Irish girl pulling flaxNorthern Ireland flax and linen

In the last couple of centuries flax was an important crop in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.  It was grown for both the fibre that went into production of linen and seed for oil. The seeds mainly went for crushing for oil that was used for paint, varnish, lino and animal feed (which gave the animals lovely glossy coats).  So as to obtain the maximum length of stem and flax fibre when harvested for linen the crop rather than cut it was pulled by hand, the way it had been done since the crop was first grown 6000-10,000 years ago in the middle east. This is demonstrated by a hard-working young Northern Irish Girl pulling flax in 1907. This isn’t how we harvest flax anymore!

WW2 flax

British women workers WW2 landgirls getting in the flax crop
British women workers WW2 landgirls getting in the flax crop

During WW2 Flax was an important crop in the UK for the war effort. Flax was used for making ropes, fabric and parachute harnesses. This harvest was heavy manual work carried out by “landgirls” as shown on the contemporary postcard.

The “linseeds” from the flax were and important energy nutritious food for feeding cattle.