Gwynedd County Council tape 4: interview for oral history project. Sample containing about 10019 words speech recorded in leisure context

2 speakers recorded by respondent number C369

PS2VR Ag5 m (John, age 67, farmer, Interviewee) unspecified
PS2VS X m (No name, age unknown, historian, Interviewer) unspecified

1 recordings

  1. Tape 103401 recorded on 1988. LocationGwynedd: Anglesey () Activity: Interview for oral history project Interview/reminiscences

Undivided text

John (PS2VR) [1] Just before m w when my father and mother when they were courting before they they got married to with, yeah?
(PS2VS) [2] Yes fine, okay.
[3] Right.
[4] Off you go then. ...
John (PS2VR) [5] Well my father was a farmer working at home with his mother who was a widow in [...] .
[6] And my mother, she was a dress maker or an apprentice dressmaker if that is the correct term.
[7] And er they were courting and er my grandmother she was renting the the Park Front they called it in [...] , Plas [...] , in [...] where the agricultural college is now.
[8] Er were the name of the gentry who were living in in in the place.
[9] And erm my father and another lad who was working out in the [...] had to go [...] Called Michael, had to go down every evening to pump water for the the animal.
[10] There was no running water in the fields, only a shaft with a pump.
[11] Then they had to go and pump water for the stock.
[12] And the ambition of all the farm lads then was to get on good terms with the maids in in the Plas because after the gentry, they'd had their dinner, the maids could invite whoever they liked into the cellar and saloon for supper.
[13] And erm my father and Michael had got to know the maids in in the Plas but Michael had grabbed the the the the good looking of the parlour maid and my father had to make do with the cook.
[14] And well, it's not nice to say that a girl is fat these days, but she was all ample proportioned we'll put it like that.
[15] And she was called Tiny.
[16] But it wasn't to be the for the friendship with Tiny that my father got to have the rattling good supper that that they provided in in in the servants room.
[17] And he'd be there once or twice and then on the Wednesday evening as was his custom, he went down to [...] to the village, he had a date with my mother and there she was standing by the shop in the square and when she saw him coming down she turned and said, [...] , she said and swirled her skirts round.
[18] Go back to your Tiny, she said, and off she went home.
[19] Well my father wasn't giving in so easy.
[20] And then h instead of walking home from the chapel on Sunday night with my mother, he started walking home with her father.
[21] My grandfather, Thomas , he was a a carpenter.
[22] And the [...] were they lived, it was on a a bit of a rise about the square in [...] and he was a very keen gardener.
[23] His curtain could be seen from the square and it was something worth looking at.
[24] And that was his pride and joy.
[25] And then my father became a very keen gardener and asking Thomas , How do you do th this and how do you do that?
[26] Well my boy, said the old man, It would be easier if you were to come over you see, for me to show you, than try to tell you here.
[27] So my father went over on the Monday evening and after such a a young man paid such interest in the garden and paying so much compliments, Well you can't go home without coming in for a cup of tea.
[28] And that is [laughing] how he he he got on good terms with my mother again. []
[29] In [...] .
[30] And he went duly they got married and very fortunately there was a little [...] of twelve acres just in the bottom of the field adjoining [...] .
[31] Called [...] .
[32] And the that is where they started their married life.
[33] My father working at home with his mother and farming this l twelve acre holding and my grandmother erm sub-letted the the park [...] for him.
[34] He was doing a bit of dealing as well.
[35] We'll have a chat about the old dealers later.
[36] Doing a bit of dealing and er keeping the stock he was buying and selling in this twelve acre park in [...] .
[37] Well it was quite a change for my mother from being a dressmaker to being a a well a smallholder's wife.
[38] She had no idea about milking or anything, but she very very soon got used to it.
[39] Erm but the most unfortunate thing that Old Edward the the old chap who owned the place he was living in part of the house and Old Jane , his housekeeper, my mother she could bake bread and wash, her mother had taught her that, but it was making butter that was the problem.
[40] And old Jane said, Don't you worry my girl, er I'll make the butter for you.
[41] And my mother, they were keeping six cows there after churning, old Jane made the butter and er taking it to [...] to erm Mrs from [...] who used to buy my grandmother's butter my my mother took her stock as well on the Thursday to market.
[42] But the following Thursday Mrs said, Well I'm very sorry my dear, I can't accept your butter because last week's lot didn't keep.
[43] Old Jane hadn't take enough trouble to make it proper and wash all the buttermilk out.
[44] And it had gone bad.
(PS2VS) [45] Ah.
John (PS2VR) [46] My mother she cried oh she did [...] she cried all night.
[47] After going to bed that night.
[48] She was so insulted you know.
[49] A young farmer's wife having her first batch of butter er rejected.
[50] And erm She was determined that she would have a go her own, the following week.
[51] And the following Wednesday, she just didn't know how to tell the old lady but it's odd how fate takes a hand occasionally.
[52] The old lady was er opening the the the not a [...] just what we call the chamber, er the the downstairs bedroom.
[53] Opening the window, and somehow or other, the the sash it fell back, caught both her hands and jammed her finger.
[54] And there she was crying and shouting in there.
[55] Well my mother was very very sorry that the old lady had hurt her fingers but th on the other hand she was very very pleased that she couldn't make the butter.
[56] And from then on, er there was never a hitch at all, my mother was considered to be one of the best butter maker i in the vicinity.
[57] And as I had told you before on the previous er chat we had, how my father took over er [...] when when I was two years old we moved up.
[58] His mother gave up farming and he took things over.
[59] And for the first five years of my life, I just led a very lonely life with only the my grandmother and my parents and the farm men.
[60] And [...] I was v [...] the [...] and my grandmother, they had got me hooked on horses then.
[61] Not realizing that they were pr preaching about the glory that been.
[62] And I would be always be with John in the stable and I got until I got into er some danger walking er underneath a horses legs and he'd he'd send me out banned me from the stable and shut the door.
