Swimming in the Old Clay Pit.
It is impossible to locate the swimming area now.
1949. Dressed and ready for home.
Aged 16. Don Tune, became head of the Music Department in a Comprehensive School, Brain (Chippy) Chapman, Lecturer at an Agricultural College, Don Clarke, joined the administrative department of Lysarsts Steelworks, one other and a great pal, my dog Mac. I cannot spell Lysarts.
1952, long summer vacation of my first year at university.
Chippy Chapman studying Agriculture at Durham University,
Jean Pierre Mignon stayed with my parents for six months that summer learning English; his father was manager of a Race Horse Stud in Normandy, the idea being that he would follow his father into management. Fluency in English being a major consideration. The contact had come through my uncle Moses Oates of Boltgate Farm Eastoft, who had started to own racehorse. Although income tax rapidly rose to 80% after £2000, no doubt in order to encourage the businesses, such things as racehorses, Jaguar and Rolls Royce cars were all totally tax deductible. At the time, a wealthy French cotton manufacturer owned the stud, 25 years later when I visited it. It was owned by one of the Greek shipping magnates. Jean Pierre had witnessed some of the fighting in Normandy as a boy and showed me where a regiment of Panzers hiding in the avenue of trees leading up to the stud’s Chateau had been wiped out by American Typhoon aircraft.
Summer 1952. Self and Jean Pierre at the swimming hole.
Contrast the colour of my face to my body. For five years from the age of 16 I worked on the land. Throughout June and early July, I was the cash man and organiser of the running of the pea fields and pickers. My father was in overall charge but had other duties and pea fields to look after. The average labourers wage was £5 per week, £1 per day, half a crown, two shillings and sixpence an hour. I would be left on a field at 06: 30 am or have to cycle to a field if it was five or six miles form home with two bags of half crowns, each totalling £100. What is the minimum wage today, about £6 per hour? 200 x 8 + 1,600 hours x £6 = £9.600. Who these days would leave a 16 to 21 year old lad, alone in the middle of a field or allow him to wander the countryside on his bike with nearly £10,000 in ready cash.
One thing I can say, £100 in half crowns in a bag hanging from your shoulder is
After the peas the harvest proper would start, reaping and binding, stooking, gathering and stacking. The second year we had one of the first combines in the district, after harvesting our own crops it was contracted out to other farmers. The early combines needed two men to handle it. The driver, often my cousin Arthur, and my job on the combine, collecting the corn in bags, tying them and periodically dumping them in groups.
One year we were contracted to the CWS Hempson Hall Estate, Horseshoe Corner near the junction of the Trent and Ouse. Rabbits then were always a menace but good eating, cutting corn meant they had lost their runs and were disorientated. They gathered towards the centre of the field eventually making a break for freedom. Everyone would take a 12-bore shotgun along, less than half the rabbits would make it to safety.
Would the CWS Estate let us? “Yes”, said the manager “but leave the pheasants and hares alone. We hire the shooting out. I will be keeping an eye on you two, don’t worry”
We agreed, but there were a lot of pheasants and it was tempting. So I acquired a large chunk of thick heavy green wax, which is why some of the bags of corn were marked with a green cross. All bags of corn were loaded onto one of my uncle’s lorries in the evening when we went back to the farm for tea. After tea the bags of corn were delivered to the CWS, but before they went we opened all those marked with a green cross and removed the pheasant hidden there. This was not a money making exercise, the pheasants were distributed amongst our numerous relations, all strict Methodists and regular chapel goers who never queried, where the pheasants came for.
Working on the land ended about the second week of September when there was a lull before the potato harvest started. The last two weeks of September became my annual holiday.