I was looking through Sue Robb’s little book, Recipes From the Farm Kitchen, published some time in the seventies but comprising articles as well as recipes from many years before, when I came across a little piece about the clap-till. I had no idea what one was, but here is Mrs Robb’s explanation:
When the byre was built on as a “clap-till” at the side of the dwelling house, the heat from the kitchen fire acted as central heating for the animals and the contented noise coming from that side of the wall gave the family a feeling of close communication when the weather was wild and stock had to be kept indoors.
Children were padded with flannel and covered with hand knitted stockings, warm caps and woolly gloves, with nailed boots wrapped with fine scarves. This is how thoughtful parents prevented their children from slipping on the frosty surface during the long walk to a wee white-washed school house.
It was just as cold inside the building and when lessons were written on slates with slate pencils, the numbed fingers had little chance to thaw out.
Lessons were mainly concerned with the three Rs, for life in a rural community was a continuous battle for existence and every child old enough to do so had to lend a hand.
A tough life, and I wonder what the children with aspiration to do something other than work on the land were able to escape?