The Dairy Maid
The dairy maid managed
the dairy and her duties included milking the cows and making butter and cheese,
as well as ice cream in the summer. She also looked after the poultry and
collected the eggs. In some houses, she plucked the chickens and prepared
them for the oven and also made the bread for the household.
The dairy maid’s day began early, as cows had to be milked regularly, usually at 6.30 am and again at 6pm. Having milked the cows, she then strained the milk and emptied it into a clean pan. The milk pails were heavy when full and were carried with the aid of a shoulder yoke. Every day, the dairy maid had to clean and scald the milk pans, separator, strainer and milk buckets, and scrub the dairy. Cheese was made using a cheese press and tools such as a curd cutter and curd strainer.
usually made once a week in the winter and twice a week in summer. Butter-making
was a skilled job, and churning the butter required a strong set of
arms. Houses like
O. Sharkey 1999, p.30
Dairy Maids at
We know very
little about the dairy maids at
As dairy maids were at the bottom level of the servant hierarchy, they were generally quite badly paid. Dairy maids at the de Vesci house at Abbeyleix, for example, were paid only ₤5 13s 9d in 1805, compared to the ₤45 a year paid to the cook. ‘The Complete Servant’, published in 1825, recommended that dairy maids should be paid between ₤8-12 a year. Some compensation for these low wages came from the fact that dairy maids worked outside, away from the steamy kitchens and the watchful eye of the housekeeper or cook.