[63] Then for a day or so, I would be the cow man's mate.
[64] When I was with the cattle I always wore my the cap on the side of my head.
[65] That was way the co sign of a carter wearing his cap right on the side of his over his ear.
(PS2VS) [66] Was it?
John (PS2VR) [67] But the cow man he wore his cap w with the peak over h er er the back of his head.
[68] Back to front, cos he'd be carrying a lot of [...] of hay on his back and that was to stop the hay seed, going down between it shirt and his skin.
[69] And then I'd be wearing my cap back to front for a day or so.
[70] Working with with the with the cow man, but I very soon got tired, I'd be begging to be allowed back into the stable because the horses were my first love.
[71] Well when I was about five, one morning, my father fixed a cushion over the back bone of the bike.
[72] That was the way we travelled then.
[73] [...] Practically nobody had a car in [...] at the time.
[74] And then er tie a cushion over the back bone of the bike and have me sitting er on on this cushion on the f bike in front of him.
[75] He had we started out somewhere I had no idea where we were going, until we arrived at this big building with a high railing surrounding the yard and a crowd of children shouting and playing in the yard.
[76] It was then that I realized that he was going to leave me on my own.
[77] In this building.
[78] And I had never been away from home because er too far from the village.
[79] I had never had been playing with other children.
[80] And when I realized this I started kicking and crying.
[81] And he said, Well what would you prefer, go to school quietly or come with me over the hedge to have a spanking.
[82] Well both are awkward, I said, but I will stand a light spanking if I can come home with you after.
[83] But then, Miss the I learned later she was the infant's teacher, one of the the kindest, noblest er teachers imaginable, she came out.
[84] Er never you mind the children, she said, you go home, I'll take charge of him.
[85] And she got hold of me in her arms and carried me kicking and screaming into the school.
[86] And I was very upset for the first day, then I started settling down.
[87] But then Miss see couldn't move out of my sight, she was the only friend I had amongst all these strangers.
[88] And I wouldn't leave her side.
[89] and one day she said, Now then John I want to go to the other school to Mr , the schoolmaster to get a book.
[90] Don't you move from your seat.
[91] And she got about half a dozen of the strongest boys from standard one to stand guard at the door.
[92] But as soon as she was out I dashed like a bulldozer through these other boys and dashed out into the bottom of the yard where there was a a certain little building in the bottom of the yard, and I opened the door, and there was Miss sitting on the throne.
[93] I said to her, Ah I thought that you were going [...] Why did you lie to me saying that you were going to get a book. [laugh]
(PS2VS) [laugh]
John (PS2VR) [94] But eventually I settled down.
[95] Erm to to the work [...] and I kept er going you know like I I didn't dodge I didn't miss school.
[96] And I suppose I was an average sort of of of pupil.
[97] As we the time went on.
[98] And when I went over to standard two, [...] Miss was the name of the teacher with the the middle classes.
[99] And she had a custom she we had to have a book called observation book.
[100] None of us had any idea what observation meant, but we had to write down a sentence or something we had noticed on our way to school.
[101] Which was a very good thing and what children of today miss when they're being whisked on a bus to school.
[102] They have no chance to notice or see anything erm and make them observant and looking out for things.
[103] In the spring when the f the daffodils and and the snowdrops started coming, and then there'd be bird's nests and all the different flowers, the farmers would start sowing, cultivating, mares would have foals, they had the harvest.
[104] There were any amount of things you could write about in Summer.
[105] But in the depth of Winter say, er from November up to after Christmas, there were very very few things you could notice and erm goodness knows how many times I fell back on [...] he was one of the last persons to be churning with horsepower.
[106] You know, a horse turning round and round in in what they called a horse power.
[107] A long pole and it worked a lot of cog wheels and the shaft going through to the dairy to turn the churn.
[108] And er I had to fall back very often just write, I saw Mr follow the horse in in in that that churning power.
[109] I had to fall back on that many time.
[110] And erm oh the games we used to have.
[111] Whatever was going on in the village at the time when say the threshing machine was going round.
[112] We played at threshing and er shifting the thresher from farm to farm we had been w watching with horses then.
[113] And the the way was to get the heaviest boy he would the be the the threshing machine machine.
[114] And the second boy would be the the shaft horse and the [...] other children catching hold of each other 's jerseys pulling.
[115] And we had seen the horses er er struggling and kicking Strange horses.
[116] And then that would happen and very often I've seen the the the the shaft horse having kicked the thresher in his leg, had the two fighting.
[117] Breaking the whole thing up.
[118] And then we used to be playing top, we'd [...] a top right round the village, see how far we could go.
[119] And then playing a a hook, bowling a hook with a sort of a long hook to An iron hoop or hook it would about two foot six in circumference.
[120] And see how far you go with that.
[121] And then we'd be playing marbles.
[122] The yard then it wasn't tar [...] just a loose surface.
[123] Then we're twist a hole with the heel of our boots, and everybody t trying to get their marbles into this hole and then whatever, if you could get your you whatever you won you could keep.
[124] And er there would be a an Eisteddfod, a competitive meeting.
[125] In in the village and then we used to have that [...] at dinnertime.
[126] There were no school dinners then of course.
[127] All the children who were living far away, they brought a sandwich and a flask with them and eating in the desk in the classroom.
[128] And we'd have this competitive meeting and there would be a chairing ceremony erm and it's amazing the r the tidy little poems that er some of the children made then you know, children under fourteen.
[129] Some of them were a bit earthy wouldn't be very proper for me to repeat here.
[130] And they wouldn't sound the same er in English, they were Welsh poems of course.
[131] But it's amazing ho then we'd have a [...] .
[132] Where one lot would be the hare he'd start about ten minutes before.
[133] This was during the the dinner hour.
[134] And all the rest of use would be hounds chasing after him.
