Starting work on farms in the 1940s
I went to 9 different schools. Whereas the fishermen stayed
put, farm people went from farm to farm, till we came here,
and I said to my father, that's the finish, I've had enough
of this. (So you'd had that since you were a little boy you'd
moved about?) Aye, Aye. It used to bother me when I was a
little lad. I used to think that if my father fell out with
the farmer, then they would put us out of the house and then
where would we go. You get these things into your head when
you're a kid. That's why I thought, one day I would have
my own house and nobody would be able to put me out. It was
my mother that got all the work because some of the houses
you went to were filthy. She had them all to clean out and
My mother was Emma Ord and she came here (Dunstan Square) in
1944 to do the dairy work. The farmer was Rowell. She did all
the dairy work and made £38 a month. We only had five
cows, short-horns. Mother milked them all by hand. My father
was a cripple, he never worked. Mother had to do the dairy
work to get the house they lived in and I worked on the land
with a horse and cart- outside work, turnips and that. Then
I went into the house and I worked in the house. Nancy Lumsdon,
Harry and Billy and their parents moved here on the same day
as we did. Mrs. Lumsdon was just a little women and what a
pair she and my mother were......
(Craster Village and then West Farm)
After I left school, I helped my father in the Joiner's
Shop, because he was the joiner. The reason for that was that
my older brother was a joiner, but he was away in the Air Force,
so I had to help in the family business. I wasn't cut
out to be a joiner, I liked to follow the horses – ploughing
- and I wanted to be a farmer.
farming when there was only horses, no tractors but during
the war, we began to
get tractors, supplied by the
Ministry and then after the war, the tractors started to come
along and it did make life easier......
Memories of farm work
The stackyard (at Dunstan Square Farm) was filled with hen-houses,
up this road were all hen-houses. The hens were free range
and put in at night. We had turkeys and geese for Christmas.
There were cows, sheep and poultry. Mrs. Rowell was a perfectionist.
If she gave you a job you had to do it properly......
They made hay, grew barley, oats and turnips. I used to fill
and empty eight loads of turnips a day, from the far tree,
where the hollow wood is now, with the horse and cart. That
was in the autumn and winter, the turnips were for feed. On
a Saturday, we used to cut eighty swills to cover the weekend.
A swill was a wicker basket.
We had holidays
due and we had to finish singling the turnip fields before
we could go anywhere.
Singling was separating
them with a Dutch hoe, push one forward and pull one back,
so they've got more room to grow. If we went to the pictures,
we always had to put the hens in when we got back, you were
never free, there was always something waiting. The cows were
milked by hand twice a day......
- Jimmy's father and Freddie - they used
to put Freddie in with the bull if they wanted the bull to
go anywhere. He had such a good relationship with the bull.
He was Downs' Syndrome, but he had a wonderful relationship
with the animals. Uncle Shaftoe said that Freddie was playing
in the field at the Bogie, with the bull. The bull was chasing
him and then the bull would stop and Freddie would turn round
and chase the bull, it was a game and if they ever wanted to
move the bull, they would send Freddie to do it.
A Lifetime in Farming
Billie Currie (Howick Scar Farm)
Dad used to keep the little sheep for me, and I used to clip
them by hand when I got back from school. I spent all my spare
time at the farm. I cannot remember this, but they say when
I was very little, about 4 years old, my mother lost me at
Howick and couldn't find me. I'd walked all the
way from Howick to the Scar; they could just see the little
When I left Dunstan, I was 13. I had 2 years to do at Alnwick.
We used to travel by bus, we had a pass. At night time there
was a bus that used to leave at 10 to 4, and it came back to
Little Houghton to the pipe works, 'cos there were a
lot of men worked there, about 100 men worked at the pipe works
and the quarry then. There was a bus that used to pick them
up when they finished at 4, and I used to get the bus back
to Little Houghton and run back home from there, so that I
could get back to the farm. In the summer nights, it was a
good run, about 2 miles. I would get back home about half past
four. Sometimes I caught a man from the village with a little
Austin 7. He would pick me up and bring me back. I got a quicker
start then. I would be on my bike and along to the farm.
I would have something to eat, then I used to drive the horse
and cart. I can remember dad drilling and ploughing with the
horses. I used to like May time and the harvest time.
Fetching cattle from the mart
The hunger house was at the top end beside the killing shop, where they
fetched the cattle from Alnwick. In them days they
had to walk them all the way, there was no wagons to fetch
them and they kept them in there for at least 24 hours in what
we called 'the hunger house'. They didn't
get fed, maybe had a drink of water, because their stomachs
had to be empty when we killed them. They would kill 2/3 a
week and perhaps 10 sheep......
remember when it was, but on the way from Alnwick to the
killing shops, down through the village, a bullock escaped
down to the harbour and swam into the sea and one of the cobles
went out and lassoed it and Alf Shell, the butcher, he shot
it in the sea, brought it ashore and bled it on the shore,
the meat was saved.
