"The Miller's Tale"
WORDS AND RHYMES
So - what was Alan, our
Miller, talking about? That might be a question some of us ask
quite often ... ! Joking aside, though, here's what the Miller
was talking about:
the cushion used by the stone
dresser. The stones can become quite hard to lean or sit
on, especially when it can take three days to finish
||a red paint to mark a millstone
||a gear wheel, driven by the large water wheel
||a groove in the millstone
||the high spots in the millstones
When Alan's dressing the stones, he has to stop often to sharpen
the millbill (the chisel). The stones are so hard that
occasionally bits of metal fly off from the bill. In the days of
less health and safety consciousness, the bits could lodge in
the stone-dresser's hands. The more the amount of embedded
metal, the more experience the stone-dresser was deemed to have.
That's why, Alan tells us, before employing a stone-dresser, the
miller would ask him to "show his metal".
Rats love mills. Full of hiding places, and with a ready supply
of food, a mill is probably the equivalent of rat heaven. Sadly,
as carriers of fleas, and indiscriminate in their dietary and
toilet habits, rats aren't the most heavenly of guests. The
rat-catcher came regularly with his dogs to perform the
evictions. The round:
"Three blind mice, three blind mice,
See how they run, see how they run.
They all ran after the farmer's wife
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife.
Did you ever see such a thing in your life
As three blind mice ... three blind mice"
is supposed to refer to the turbulent Tudor times, when Mary,
daughter of King Henry VIII, executed three noblemen accused of
plotting against her and her faith. But maybe the first
inspiration came from the rat-catcher's workas he claimed his
There are a number of ghosts at the Mill. On several occasions,
the Manager, Ant, has been woken by the police, called because a
passser-by has seen an "intruder" in the Mill. But no one has
ever been found. One ghost frequently seen is that of William.
Aged 13, he was working at the Mill, cleaning by the wallower,
when his father engaged the gears. The noise of the machinery
drowned his cries. His little brother, James, aged 4, also
lost his life in the Mill. He had crept in, unknown to his
father. He was playing with his cousin in a grain bin, and
became submerged when grain cleaning began.
A Miller's job isn't all flour, fleas, and phantoms. Sometimes
it's festivities too - a very different, happy tradition.
In May 2007, Alan the Miller performed a ceremonial wedding for
Kirsti Stephenson-Knight and her new husband, Adam Wycherley.
Back to Art Workshop
pictures by Simon John Chambers
Kirsti S-K is Maggie S-K's niece