[135] And maybe we'd be oh a long distance away from the school when we heard the schoolmaster blowing the whistle.
[136] And we'd be pouting away and arriving about five minutes past one and then [laughing] we'd be in for trouble then [] .
[137] Because we were late for the afternoon lessons.
[138] Erm I don't know if I told you before, I hated any sort of games.
[139] No ball games or what we called drill which was erm P T you call it now.
[140] But I had been er made a mon I think I told you this before, a monitor and I used to dodge all these sort of things and erm I used to go after I'd been putting the books out for the next lesson, I could go to the library [...] and I used to sit down and read.
[141] And I think that is why er er [...] I acquired my taste for it, still I read a lot.
[142] And that was the way it went until I was eleven.
[143] And then there was a scholarship class then.
[144] You had to go sit [...] scholarship to go to the county school we call they called it.
[145] And this was the the school master had a special class and he used to keep us in after school to have extra lessons.
[146] But I just didn't want to go, it was [...] to my grandmother and old John they used to say, Oh no, you don't want to school, you're supposed to stay here at home.
[147] Working w with your father.
[148] My mother was the only one was keen for me to have some sort of education.
[149] But on the morning Saturday morning when the exam was being er sat in the county school in [...] I was very very ill, too ill to get up until about eleven o'clock when it was too late.
[150] And then I missed my chance and then I had only had the little primary school in [...] until I was fourteen.
[151] And well that's about the the erm well a rough story of my school days I think.
[152] I was average with my lessons.
[153] And not the worst and not the best, just about average.
[154] But the I offended the schoolmaster very much not sitting this exam because erm his record depended upon how many pupils he could get to pass this exam.
[155] And if he wanted a promotion to go to a better school.
[156] Erm the inspectors used to come round and it was the number of pupils he managed to get into the county school that added a lot of points to his record.
[157] And then he was very er well now I'm sorry after he'd put all the hard work with me, he was very very annoyed and disappointed that I had let him down so.
[158] But we got over it and I finished my school at fourteen and came back to work at home.
[159] At [...] .
(PS2VS) [160] How did you how your m mother er come to terms with the idea that you weren't going to go to the county school?
John (PS2VR) [161] She was very very disappointed.
[162] But there was nothing she could do about it then and it was too late.
[163] But she made certain that my sister who was six years younger, she made certain that she went to the county school.
[164] She became a teacher later on.
[165] And erm my my mother my father was neutral about the whole thing.
[166] He didn't didn't take side one one way or another.
[167] He was neutral.
[168] But my mother was very keen and she was very disappointed because I had missed out.
[169] I suppose if I had gone to school, my life would be completely changed.
[170] But I have no regrets.
[171] I [...] left [...] led I would say an uneventful life, but I've been very happy [...] you know, ups and downs.
[172] Never very rich.
[173] And n no great heights and no great depths either.
[174] D depths either.
[175] Just sort of a a medium eventful life.
[176] I have no regrets really.
[177] Nothing nothing to worry about I was I was happy leading my own erm quiet little life you know.
[178] And that is how I have got along for the last sixty six years.
(PS2VS) [179] When you became the [...]
John (PS2VR) [180] The [...] yes at home.
[181] Doing all the odd chores, helping a lot.
[182] And the women in the house, peeling potatoes, getting the coal, carrying water.
[183] Erm I used to carry a lot especially in in Summer.
[184] Erm carry all the water from a shaft in the bottom of the field for all the the animals as well in in into the and all the pigs and the calves.
[185] And er when I was Well before I was fourteen, and I believe that is why I stoop so much now.
[186] My my s young bones they've been pulled down with carrying these er er all these pails of water.
(PS2VS) [187] How far did you How far aw w w away?
John (PS2VR) [188] Well, down the bottom of the field you know, it was a a fairly big field.
[189] And there was a a path which had been trodden back and forth down to to this er shaft with a pump on it.
[190] We had to carry in in Winter we had the rainwater off the roofs which filled two brick cisterns for the livestock.
[191] But in Summer those were dry we had to carry all the water then.
[192] When the men were out working in the field, I was left in the yard erm I helped with feeding the milking the cows, feeding the calves and the pigs.
[193] And helping the my mother.
[194] When I l left school, my mother didn't have a maid in the house shortly after that.
[195] I was doing the most of the peeling potatoes and getting the coal and the firewood.
[196] And laying the table, washing up the dishes.
[197] And churning and the carrying water for er for to for for the household and needed a lot of water when you were churning to to wash the the butter properly.
[198] And when my mother was baking in a huge ovenware basin, then she'd have the the erm the flour and the the erm what do you call it that made it rise?
(PS2VS) [199] Yeast?
John (PS2VR) [200] The yeast yes that's the word.
[201] And then she put had some warm water and er she had to have it to the proper consistency and then she'd have a a bucket of water w standing by her side with a a jug.
[202] And once she'd had the her arms in the dough, I had to stand by her side just to feed a drop of water gently.
[203] And I remember the first time, I poured a whole jugful of [laughing] water in.
[204] Without realizing I was lucky that her hands were stuck in the dough [...] she w she would have given me a thick ear you know for for for doing that [] .
[205] And er anyway later on I used to er go out into the fields with the men.
[206] Oh another job that the [...] .
[207] The men would be working out in the fields in the Summer.
[208] Then they used to have their [...] which was a cup of tea at ten in the morning and then having their tea at four.
[209] Out in the fields.
[210] And that was part of my work.
[211] A big erm pitcher full of tea and then a basket tied on my back with the sandwiches and and the cake of scone my mother used to back more often.
[212] And another basket in my hand with with the cups.
[213] And I used to to carry out their meals to the men, and they used to be eating out in the field then.
[214] And the dogs would be sitting, staring up in their faces.
[215] They used to throw an odd crust to to the dogs.
[216] [laugh] And er that was the way.
