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William Remembers Part 3
During the Second World War a dance was held weekly in the Assembly Rooms located behind Mr. & Mrs. Binner’s shop.  (The Middle Shop)  This attracted soldiers from a nearby camp - admission charge three shillings civilians, one and sixpence soldiers.  Some soldiers were already drunk when they arrived and after getting into the Dance soon went out again where they passed their tickets to friends who then tried to get in with the used ticket.  We soon became aware of what was going on and our efforts to prevent this fraud usually led to an almighty row which the Army authorities had to sort out.  Proceeds from the dances accumulated in a Welcome Home Fund for use at the end of the war.  Prior to the war a dance was a special occasion event only.  There were occasional Whist Drives; concerts at the Assembly Rooms - a Concert Party came from Whitchurch. Chapel Anniversaries were marked each year with a Children’s Singing Festival when girls and boys were dressed in their Sunday best.  At that time the Churches were well supported and social activity centred around the Churches.  There were annual fetes at the Rectory.  The Rector attended day school once a week to take scripture lessons.  For many years there was an annual Carnival with the election and crowning of the May Queen.

On Whitchurch road where Mrs. Davies lives now, lived Fred and Tom Bostock, Fred had charge of the Racecourse and was also an Undertaker.  The brothers were country people who had rarely been outside the village - they never did see the sea in their lifetime.  One evening a coach went by with its radio playing loudly and this became the talk of the village (I'd be about 10 years old).  The next day, as a friend and I were going home from school, Tom asked “Do they have to call at the Post Office to pick up the message Bill?  We laughed which caused Tom to say, “What the hell is there to laugh about?  Apart from being amused we thought little about the incident but it probably indicated that there were few radios in Bangor at that time.

The last house before the corner of Worthenbury Road, where George Hurnphreys lives, originally had a workshop and was also a Smithy.  Where Mr. & Mrs. Gerry Roberts now live in Whitchurch Road, was previously occupied by Tom Pritchard, Saddler, who made and repaired harness.  Next door was Lizzie Clay, Postwoman.  She delivered letters by cycle for a considerable distance around the village e.g. Halghton Hall 4 miles away.  In her later years as she became incapable of riding her cycle she would walk pushing the cycle. Miss. Pritchard gave her help by delivering on foot any telegrams received in Miss. Clay’s absence.

The first Sunday School Outing I can remember was from Tallarn Green to Llangollen - by horse and trap to Ruabon and then by train.  On another occasion, during the First World War, we traveled by horse and trap to Eccleston Ferry near Chester.  I have recollection of ladies in a boat with some officers (there was a camp at Eaton Hall).  The boat arrived at the landing stage, the officers got out and offered their hand to the ladies, one refused and she was at the opposite end of the boat to the landing.  As she attempted to step ashore the boat went away and over she went into the water; she was fished out in a very wet and bedraggled condition.

Before there was either a sewage scheme or water laid on in the village, the old stone tank by the bridge (opposite the Royal Oak) which had a rotary pump was used by the Roadman (Herbert Hughes or Mr. Evison) on a Saturday morning to flush out the drains. In my early days the roads in the village were track-ways made with gravel.  In dry weather vehicles passing through would create a cloud of dust very much like what we now see of towns in the Wild West films on television.

So far as the Bridge was concerned the rule of the road before traffic lights came along was that whoever was first on the Bridge had right of way and anyone coming from the opposite direction had to back off - a difficult operation with a horse and cart without brakes.  After Traffic Lights were in operation a lorry from Wrexham with a load of canned beer misjudged the Bridge roadway, a wheel went over the parapet and a lot of beer when into the river - the Bridge was blocked for a day.

Orchard Farm where we lived and worked was on the opposite side of Whitchurch Road to the fields we worked. We had no piped water and in the winter cattle had to be loosed out twice a day to drink from a pond, the ice having been broken when necessary.  At that time we had about 14 animals and as time went on we increased the herd and were able to buy additional land.  When the weather was cold the cows would drink very little and then when watered later would over-drink causing scour and other trouble.

Hay was stored loose in a shed and had to be cut as required by Hay Knife, thrown down and then carried to the Shippon.  On windy days this was very difficult so we always endeavoured to keep a good supply available.

Drinking water for the house was carried by bucket from the bottom of Rags Hill - three to four hundred yards. At harvest time we drank a lot which necessitated many more journeys to the well.

When I was 10 years of age we had to walk cattle to auction either at Ellesmere or Wrexham and of course on other occasions we had to walk cattle back.  If they were destined for Oswestry then they were loaded at Bangor Station.  We had cattle, pigs and poultry.  Most people kept poultry - free range.  We had a lot of trouble with foxes.  When they had pups in the springtime they frequently raided and ran off with our stock which invariably seemed to be when we were milking.  The Wynstay Hunt used to pay so much a bird lost to the fox - just a few shillings as compensation for the Hunt being allowed to chase over our land.

