[1] John (Jack) Wales: Earith early years, born 1925

Earith lies next to the River Great Ouse and where the artificial Old Bedford River starts (cut in 1630 to drain the Great Level in the Fens).
Earith is 11 miles from Huntingdon and 15 miles from Cambridge.
It has the remains of an English Civil War fort known as the Earith Bulwark.
The A1123 main road next to the River Great Ouse can become flooded and impassable after a period of very heavy rainfall.
See a children’s activity club that ran from 2007 to 2012 Earith Storykeepers.

I can remember meeting John Wales when we used to meet up to organise the Remembrance Service at St Mary’s Parish Church.

He used to come round to our house and every time he would be telling us stories of his army days in the Black Watch and his early life in Earith village.

So one day I suggested getting some of these stories written down and put on this website.
He agreed and here we have a random selection of his jottings and from a small booklet that was published.

All of these pages reveal what life was like in a rural village in the 1930’s and 1940’s and a bit beyond.

When John was doing his Remembrance duties, I can see him with a British Forces officer’s cane and he would ‘herd’ the uniformed youngsters with it.

He looked quite stern, but he had a gentle heart and when he read the names of the fallen soldiers he would hide a tear coming from his eyes.

I remember one story when he was in the Home guard and the troop were on a training exercise and he had to miss it because he was ill.
A soldier took John’s place in the training which involved swimming across a river with a certain piece of equipment and unfortunately the replacement drowned.
John took this very badly, thinking that he had failed the group.

[Written by John Wales while in the 3rd form at Huntingdon Grammar School]

Introducing Earith

My surroundings, Earith High Street in the 1930’s.

I was born in the hamlet of Earith, which is on the extreme eastern border of Huntingdonshire.

It’s population comprises of about five to six hundred people, most of which are farmers and labourers.

Earith has no church of its own, but shares one with the adjoining village of Bluntisham. It has three chapels, one which is a Quaker chapel and there is no industrial life whatsoever.

Earith the holiday resort

Earith, which is on the river Ouse, is noted as a holiday resort and in the summer months many people enjoy themselves fishing, boating and swimming in this river.

John Wale’s house

Our house, which is situated in the High Street, commands an excellent view of the fens, and it overlooks the river Ouse.

John Wales' house in Earith in the 1930's.
John Wales’ house in Earith in the 1930’s. By Peter Reason licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

It was built in the year 1927, and it has a short drive leading up to it.
Flower beds flank the drive on both sides and in front of it is a privet hedge which covers up a low wall.
At the back of the house there is a large lawn upon which we play tennis and golf.
At the right hand side of the back door is a bird aviary, a rabbit hutch with a lamb in it and a dog kennel with a black and white sheep dog.

At the rear of the garden we have an extensive yard where my father, who is a farmer, keeps his stock.
The stock play an important part in my next chapters, as you will see…

Young memories of Earith – farm animals and rats in the piano

My earliest recollection seems to be going to view the house, I mentioned in the previous chapter, with my elder sister.

Then I flash on to where we are in our new home and I am helping, or at least trying to help at that early age, my father to clean the horses and feed some little lambs with a babies bottle.

Young John's toy horse and cart.
Young John’s toy horse and cart. By Peter Reason licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Then I flash on once more to when I am learning to ice skate with my father and uncle, and again to where I am riding one of our young ponies.
Then I have started school with my friend from next door, sitting at little desks in little arm chairs, playing with Plasticine and sand, writing simple words and working out easy sums.

Rats and pigs in the house

Then I remember when several pigs amounting to about ten, escaped from the bottom yard and found their way into the Drawing Room of the house.
Likewise a number of fowls did the same thing and even two rats who were hunted out of the yard by some ferrets took refuge under the house.
On finding this out, we put the ferrets under the house as well, and the rats therefore took refuge again, this time in the house and in no less a place than the piano!

Rat's head poking out of the piano.

On hearing the piano playing on its own accord, we called the dog in, and opened the top of the piano.
Then after a few kicks and a few notes being played, the two rats came forth and were immediately seized upon by the waiting dog!

[Written by John Wales while in the 3rd form at Huntingdon Grammar School]

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2 responses to “[1] John (Jack) Wales: Earith early years, born 1925”

  1. Thanks for sharing that, it’s good to hear you are enjoying them.
    Have you seen the African Safari posts – Joe lives in the village as well.

  2. Enjoying these history/Earith posts as I live in the village now – right near the old school and just round the corner from this house. Thanks for sharing.