[217] That was my my life.
[218] Until later on.
[219] I became a horseman myself.
[220] And we had another [...] .
(PS2VS) [221] W w w when did a person or when did you stop being stop being a [...] ?
John (PS2VR) [222] Well when I was about sixteen say.
[223] And then w that was [...] when I were big enough [...] in in in the hay and the corn harvest to er [cough] be in charge of the carts.
[224] Be able to make a load and strong enough to pitch it into the stack, that was the problem.
[225] And making a load of hay especially, you had to work it, roll every pitchfork you had, roll it and set it properly so that you knew as you [...] now then you must have numbers on them so you know how to unravel that lot.
[226] Every erm pitchfork must come out one You can't start fighting and and pulling it against the grain otherwise you you would be in trouble.
[227] So every pitchfork used to come out er one after another as if you had numbers on them you know.
[228] Came out in layers.
[229] As it wasn't so heavy but that was an art, making the load.
[230] So that's [...] and you said, if you erm don't er sweat a little in making the load, you will sweat a tremendous amount when you were busy pitching it into the into the stack.
(PS2VS) [231] S so was that [...] was that considered to be particularly skilful then?
John (PS2VR) [232] Oh it was it was yes, some people were considered to be very very good at building a load.
[233] They said it was like a box you know, and they could up to tremendous heights, putting I don't know how many layers.
[234] When we first started, erm erm only a tiny amount just er sort of an untidy lump on the centre.
[235] Er of the ca There were there was a a frame which stretched out the carts.
[236] Bigger on the bo you know the the [...] of course.
[237] And then y when you came into the stockyard with a [...] Caw, Caw,li like a a crow saying it was just something like a crow's nest.
[238] just an untidy lump.
[239] That was how they used to insult someone who had a [laugh] and untidy load you know.
[240] And er that hurt and that made you much more determined to improve and be able to make a proper load as quickly as possible.
(PS2VS) [241] W [cough] At this time,w w would you be having help from other farms?
John (PS2VR) [242] Yes, yes and you used to do a lot of sharing er one f u farms helping each other.
[243] That was quite common in those days.
[244] Er w w w well common.
(PS2VS) [245] W w would people go out of their way to seek to find someone who was particularly skilled [...] and with building a load and did they take
John (PS2VR) [246] Well you couldn't er the men were hired on the farms for for a term of six months you know.
(PS2VS) [247] Yeah.
John (PS2VR) [248] And some of those well like in every other trade were better than others.
[249] Erm the erm the erm periodical men who used to come over harvest [...] their job was to pitch it up in the field.
[250] Er they they didn't go out with the cart, just with a regular who used to go out with the with the horses and carts.
[251] Then you had a a spare man what you sent over the harvest, which you hired for a a month of occasionally they only used to come by the day.
[252] There were some er farms say of fifteen or twenty acres which wasn't quite big enough to make a living.
[253] And then these other men they used to be sort of a freelance, working a day here and a week there.
[254] They used to do what little chores they had in the morning and then again after [...] their wives did most of it.
[255] And then they did the the heavy work erm in the in the morning and in the evening.
[256] And they weres those were [...] like er a freel we called them freemen.
[257] And n not hired in one farm for six months.
[258] And mostly those were er married men who had a small place of their own which wasn't quite big enough to to keep them full time.
[259] And it was er er too big again for them to b become tied in one place for for a whole six months.
(PS2VS) [260] Were they er were they Would they be treated in any d different was say er er people who had their own farms would they
John (PS2VR) [261] No.
[262] No.
[263] But er if they were just working for a single day, it was long day up till ten o'clock at night in a harvest you know.
[264] And erm their their wages were a bit higher.
[265] Th they they demanded a higher wage er for erm just because Er m a man wasn't too dear if it was a good er harvesting day, a man wasn't too dear at any price.
[266] Cos without him you couldn't get your harvest in and tomorrow it might be raining.
[267] So nobody grumbled at all about paying an extra er bit for for these men.
[268] Cos it was good to have them when you were pushed when you [...] had a lot of of work to do.
[269] Of course the regular men they were kept on or when if it was a rainy day when they couldn't go out and just do some odd jobs in the building say, when it was a a rainy day.
[270] So it was a sort of a give and take.
[271] Some days er they worked longer hours and harder work and there were other days which er which erm they couldn't do anything much, just potter around in the buildings.
[272] And erm but with a man coming in over the harvest, they were working hard and long hours every day and they demanded and they deserved a higher wage.
(PS2VS) [273] Was there any sort of understanding that part of the wages would be pain in food, anything like that?
John (PS2VR) [274] Oh the food was included.
[275] Nobody er erm or it was nobody thought about it li that was taken for granted.
[276] N nowadays I hear erm or the lads who have been [...] they go out They've been working with contractor and they say how different it is when your mother was alive, everybody who came here they they used to join us for their dinner.
[277] You know the the the odd men.
[278] But now we go around farms, nobody ever ask us if we want a cup of tea [...] that's gone out of out of practice now.
[279] And er very few men live in and er nobody er think of offering them a meal.
[280] [...] they've got to carry their own food.
[281] You know contractor's men.
[282] but in those days it was n nobody thought i you know it was the done thing.
[283] Nobody thought of anything it was just everybody coming in for their meals. [break in recording]
John (PS2VR) [284] Oh a great help to [...] sandwiches and a sit down meal at dinner at table with the family, it was far better than a dry sandwich eaten in the barn.
(PS2VS) [285] Er can you ever remember any what might be called, failed harvests or d d difficult harvests?
John (PS2VR) [286] Oh yes yes.
[287] Yes.
[288] Erm remember the hay we would be turning it w with pitchforks you know, and erm not a well goo drying day but you had to risk turning it and hoping that it'd be dry but er it would be raining again the following day.
[289] Yes I've seen hay spoilt but you had to make do with it.