Cheshire Cheese and butter were made on the farm, butter more so in the winter when the herd was not producing enough milk.  Our procedure for making cheese had remained unchanged for years:

The milk went into the Vat (which had an outer chamber for hot water).  To this was added Rennet and Starter and the whole was mixed thoroughly by hand.  Whey was run off, salt and colour added to the Curd.  Cheese chessbits were lined with cheese cloth; metal hoops put in place, and then packed tightly with curd, (there were holes in the chessbits to allow the whey to escape).  Twenty four hours later the chessbits were put under pressure.  Eventually the cheese was taken out of the chessbit in its wrapping of cheese cloth and painted with a flour mixture, the cloth cut to size, and wrapped round the cheese, the ends being capped first.  Approximately 21 cheeses were taken at three week intervals to Whitchurch Market Hall for sale at two pence a pound.  The cheeses stood on straw and after they had been sold the straw was placed on top of the cheese.  Our cheese would be either red or white Cheshire.  Hygiene control and inspection was non existent and did not make appearance until after the Second World War.  There were times when demand was very poor unless you were producing a first class cheese and it was not every farmer who produced such a cheese.  When we first started selling milk it went to a Mr. Riley at Bronington who had a connection with the Co-operative Wholesale Society, probably not long before the Milk Marketing Board came into existence.  Farmers had no idea what they would get for their milk until they went to collect their money.  In 1935/36 we received 5 old pence per gallon.

Hay was cut by mowing machine pulled by horses. If the weather had been bad and the grass knocked down then one of us had to walk at a fair pace behind the machine with a hand rake, raking grass off the knife bar and fingers, as we called them.  Sometimes there would be a mouse’s nest in the grass which would get on to the point of the fingers and prevent grass being cut in that section, causing the horses to pull up and the raker following behind to be liable to pitch over the mower.  One year we had a very wet hay harvest and after a field next to the Green Lane at Hollybush had been cut, three weeks went by during which we were unable to touch it on account of rain, rain and more rain.  Eventually we tried to use the Swathe Turner pulled by horses which would normally turn two swathes at a time but the machinery refused to touch it, so the job had to be done by pikel which took three of us an hour and a quarter to turn a swathe each i.e. three rounds of the field whereas the machine would normally have turned the whole field in the same time.  In these conditions the hay would not be dry enough causing it to heat up.  To counteract this every layer of the stack was given a sprinkling of agricultural salt to sweeten it.  We also used a hessian bag full of hay tied to a rope.  As the stack increased in height the bag would be held in the middle and pulled up from layer to layer leaving a chimney in the stack to enable excess heat to get away and prevent fire.

Before the Combine Harvester came on the scene we used a self binder which cut the grain and bound it into sheaves.  However, before the binder could operate it was necessary to cut a round by scythe and bind by hand to give the machine room to operate.

Hedge-cutting was done by hand.  As the road went through our farm we were responsible for the hedges on both sides of the road.  Every year it took me a month to cut the hedges and clear the bank, often working at night.  I would in effect have to cut half to three-quarter’s of a mile of hedgerow; thorns and branches would be put in the ditch until November 5th when they would be retrieved for a giant bonfire.

Charles Jones from Threapwood worked on farms in the area during my younger days.  He sowed basic slag (from the steelworks) in bags of a hundredweight and a quarter and performed this service for all the farms in the district.  What he was paid I cannot remember but it was not much.  He was often too tired to go home and would sleep in the Bing in front of the cattle.  His face, hands and clothes were always black.  When working he carried a hopper containing the slag strapped around his body and used a saucer to dip into the hopper and spread the slag as he walked around the field.  It was not unusual for as much as 30 tons to be sown on one farm with anything up to half a ton per acre on the grazing field, the slag having been previously delivered by horse and cart.

After a field had been used for grain and we wished to return it to pasture then it was necessary to first plough and then sow the grass seed.  To do this we used a barrow with a long trough adapted to allow the seed to go down little apertures on to the soil with an adjustment available to get the correct rate of distribution.  The barrow was pushed up and down the field, starting at the straight edge, putting a peg on the opposite side to push toward and on reaching the other side the peg would be moved so many paces to the left (regard being as to the size of the barrow) and the process repeated.  In this way the field would be covered without leaving gaps.  I remember as a boy going into the grain field to deal with a host of thistles using a very narrow, two inch wide hoe - a very laborious task. In those days we were plagued with rabbits making necessary regular sessions each winter ferreting with nets over the exits.  We always had a plentiful supply of rabbit meat - I used to love Rabbit Pie.

