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A snippet from my volunteer work on the ‘Dedicated Naturalist’ Project, helping to decipher and digitise, record and publicise the life’s work of naturalist extraordinaire, Dr Mary Gillham. This piece is from Mary’s days as a Land Girl during the Second World War and is, it seems, ‘a dairying student’s concept of a cow’.

A cow is a completely automatic milk manufacturing machine. It is encased in untanned leather and mounted on four movable vertical supports, one on each corner.


The front end contains the cutting and grinding machine, as well as headlights, air inlet and exhaust, and bumper and foghorn. At the rear is the dispensing apparatus and an automatic fly swatter.

The central portion houses a hydrochemical conversion plant. This consists of four fermentation and storage tanks connected in series by an intricate network of flexible plumbing. This section also contains the heating plant complete with automatic temperature controls, pumping station and main ventilating system. The waste processing and disposal apparatus is located at the rear of this central section.

In brief, the external visible features are: two lookers, two hookers, four stander-uppers, four hanger-downers and a swishy-wishy.

There is a similar machine known as a bull which should not be confused with a cow. It produces no milk but has other interesting features. 

For the full story about the Mary Gillham Archive Project, check out our website, and follow our progress on Facebook and on Twitter.