[290] You couldn't do anything else.
[291] And I've seen the corn harvest again, the the sheaves growing green out it stook.
[292] The the the the grain sprouting.
[293] And the sheaves getting stuck together er sprouting and getting stuck yes.
[294] I've seen that happen too.
[295] And I remember hearing a story, er erm it was just they'd got an old farmer he had a field of hay, just ready to cart and just as they were getting the horses, it came down to to rain and they were all sheltering in the barn, and the [...] said, More rain, more rest.
[296] What did you say? said the old farmer.
[297] More rain, more grass, said the little fella. [laugh]
(PS2VS) [298] [laugh] Quick thinking.
John (PS2VR) [299] Yes.
[300] Yes.
[301] Yes.
(PS2VS) [laugh]
John (PS2VR) [302] And another job we had to do erm especially on a rainy day, ready for the worst.
[303] Er we had no hay barn then, then you had to thatch the the stacks.
[304] And you had to make what we called straw [...] .
[305] Well er you could see the [...] One erm wooden erm turner on the Winter there now.
[306] You see that n what n erm You you see it out the window there.
(PS2VS) [307] Erm oh yes here it is .
John (PS2VR) [308] Yeah, that.
[309] Then we used to have two of those.
(PS2VS) [310] A clamp like a
John (PS2VR) [311] Y yes.
[312] Used to have two and er had a a bit of a rope round [...] middle and two then There'd be two men sitting in one end of the cow shed.
[313] You'd ha you'd have it fixed two of them fixed like this on a a bit of a erm er straw rope.
(PS2VS) [314] Yes.
John (PS2VR) [315] There were two of them.
[316] Then be backing and turning it round like that.
[317] Two of them like this.
[318] And then there'd be two men in one end of the of a long cow shed.
[319] They had the straw which had been er pulled out even previously.
[320] And then they would be feeding the straw, making these straw ropes.
[321] Two of them.
[322] And then I as the [...] would be turning round and round and backing right down the cow shed and the calf pen which was oh about sixteen yards length in all.
[323] And then after they had reached the other end, erm one of the men would go and stand in the middle of the two and the and the other sitting down.
[324] And we'd start I'd just turn with my right hand to join both ends of the rope and then we would be turning again.
[325] And the m th chap in sitting in the top, he'd be turning round and the other one would be walking down slowly backwards er grabbing a rope wi [...] to to join the two to make it into a a double rope.
[326] To to to put over the stacks.
(PS2VS) [327] Ah.
[328] How would you start them off them, [...] straw ?
John (PS2VR) [329] We Jus Ha a length of them, put it around this thing like that, and then when you started twisting, it would have a They'd be feeding more That was a quite an art again, feeding more and more straw into it you know, as I backed along.
[330] And then [...] twisting it round and round.
[331] It was an art to give just the right amount and that it wouldn't break.
[332] And I remember we had two men once, one used to keep his hand very very tight, squeeze it hard and the other used to make a very big, loose, untidy, whiskery sort of a rope.
[333] Well to keep his rope tight, I had to pull on the other, and the other chap would jerk me back.
[334] Don't pull, he said.
[335] Then I was going slower to suit his Well the other fella his rope would be dragging on the ground then you know, it was difficult to to to get the two to cooperate together.
[336] That was a a job on a rainy day.
[337] And then I used to the to erm coil them round.
[338] There'd be a big pile of them ready for erm for thatching the stacks.
(PS2VS) [339] And then how would you do that then?
John (PS2VR) [340] Well after you know the the stack would be a bit untidy straight after [...] and after it had cooled.
[341] It used to heat so then you had to give it time to cool and settle down.
[342] Then you'd be plucking the sides to make it tidy and carrying it to make a round top sort of a roof on it.
[343] Then you would have a a thick layer of straw right along the ridge.
[344] And then my father would be standing on on top and throwing one of these er straw ropes up then he'd let er an er end down on both sides.
[345] Then we had a a little wooden rake, the length of the head was a yard.
[346] Then we used to measure with that, between each rope and then, one of use each side of the stack, we'd pull hard and pull a handful of hay from the and twist it round and [...] this handful of hay.
[347] And then when he was thatching, you would start on one end and erm putting er f pushing the the the st the thatch into the stack.
[348] And then you'd have a length of erm either you made little thinner straw ropes or erm what we called er [...] it was a sort of a coconut twine.
[349] Erm that again had been rolled into balls and then he'd have erm about a dozen sticks which which held these balls and stuck them in then after he'd he'd erm er thatched one erm length, one row, he'd pull the string over and attach it to to the the thick s er rope that was er going over the stack.
[350] And that from one end to the other.
[351] And then there was these these thick er straw ropes going over and then there were the other which were going sideways along the roof to hold the thatch down.
(PS2VS) [352] And how long w would he take t t t to thatch on of those then?
John (PS2VR) [353] Well it depended on the length.
[354] You know a fairly long stack could take a couple of days.
[355] And they did look really good when when they had been finished.
[356] And erm not a drop of water would get in.
(PS2VS) [357] No?
John (PS2VR) [358] No.
[359] It would be b because the straw, the thatch had been pulled all straight it would flowing down, and then they used to er they used to th throw it over, it would be throwing the water away from the stack had been built like an egg you know.
[360] Bulging out from the base, bulging out and then coming back again.
[361] You know it was shaped just like an egg.
[362] And then that'd be throwing all the water away, it w it wouldn't soak in.
[363] And it was important, the way they built a stack.
[364] They used you know th in different layers.
[365] Then they used to put a thick layer round the sides to start with, then they would fill in the middle and keep that always stronger so that each layer er it curved.
[366] So that it would if it were were just like a trough.
[367] It would draw the water in but since there was much more more hay on in the inside, than the out, it er er it curved and then it wouldn't er erm absorb any water at all.
