The crowdy-crawn is said to have originated from a tool used for gathering or measuringgrain. According to one authoritative observer, the Irish bodhrán was derived from the "riddle," an agricultural tool used for sifting coarse material from harvested grain: "most [bodhráns] were made out of sieves and riddles, you know, for riddling corn, they just removed the wire, and used the frame." As a "riddle drum", the instrument is also known from Dorsetshire and Wiltshire in England. A book on English agricultural hand tools depicts a riddle with a beech frame 28 inches in diameter from Leicestershire, England, and Scotsman Osgood Mackenzie stated that he "never saw a wire riddle for riddling corn or meal in the old days; they were all made of stretched sheep-skins with holes perforated in them by a big red-hot needle", suggesting a cosmopolitan origin for the musical instrument.
When not in use in the field, the crowdy-crawn was used to store odds and ends in homes: "In old country house-keeping in West Cornwall, odd things, all worth saving, but for which no special place on the wall, shelf, chimney board, or dresser was provided, were tidied away into the "crowdy-crawn"; a sieve-rind with a bottom of stretched sheep-skin, serving on occasion also as a tambourine for dancers, but originally meant as a corn-measure." The term is also used modernly to describe a gathering of people for Cornish culturalstorytelling, lace-making, quilting, spinning and other traditional activities.
^William Bottrell: Stories and Folk-lore of West Cornwall, Third Series; Penzance: F. Rodda, 1880, p. 18: "...some of the merry company ... beat up the time on a "crowd" (sieve-rind with a sheepskin bottom, used for taking corn, flour, etc.)..."
^Meabh O'Hare: Seamus O'Kane - Bodhrán - Ceird an cheoil, a documentary aired on July 23, 2008 on BBC Northern Ireland examining the place of the bodhran in Irish music over the last 50 years, following bodhrán maker Seamus O'Kane through the various stages of his work; this statement is in Part 1 of 5, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIXuL4IU2Hk, accessed 16 Feb 2012.
^Mark Heiman, Loomis House Press: FTX-408 - Dorset is Beautiful, Village Traditions - Dorset, http://folktrax-archive.org/menus/cassprogs/408dorset.htm, April 2009; "Andrew had his own "Riddle Drum", a calfskin over a large farm sieve, which was used to accompany local melodeon players. It was beaten with a double-ended stick, then, particularly during step-dancing, it was vibrated by wetting the thumb and running it across the head of the drum. (15 years later the same type of drum started to be used by Irish players, and now, as "The Bodhran" it is mistakenly regarded as a uniquely Irish folk instrument!)"
^Roy Brigden: Agricultural Hand Tools, Volume 100 of Shire Library, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, U.K., 1983, p. 26.