Today’s post is all about milk churns. Yes! That’s correct! I did say milk churns. And I hope by the end of my dairy inspired ramblings you’ll agree that milk churns should be considered a symbol of Ireland.
But for me, every time I lay eyes on a milk churn, a little quiver of nostalgia ripples through my veins. Milk churns remind me of days now long gone in Ireland.
Actually, the days of milk churns are not all that long gone. I vividly remember my childhood days in County Cork, when milk was delivered to the creamery in churns. Others placed these utilitarian metal cans on specially designed milk stands to await collection at the side of the road.
And let’s face it, I’m not over the hill yet, at half a century young. So the days of milk churns are relatively recent history.
And so, why not join me today as I ramble on with a nostalgic, photographic rigmarole all about churns.
I haven’t used the word ‘rigmarole’ in years, but it came to me all of a sudden as I wrote this paragraph. ‘Rigmarole’ was a favorite term in Ireland when I was a little girl. It means a “succession of confused, meaningless, or foolish statements.” I probably could use it more often to describe some of my rambling blog posts.
Anyways on with my churn filled rigamarole or rigmarole, however you like to spell it.
Milk Churns or Milk Cans or Creamery Cans?
How exactly you name these milk collection vessels depends on the part of Ireland or the world you may hail from.
In Cork we always said churn, but I have since heard the term “creamery can” on my frequent visits north to County Donegal.
Milk can is the favored term in Kentucky, but whatever you may call these milk holders, they were a vital commodity for farming folks years and years ago.
Buckets were used to collect milk as the cows were milked each morning and evening. When a bucket was full, its contents were tipped into the collection churn, so that the complete yield of the herd could be transported to the creamery, the place where milk was collected from local farmers.
Creamery is a the term used for these dairy collection spots in Ireland, and I’ve heard this term used in America too. I believe the word ‘dairy’ is more often used in England.
Milk or Churn Stands:
As you drive around the Irish countryside you will notice what appear to be stone seats at the most unusual roadside locations.
At first glance these elevated flat surfaces seem the perfect spot for a little rest, a place to sit and hold a sweetheart’s hand, and watch the world go by.
Stop your romantic day dreaming now. We’re way off base with that theory.
These flat table top structures were designed and built as stands for our beloved churns.
Farmers collected their milk and then transported full churns to designated collection spots.
The full churns were taken away by creamery workers and empty churns placed on the stand for the farmer to pick up in his cart, and start the whole process over.
And in some parts of the country wooden churn stands were called “stillions”.
The Inside Of A Churn:
Have you ever looked inside a churn, inhaled and lived to tell the tale? Any reader who may have sniffed the inside of a churn will immediately know what I’m talking about.
So sorry! I just couldn’t resist stirring those olfactory memories of days gone by.
No matter how well scrubbed a churn may be, the inside will always smell like putrid, sour milk. It is a stench in a class all of its own. It has to be smelled not seen, to be believed.
Whenever we would drive into the wafts of Irish farm scented air when I was little girl, very bad aromas were deemed to “smell like the inside of a churn.”
Anyone who has driven through the Irish countryside in summer will be familiar with the nose tingling scents of Ireland I am referring to.
Churns As Works Of Art:
And as a nation that holds old milk churns dear, what better tribute could there be to our rural ancestors than to display their churns in places of honor all over the countryside.
The lovely flower display above can be found near Clonakilty, County Cork. I just love it.
Many a time my West Cork granny thumbed a lift from town only to arrive home sitting on the back of a cart amongst the churns. Good, good memories of a happy childhood. Perhaps that’s why churns remind me of Ireland.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this little ramble down memory lane, and that you love churns as much as I do.
If you’re a milk lover and Irish you might also enjoy a little glass of scalteen, an Irish whiskey milk punch, as a nightcap.
Perhaps I’m getting a bit carried away with myself calling them emblems of Ireland, but for me they are beloved symbols of a simpler way of Irish life.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
If you enjoyed this post here are some other stories and tributes you might enjoy.