[368] [...] if you didn't put enough middle in it, it would sort of sink then, then it would be drawing the water in
(PS2VS) [369] Oh I see .
John (PS2VR) [370] and it would spoil.
(PS2VS) [371] Did you w [...]
John (PS2VR) [372] Y yeah that that if there was a depression in the centre.
[373] But after they'd put the the outer layer and then they used to tread and walk hard and tread the middle down.
(PS2VS) [374] Did they?
John (PS2VR) [375] So it would be hard and solid.
(PS2VS) [376] Mm.
John (PS2VR) [377] And then when you were cutting it in the Winter, you could see the the the layers you know.
[378] In a sort of a a a a half [...] shaped in the stack, you could see every layer, the way it had been built.
[379] That was the art of a good stack builder again.
(PS2VS) [380] Was there ever any danger of those catching fire?
John (PS2VR) [381] Oh yes, it you carried it too green.
[382] If you carried it too green, erm I can't remember that happening to our but I've heard of some people, having to cut a shaft down into the stack you know.
[383] We always used to push a long wire in to see how er every stack used to heat a little but er er touchwood I've never er never saw a stack heat that badly.
[384] But er there was a time, they got so If you had carried it too green, erm you er it could catch fire.
[385] And on the other hand, if you carried wet, well it would go mouldy then.
[386] And and stink and it would be all clamped together you know.
[387] And a lot of dust in it which was very very unhealthy.
[388] That was why a lot of of the old men used to get farmer's lung then, feeding this stuff in the Winter.
[389] And nobody knew anything about spores or farmer's lung or an Everybody are very conscious and they wear masks when they're feeding hay now.
[390] To stop them breathing these er spores which can affect their lungs and cause farmer's lung.
(PS2VS) [391] Was there ever any time when you just had to accept the fact that the hay would have to be carried in wet?
[392] B because of the
John (PS2VR) [393] Well erm you kept it out as long as possible but the weather spoilt it and the more you turned it, the bla blacker it came.
[394] And all the goodness was being washed out of it.
[395] No er eventually you would get it dry of course.
[396] It was better to let it rot out on the field then go to the trouble to carry it wet because it would only rot or become mouldy and absolutely useless.
[397] And then eventually you would get it er dry enough.
[398] But then when you cut that in the Winter, it would be black and there wouldn't be any any any er er feed value, any sort of nourishment at all in it.
[399] It had all been washed out.
(PS2VS) [400] When you came in the Winter, to gain access to the stack,
John (PS2VR) [401] Yes?
(PS2VS) [402] how would you how would you do it ?
John (PS2VR) [403] Get at it?
(PS2VS) [404] Yes.
John (PS2VR) [405] Well you used to took er take one length bet from one s er erm er straw up to the other, that was about a yard.
[406] Then you had a very sharp knife, er and you used to cut down half the what we called the face of the stack, you know, half the width of it.
[407] To start with.
[408] Then cut that into into er chunks again.
[409] Those again would be about a yard wide and a yard deep, then you had a a big er wire with a loop on one end with a sharp point.
[410] And they used to push this through the amount w which you had cut.
[411] And erm er grab this wire.
[412] Have one foot on a ladder or the other stack stuck into the f into the into the erm face of stack and then you would struggle and work yourself underneath what w we called it the trinkling.
[413] I suppose you would call it a truss in English.
[414] And carry it loose into the the cow shed or into the sheds for the out-wintering cattle.
[415] Or into the barn for chaffing for the horses.
[416] Always made certain that the horses had the best hay.
(PS2VS) [417] Yes?
John (PS2VR) [418] Yes.
[419] The the the seeds hay, the first crop after after er a filed had been reseeded, the first crop you grew, that was reserved for the horses.
[420] And then the cow man would be grumbling, maybe he had some second class [laughing] hay for cattle.
[421] And then he'd be [] grumbling, Why is the the horseman getting all the best stuff.
[422] Why can't I have My my horses and my cattle you know.
[423] Well the men considered their stock as their own then.
[424] And looked after them and er after them and took pride i i in to have them in the best condition.
[425] Oh they were not the br bosses' stock, they they they were their stock.
[426] My cattle and my horses.
[427] And the carter used to steal a lot of oats for for the the the the gaffer used to give him a ration for a week, and the granary would be lo locked.
[428] And many were the tricks that the carters They used to get on the right side of the maid and get her to make an impression of the key on a block o of soap.
[429] Then he'd take it to someone who could cut er a key er so he could open the up [...] the granary the late in in the middle of the night, when everybody were asleep, and steal oats for the horses.
[430] It was a it was a competition between the carters to get their horses into the best condition.
[431] And then they used to go around on a Sunday morning from farm to farm to see how the other chaps are getting on and to say how much better their horses looked.
[432] Compared to [laughing] what they had i in the next farm you know [] .
[433] Oh they were very very keen.
[434] Keen competition.
(PS2VS) [435] W w why why was it that horses were were given pride of place over the cattle?
John (PS2VR) [436] Well the horses had to work hard.
[437] And er with the ploughing and the the cultivating, the sowing, the carting manure, carting [...] in.
[438] Er everything depending on the the the the work of the farm would come to a standstill if erm if the horses y if they were not kept in good condition, they wouldn't be strong enough to keep on going every day.
(PS2VS) [439] How would er how would the the the the carter's day begin and how would it progress and how would it end?
John (PS2VR) [440] Well he'd be getting up about oh shortly after five in the morning, to er feed his horses, muck out the stable, and groom them.
[441] And then he'd harness them, all except the bridle.
[442] And erm shortly after seven, breakfast would be served.
[443] He'd be in the house having his breakfast at seven so he'd be ready to take the horses out to start erm ploughing in Winter, at eight.
[444] He'd be out most most days, ploughing.
[445] And on a farm when there was only one team, if they wanted to have half a day, carting [...] , aye well the carter was very very annoyed, he didn't like that job at all.