The other thing was about the Irish Cattle that used to come to the
Alnwick Mart. Again, there wasn't any wagons.
My Uncle Tom had the place then and he used to go in with other
farmers and would buy a wagon of cattle each and they were
all to walk out to the farm. We walked them from Alnwick down
here. I was only about 14 when they used to send me out onto
When I was on the farm then, all the men who used to work in the quarry
came to help us on the farm at night. I divent
knaa how they did it, 'cos it was heavy work then.
There was very little machinery in the quarries that particular
time. They used to come to do seasonal work, at night. They
used to help us at harvest time. I've seen them sit down to
have their tea, and fall asleep, they were that tired......
Prisoners of war
We didn't have any (Land Army) at Dunstan Square.. We used to get the
prisoners you see - the Italians or the Germans.
When they closed this one here (the POW camp on the heugh),
the German prisoners were at Embleton. That's when I learned
to drive a car......
So they mixed in then, these prisoners? Aye! One, I never
knew his surname, but we called him Franz. He only had half
a heel on his right foot, and I asked him one day how it happened.
He had been in Russia and he had climbed out of this ditch
and there was a machine gun dead in front of him, and it fired.
He threw himself back and as he went up it took his heel off.
He was dead lucky, like......
There were Germans first and then the Italians, and they were on top
of the crag and I used to go along the bottom with the
horse and cart with turnips on and they all used to come and
wave. They filled their mattresses with chaff. George Renwick
used to be the guard and he was supposed to guard them, but
he was courting and he would go off and leave them with the
guns and he would say 'Divn't do nowt silly while
We used to get three or four women from the village and they
would pull the bagies in the winter and before that was tatie
picking time and we used to get the same women to pick the
taties and also a few school kids and we had some hilarious
days. Other than that, the big day was the threshing day, when
the threshing machine came in and each farm did two days threshing
and that was really hard work......
We had no turkeys, but the women, I hope they don't
mind me calling them the gang of women, used to go to the North
Farm at Manners. He had a lot of turkeys and they used to pluck
them by hand for Christmas......
I'll tell you a little anecdote about when I lived up
at the square (1950s)......
The first morning I went out, I had my gloves on and my lipstick. What
a laugh. It wasn't a very nice year to be picking
taties, that year, 'cos it had been very wet and they
had gone boshed - they were blue. It was awful 'cos
they were all squashy. I was glad I had my gloves on. The second
day, I couldn't get out of bed. I didn't know what
had hit me. I couldn't move. It was very heavy work,
and all stooping......
Hens and pigs (guffies)
Any amount (of food in the war years). On the farms you were
allowed to keep two pigs, but you had to give in your bacon
coupons, and you were allowed to keep two. Well we always had
two. We used to kill them and salt them down......
We used to live like lords. There were about 6 houses up in the square,
and for about a fortnight, we had spare ribs, and
pig's cheek. We used everything. The only thing we didn't
use was its squeal. My granny used to make the black pudding
and whatnot. She bled the pig. You had to keep stirring it,
like, to stop it clotting, and she used to put these little
squares of fat in it, and mint or sometimes a little bit of sage......
always a guffy stye, which was mine. I remember, Ken was
off work, he had hurt his back. We used to give mother £5
a week board, and he was off three weeks and we had no money,
so we sent the guffy away and we got £15 and gave it
to mother for the board. The postman was Eva then, and we got
the money from the Ministry of Agriculture then and she used
to know what was in the envelope when she delivered it
My granny had hens and a pig, everybody used to have hens and
a pig. One new year my grandfather, wasn't a boy at that
time, he was a man and he blackleaded somebody's pigs. I
think it was for a dare. My granny had her last pig in 1943.
My grandfather died in that year and she had no more after
that, she was then 78 and she lived until she was 85.
Memories of Farm Dogs
To be farming with sheep and cattle, you've got to have
a sheepdog. To my mind that's the only breed of dog there
is - a collie dog. He's wise, he's very helpful
and he's faithful. There's other dogs, but it never
come across to me to have any other but the collie, one of
the reasons I had him was, he used to work for us and help
us, so you really need a collie dog. He was a great friend......
We always had dogs - one called Rusty - a wonderful Lakeland Terrier. She use to go round
the henhouses with me at night and she used to go round and round and if she went to the next
one, you knew they were all in and if she didn't leave
that henhouse, you knew there was still a hen out. She was
a good ratter. We had calf pens and she was just a puppy, there
was a rat's nest and she went in and rat got her by the
top lip and I didn't know what to do and she shook it
and got it and there was never another one......
Quotes from: Billy Lumsdon (BL),
Eleanor Venus (EV), Geordie Grey (GG), Doris Clarke (DC),
Joyce Shaw (JS), Billy Currie (BC)