some were very colorful. I remember seeing a sky blue and white one with small flowers painted on it.

I can see how this would instill pride in one's work, and make the workday a little easier.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Talli .. your comment got sent to Spam .. knew I had one from you - so have retrieved it .. Thank Goodness you're back up and running again ..

The description of one on the net from the States/Canada .. was painted red - so must have been a 'normal' colour to use ..

@ Munir .. did you actually see them in India - wonderful addition to the post and comment mix in general .. thanks!!

Ah - the Wedding .. so pleased you both enjoyed the pageantry and the day .. they look happy and realise their future - quite daunting .. definitely not a fairy tale!!

Good to read that from you ...

@ Stephen .. how beautiful the care they must have taken with the yokes .. and wonderful they are preserved in Museums ..

Did you read what Munir said in her comment above ..?

If we value something we then take pride in it .. and as you say we enjoy using our pride and joy?!

Cheers Talli, Munir and Stephen .. thanks so much for coming by .. Hilary

Amy @ Soul Dipper said...

Just to add to your list of yokes, there's the yoke on a dress. Speaking of dress, I stayed up all night to watch the wedding live.

In summary, I believe William has chosen well! I am certain they are in love. Yeay!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Amy .. yes, of course, the dress yoke .. which is a balance within the garment .. good one.

Ah the dress and That Wedding .. it was lovely I thoroughly enjoyed a great deal of it .. though I missed some ..

and yes - I think they have both chosen well .. there's a lot of positive energy there and understanding, which is so great to see ..

Thanks - good for you staying up and watching .. it was worth it .. cheers Hilary