(PS2VS) [446] No?
John (PS2VR) [447] But the fairly large farm, they used to have er two teams.
[448] The second carter would be having Well the the first carter h the head carter had the best team of course, ploughing.
[449] And then the second carter would be have another pair er carting er [...] and carting manure.
[450] And doing all the odd jobs round the farm.
(PS2VS) [451] So the actual So w why was it the fetching of [...] etcetera, were thought of as being not so good ?
John (PS2VR) [452] Well erm it was a sticky bus you know, er a [...] field in Winter, it was just er bare soil, there was n no no grass on it and with the cart trudging back and forth, getting towards er a gateway, you would up to your knees in mud you know.
[453] Erm and it was rather a a and heavy work, you had to have a team of horses to pull a load of suedes and you had to get them in Some you used to to carry out on and just drag them [...] I mean s spread them out on the field er for the store cattle and the sheep.
[454] Then you had to bring some into the yard which were put through the scrapper for the dairy cows and the young calves that were housed.
[455] And then the the the store cattle they were in big open yards during the nights and then you used to let them out and eat these [...] off er a grass field in Win i in in in in the daytime.
[456] And you used to pull them e every four rows, making them into a row.
[457] Er [...] throw two and two together into the centre.
[458] And the ones you brought into the yard to put through the scrapper, you cut the leaves off.
[459] Of courses [...] otherwise that would choke the scrapper.
[460] But the one that were carted out on the fields, they were left with the leaves on because the cattle ate the leave as well.
(PS2VS) [461] W w w w what exactly was the scrapper?
John (PS2VR) [462] Well er there were two they was a slicer and a scrapper.
[463] It was a machine which you we had an oil engine in the barn.
[464] There was the crusher for grinding the corn and the chaff cutter for chaffing the the the er hay or straw and there was the scrapper.
[465] And it had plates inside er it used to cut the the the the [...] into like big chips.
(PS2VS) [466] Oh right.
John (PS2VR) [467] You had sort of a these eyes on on this big plate and it was turning round and it would be er churning them up you know, cutting them into like big er chip potato chip you know really.
[468] Into these log thick chips.
[469] And they were there was another er er slicer.
[470] There were two blades on that, cutting them into into round slices about oh three quarters of an inch thick.
[471] Cutting the that was for for the or the dairy cows.
[472] And for the for the young calves you had to scrap them cos they couldn't eat the the the big big thick sl slices for the young calves.
(PS2VS) [473] How was the slicer powered then?
John (PS2VR) [474] Oh erm with with a We had a er erm a a paraffin driven er a Crossley, a big oil engine with two big flywheels to it and a big piston like a bucket.
[475] And then you you used to have a blow lamp to heat it up and after that you you erm put it on half compression and you were turning one of the big flywheels round until it it started and you had to keep the blowlamp on it.
[476] That w w w pet th there was no petrol engines then.
[477] And er eventually he came er an engine which er there were some which started on petrol and then you turned on to to paraffin but most of the work, just going on petrol, with a plug and a magneto.
[478] You used to start that with a handle of course.
[479] But er with the the the er the original the the first one, you had to heat it up with a blowlamp and you had to be very very careful to get it just to the right heat, before if you tried to start it too cold, it would kick back and if was too hot again, it just wouldn't start.
[480] And that was er Oh it could break your arm you know, this huge big flywheel and you were taking hold of one of the of the of the spokes and turning it, if it were to backfire suddenly, it could break your arm.
[481] And on on the other hand, if it started and took off suddenly, it could pull you, you might fall, right on [...] er face into the flywheel again.
[482] [...] the safety [laughing] officers of today, oh they'd have a blue fit if if they saw such things you know [] .
(PS2VS) [483] So th this this was a standing engine was it?
John (PS2VR) [484] A standing [...] bit on on a be big concrete base.
[485] And then there would be a big, what we called a big shafting, going along the the side of the barn with pulleys on it.
[486] And the erm the erm oil engine would be in a little shed outside the barn, and this shafting would be going through the wall.
[487] and there'd be two pulleys on that, what we called a loose pulley.
[488] And then you had a sort of a gadget what would slide the st there was strap coming from the pulley of the oil engine onto There was a loose pulley and there was a gadget, you could slide the strap onto the loose pulley, then that that was only just er turning loose of course, then you slid it back on the fixed and it's be turning all this shafting along the barn and then there were pulley sets on that and in direct line with [...] crusher and chaff cutter and the scrapping machine you had a a strap form those.
[489] Those were fixed as well.
[490] Not in concrete of course but er you had erm They were wedged from the the erm Oh there was a a granary above barn, then from the rafters there, you had a big a bit of wood to to wedge them down solid.
[491] So they wouldn't move.
(PS2VS) [492] So there was a sort of clutch, er this sort of sliding
John (PS2VR) [493] Yea o Yes er there was no clutch, only something you could erm it was sort of a forked iron er over the strap, and then you had a a long plank in in above the chaff cutter, that was the most dangerous thing.
[494] And then there was an iron bar going from this plank, through the wall, and you could Er then this sort of a a pronged thing that was over the strap, you you could s push it over with that pu pulling the the plank up here.
[495] It pushed the strap, from one pulley to another, to the loose pulley or the f fixed pulley on the end of the long shafting.
(PS2VS) [496] Why was the the chaffer considered the most dangerous then?
John (PS2VR) [497] Well, you had to feed it you know erm Then there was this erm er sort of a whipping in in there was a long trough leading to to the knife and then there were some cogwheels which pulled it into the knife.
[498] And should you be careless enough to get your fingers caught in there, well that would be the end, it would draw you in and it would chop your fingers and your arm off in in half inch er bits you know.
[499] And then er er but it was this was fixed right above, then you could, reach if you did feel you hand getting caught, you could slide it off and stop the p switch it onto loose pulley immediately.
