The 1796 Spinning Wheel List


The 1796 Spinning Wheel List
by Karen Walker

Pursuant to the Scheme offered for encouraging the Growth of Flax throughout the Kingdom, to the Person who shall sow a quantity of land with a sufficient quantity of good sound Flax, shall be so furnished the following:

For not less than 5 Acres, 5 Spinning Wheels

Five spinning wheels have spun well for an old man and his five sons in County Armagh.

At supper, he declares the flax can spare one boy. But neither the straightest nor the tallest of the crop. He points to Abraham. ‘You will wear clean britches and a coat — blue like a flax flower — and sit with the schoolmaster and books.’ The other brothers, straighter and taller, twist in their chairs and cross their tanned arms. Faces are stony but, to please their father, they mumble it is good that one among them be planted out in the world.


For not less than 2 Roods, 2 Spinning Wheels

In County Down, a young man twists his beard at the prospect of two spinning wheels, at the prospect of a new waistcoat and the fancy blue china in the shop window.

He says to his wife: ‘Oh, Providence! I will turn your garden under and plant flax. You must tie up the beast.’

Providence, indeed. Agnes has birthed two babes. They wail as she lies in a hut on the edge of a steep, untamed slope. At the bottom — among the brambles she has cleared, eating the cabbages she has planted — is a thin cow. Its milk feeds the infants when she cannot.


For not less than 1 Rood, 1 Spinning Wheel

There is a spinning wheel for sale in County Cork. A serviceable cooking pot and a kettle too.

A weary man and a weary woman sell them to a merchant in the village before they sail to cold, blue Halifax. The pot and the kettle are blackened, but the wheel has never spun.

The land provided round, mournful stones — the man and the woman piled them into cairns over young James and Bridget and a stillborn girl, unnamed — but it grew a poor crop. Flax with yellow stalks and flower buds that never bloomed.

Karen writes short fiction and prose poetry in a basement. Her work is in or forthcoming in Ghost City Press, Scapegoat Review, Reflex Fiction, Bullshit Lit, Briefly Zine, The Ekphrastic Review, Five Minute Lit, Versification, Paragraph Planet, and others. She/her. @MeKawalker883

Photograph of flax by Nennieinszwiedrei via pixabay.