Did you play with home-made toys? Did your Dad mend your shoes for you? Did you play with hoops, or whips and tops? Tell us your story.
Children had daily chores, just like the grown-ups ... but they managed to find fun in them!
At the beginning of October there was a week off from school and it was always referred to as the potato picking week. I was too young to take part but my sister Mabel and brothers Jack and Tom used to join in.
In the 1930’s there was a farm on the hill above Greenside which was Kyo. There was one particular field which the farmer always seemed to use for his potatoes; you just turn off the Coal Burns road to the left and at the first bend the field was directly in front of you.
The first job was to clear the field of haulms and these were made into a nice bonfire – the farmer wanted to eradicate any diseases which may be in the partly rotten stalks. Each picker had to take his own bucket.
The tractor had a power take off and this was fitted with a disc which had curved tines and with this rotating it was lowered into the mound where the potatoes had been ‘happed up’ as we used to say. With the disc rotating it was lowered into the ground and the tractor driven down the row and the potatoes were scooped out of the ground; the pickers then filled their buckets, which were emptied into sacks.
At the end of the day, each bucket was filled with potatoes for the workers to take home. At the end of the week, the pay for the workers was usually about 12 shillings and 6 pence.
As I was not allowed to go picking, my job was to take the lunch, which consisted of sandwiches and a can of tea, which by the time I had walked the one and a half miles was quite cool.
In our house we had an apple barrel under the sink and all the potatoes were loaded into it and together with my father’s crop saw us right through the winter and into the spring.
In our family, the money made was used to buy clothing for the winter.
In the village of Greenside where I was born and lived until I was about 10, the largest farmer was a Frank Lowrison. Every year [webmin: in the 1930s] he would fertilise his fields with fish meal and it stunk the village out for about a week.
He grew peas commercially and when they were ready, word would be given out that on a certain night there would be pea picking in a certain field. Possibly about 20/30 children would assemble and we would be formed into a line across the field.
Frank would sit on a chair away in front and we were instructed how to pick up the pea plant and strip off the pods and as we picked we would be advancing towards him. He used to sit there with his eagle eye on us to ensure that we didn’t eat them as we were doing the picking.
The picked peas would be sacked up behind us. At the end of the session we had to assemble at his farm which could be as far as a mile to a mile and a half away to receive our ‘earnings’. In my case it was a penny and a half penny. But as we were poor this would go to our mum to help with the family budget.
"There was an old man used to say: any fathead could plough.... but it took a good man to harrow." i wonder if he is the same mr. gate who farmed at mosedale at the foot of carrock fell when i was a boy and later moved to shap. [webmin: Yes he is!] i have fond memories of being allowed to drive the horse drawn hay cart and eating mrs. gates' salty rock buns in the hayfield washed down with billy cans of scalding tea.
i remember vividly sitting on a huge black leather and horseshair couch in the big kitchen with its slate floor and rag mats. there were rocks sticking out of the walls that had been papered over. there was a distinctive smell of shitty clogs by the door and sock feet, something entirely missing from the asceptic way we live today. mrs. gates served a giant crock of boiled potatoes with hunks of cold beef, no vegetables, just tea and cake to follow.
especially i remember ‘rap’ the blue grey and white top dog. he would run for miles behind the tractor with his nose just inches from the spinning wheels. i guess he was just another farm dog (you have probably heard the wry tale about the cumbrian farmer who said "that dog nearly broke my heart when i had to shoot him because he was too old to work") but for a little lad from the city he was something very special.
in the cobbled yard on the west side of the road there was a huge grindstone and a turnip mangler, both hand cranked. the mangle was in regular use to chop turnips ('neeps' as thy are eloquently known where i lived later in burns country) to feed sheep. there was also a device like a barbed dagger that could be plunged into the hay stacked in the dutch barn to check if it was fermenting and getting hot enough to self ignite. jack told me to stop using it "or there’ll be nee hay left come winter".
the farm had a big radio that was driven off accumulator cells. these had to be taken to penrith on market day to be recharged off mains electricity. one time whoever had been to market had forgotten to take the cells which got them an expression of displeasure from the matriarch.
the wet weather gear on the farm fascinated me. a hessian tattie sack would have its corner inverted to form a pixie hood to protect the head and form a cape over the shoulders. thomas was often seen clacking about the farm in his clogs with one of these on his head.
there's lots more: calf feeding, gathering bracken for litter, the landslide into the river, skimming the cream in the kitchen dairy, the night they let me sleep in the house, damming the water sluice to cool the churns, driving sheep back up the fell and watching with horror as teddy threw a "brokken moothed auld yow" on her back to perform some emergency dentistry with his thumbs. thanks for bringing back all those memories.
Girls' games went in and out of fashion at different times of year; one time it would be hoops (we used to practise spinning them round our waists), then next week, nobody knew why, we'd all be desperate for whips and tops to thrash round the school playground. Or there would be a craze for being able to hand-stand against the wall, with our flouncy skirts tucked into our knickers. Just as well the boys' playground had a high brick wall between them and us. (1960’s)