(PS2VS) [500] So t [...]
John (PS2VR) [...]
(PS2VS) [501] So so so there were at least three pieces of machinery that you could run?
John (PS2VR) [502] Yes.
(PS2VS) [...]
John (PS2VR) [503] Yes.
(PS2VS) [504] The chaffer, the slicer and the scrapper.
John (PS2VR) [505] Yeah and and and the corn crusher.
(PS2VS) [506] Oh.
John (PS2VR) [507] For for for grinding the oats.
[508] But there were some people you know on a smallish farm, they didn't have an oil engine, then they would have to turn the scrapper by hand.
[509] And that was real hard work.
[510] Er I saw how they used to do it in the after they'd finished work, used to be at it till till nine or ten that night.
[511] And at one time, we used to feed what we called [...] , for the used to chaff some of the the poorest hay and straw and spread it out in a thick layer about oh twelve of fifteen inches high on the floor of the of the barn.
[512] And then, scrap the [...] and throw that over.
[513] Make it into a a thick layer, and then in a day of so, the juice from the [...] would have soaked into this second class hay and er you used to mix it with a fork and load it into into bags.
[514] And when you were carrying it on your back into the sheds for the cattle, the juice would be would be soaking through the bags.
[515] [laugh] Your back would be soaking wet.
[516] It was not very healthy food erm we gave up doing that because er as you know cattle, they chew their cud.
[517] Well they like to cut their food in their own length, and roll it into balls in their mouth and then they can er regurge it up and chew it.
[518] Well with this [...] stuff, they couldn't do that and then they they they their stomach used to get compacted the they they they couldn't er couldn't er get their cud up and caused a lot of stomach trouble.
[519] So and they were tempted to eat erm poor stuff which they they wouldn't eat otherwise because there was the juice of the [...] soaked to it.
[520] And er that went out of fashion because of the two reasons and the most was because it's it was it would compact in their stomachs, they couldn't lift it up again.
[521] Couldn't get their cud up.
(PS2VS) [522] Oh I see.
John (PS2VR) [523] Yeah.
(PS2VS) [524] With er ... this machinery
John (PS2VR) [525] Yes?
(PS2VS) [526] er were you ever a in a position to sort of to help other farmers er if they wanted their
John (PS2VR) [527] F with the with the corn grinding.
(PS2VS) [528] Corn grinding [...] slicing or
John (PS2VR) [529] Oh no no just they were bringing the corn to put through the crusher.
(PS2VS) [530] Right.
John (PS2VR) [531] Er not with the hay or with the [...] .
[532] But with with the corn er few people had Then they used to er to bring it over.
[533] I I remember er that was the way my father used to get a a bit of pocket money to buy tobacco and things, a shilling a sack and the other farmers they used to find the the biggest sack they could find you know, and cram it with oats and then you used to be after supper.
[534] I can remember waking up up about one o'clock in the morning, and to hear this old oil oil engine going, Puff puff, puff puff, puff puff.
[535] And the and the whine of the crusher you know, the two plates rubbing against each other.
[536] About one o'clock in the morning he'd be at it, getting it ready for the neighbours to collect the following day.
[537] For a shilling a bag.
[538] U maybe he'd be at it till about two o'clock in the morning.
(PS2VS) [539] So he would actually do the work himself?
John (PS2VR) [540] Oh yes yes then after after the men had gone to bed of course.
(PS2VS) [541] I see.
John (PS2VR) [542] And then th that was the his tobacco money.
[543] And he was a heavy smoker, an ounce a day.
[544] Although it only cost about eightpence ha'penny an ounce then.
(PS2VS) [545] Mm.
[546] Were you involved in in operating this machinery?
John (PS2VR) [547] Yes yes yes when when when I grew older, of course it took all the men When er you know one would b the the whole lot would be going together you know.
[548] The erm the the crusher, the hopper was fixed underneath the granary and then there'd be a little trap-door in the floor or a granary, right above and you could er shovel the the corn, the oats down into.
[549] Then that would sort of feed itself, but you had to have one man feeding the the scrapping machine and another man with a shovel, pulling away the the the the the the scrapped [...] at the side and then you had to have another man feeding the long hay into the chaff cutter.
[550] And another one moving the chaff away to one side.
[551] So it took at least four men.
[552] Wh when the fo the three machines were going together.
[553] Needed at least four men to attend them.
(PS2VS) [554] So in fact, although they were there to save labour [...]
John (PS2VR) [555] Y y y y y
(PS2VS) [556] [...] they in fact involved quite a lot [...]
John (PS2VR) [557] A lot of labour yes but that was far far better than to have to turn them by hand you know.
[558] That was just slavery.
(PS2VS) [559] Mm.
[560] How long would they all be going?
[561] Over what period of time would th would you have all of them going together?
John (PS2VR) [562] You mean, during the day or well it took about an hour say.
[563] About two afternoons a week.
(PS2VS) [564] And how often how often does that go on throughout the year?
John (PS2VR) [565] Throughout the Winter.
(PS2VS) [566] Yes.
John (PS2VR) [567] Say w when we would used to bring the the stock in at the [...] Menai Bridge Fair, that was the twenty fourth of October.
[568] And then you started erm getting food for the chopping and grinding food for them.
[569] And that went until they went out in late April.
[570] From the end of April to from the end of October to the end of April say.
(PS2VS) [571] Mm.
[572] Can d d d during the Winter, what sort of things would the carter b b b be up to then?
John (PS2VR) [573] Well erm he t in the Spring after you had turned the cattle out, the the sheds you know, the cattle [...] it would be full of manure.
[574] Then after you had finished the sowing, that would be the next job.
[575] Clearing out all the manure into the er big heap down into the fields where you wanted to spread them next Winter.
[576] And then erm, as soon as the threshing was over, before you started ploughing, you'd have two carts going carting this m this manure out and [recording ends]