On the farm we did not need to wear a watch in the fields as we were able to tell the time by the passage of trains.  The first train went by at 8.0.a.m., the next 23 minutes past 8 to Wrexham, another at 9.0.a.m. followed by 10.00.a.m. to Ellesmere, Wrexham 10.45.a.m., Ellesmere 11.30.a.m., Wrexham 12.15.p.m., Ellesmere 1.40.p.m., Wrexham 3.0.p.m., Ellesmere 3.45.p.m., Wrexham 4.30.p.m., Ellesmere 5.20.p.m., Wrexham 6.0.p.m., Ellesmere 6.50.p.m., Wrexham 7.40.p.m., Ellesmere 9.15.p.m.  Little did we realise what a good service was being provided. There were also of course in addition a number of freight trains.  On one occasion I went by train to Wrexham, I cannot remember the year - the fare was nine old pence return.  Returning by the train in the winter we knew when it rattled over the Dee Bridge that it was time to get ready to get off.  After alighting we would make our way along the track to Whitchurch Road and home - we were of course supposed to use a footpath across fields to Whitchurch Road but preferred to use the line.  Gordon Mytton’s grandfather as at one time Station Master; he was followed by Billy Williams, now dead, and later Joe Evison whose widow still lives in the village.  If Billy Williams saw us walking the line in daytime, and he was in good humour, he would change the signal to give the impression that the train was coming and would chuckle with laughter when we would as a result run to catch the train.  We traveled by train to the Butter Market at Wrexham with our butter and eggs where there were stalls and shops with slate benches in continuous line for which we paid a rent of nine old pence per yard to display our wares for a day.  The 1930s were very difficult for father who after a years farming was often as much as £100 worse off than in the previous year.

So far as the village is concerned where Peters’ Garage now stands there were previously four cottages occupied by Daisy Dodd’s grandfather and families of Jarvis, Matthews and Roberts.  Mrs. & Mrs. Roberts lived in the house nearest to Mr. & Mrs. Peters’ present residence and Dr. Morton had a surgery in their back kitchen.  When Mr. & Mrs. Roberts moved to a house opposite the Post Office the surgery continued there for a period of time.  Dr. Edwards of Wrexham had a surgery where the present surgery now operates from (then the home of Mrs. Harriet Johnson), and of course the nearest hospital was in Wrexham.  Opposite Peters’ Garage site was a long wall with coping starting from the old brewery (now Gordon Mytton’s office and town houses). There was a paved gutter which continued until opposite the Lion Pub (until recently Mrs. Stratton’s house).
On the opposite side of the road was another open gutter running from the Smithy to Harold Blakes.  There were no houses beyond the Brewery and Mr. Blakes.  The road was a dirt tract i.e. road stone rolled by steam roller on to which was laid soil from the verges and again rolled.  When cars began to increase in number, in dry weather when a car approached it brought with it a cloud of dust covering hedges, houses and any passers by.  After a period of heavy rain big ruts would form in the road.  In the field opposite Peters Garage site a small fair was held on the nearest Saturday to the 20th July and on that day members of the Oddfellows Club would parade to Church after which they proceeded to Twiss’s Assembly Rooms - an old 1914/18 Army Hut at the rear of the Middle Shop, for a Dinner and drinking session.  Every Thursday Market Gardeners from Whixall regularly passed our farm before six in the morning en route for Wrexham returning later in the afternoon.  I remember on one occasion coming home from school and reaching Highgate when I noticed a wagon moving along the road with the driver fast asleep and the reins trailing in the road.  I picked up the reins tied them to the shaft without stopping the wagon and the horse and wagon continued on its way with the driver still asleep.  The horse would find its own way home and as there was little traffic there was no danger.

I can remember coracles on the river; fishing was good in those days.  Shops in the village included Grocery, Butchers (now antique shop), Sadder, and Paper Shop; there was also a Smithy and a Tailor.  In the early days at the farm tithes had to be paid- farmers were annoyed but paid up without protest.  As time went on vehicles got bigger, the village got a pounding as a consequence and this led to the construction of the By Pass.

I had no wish to be a farmer having always hoped one day to be a carpenter but my times and circumstances made it inevitable that I would take over from father.  In the early days times were very hard, back breaking work, long hours, primitive conditions and a poor return for so much endeavour.  Gradually, however, with the coming of electrification, a permanent piped water supply, better machinery and the creation of the Milk Marketing Board and a better deal for farmers generally things began to improve.  When I was Chairman of Flintshire National Farmers Union, May and I had the privilege of attending a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, and it has given me a lot of pleasure and satisfaction to have been able to serve our local community in so many ways. A parish councilor for more than twenty years, Chairman on a number of occasions; an Elder in our Presbyterian Church and constant and continuous involvement in village activities.  I thank God for the blessing of reasonably good health and can honestly say that despite times of adversity I have enjoyed my life on the land.

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