Not Many Wise -

Faith and spirituality in a modern world


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[14] John (Jack) Wales: Earith 1930’s gravel, silage and crows

(John Wales speaking and standing in Earith High Street) Frank Harradine – to make a bit more money from his cows— he used to dig gravel by hand from the old Bedford River just after it comes out through the 7 Holes (bridge).

The Seven Holes Bridge at Earith 1930’s.
The Seven Holes Bridge at Earith 1930’s.

Then it used to dry out, he had a screen, a metal screen, and he used to throw a shovelful at the screen and the gravel stopped this side and then he’d hump it in this wheelbarrow up onto the drove up the top.

He’d milk these cows he had in the field at the top with a barn, and it was one of those made by Garner Thoday, all aeroplane wings and things to make the roof of this thing.
Oh they used to work hard, his wife, she used to pull all the milk up the street on a little wheeled truck and every morning she used to go by our house up to Parren’s Yard, which is now the old people’s home, pulling this churn of milk.

We starting making silage and it used to smell quite bad.
We dug a pit, or I dug a pit, over in the farm there and it ponged all over the village.
Dug the pit down on the side of the road, then put the grass in and then spray it with treacle stuff, it used to get in your clothes and you went home and sat by the fire — oh it did smell!
(The grass came from) over the washes — just over the bridge various fields we had.
Cut with the grass cutter, Little Fen as well.
Remember cutting that with the grass cutter, didn’t get finished so left it there overnight, went back next morning and the water had come up and the water was half way up grass cutter wheels and it was weeks before we could get back on to it.

Four Earith farm labourers hand cutting hay.
Four Earith farm labourers hand cutting hay.

I used to go by the crows when I was a lad to know what time it was, I’d be right down the end of field, hoeing with Dad, there was no spray (chemicals to kill weeds) in those days and all the corn had to be done by hand, rows and rows, thousands of them.

We’d be down there by eight in the morning, a lad of eight or less, but usually I’d notice about 4 o’clock time the crows ’d start coming over and they’d go across to the grass field and I used to say to father “The crows are going home, father” and he’d always say “We’ll have just one more round”.
And he used to do that at lunch time, we used to go home for lunch by bicycle and mother would get lunch for 1 o’clock and it’d get to about 5 minutes to one and I’d say “lunchtime?” and he’d look at his pocket watch and say “We’ll just have one more round” so that meant hoeing round and it would be another half hour before we got home and mother would be moaning.

(Extracts from ‘Keeping Time by the Crows’ University of Cambridge
John Wales retains copyright on original contributions)

John (Jack) Wales

March 2012

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