St Brides, 1940s

- Gordon Shears

The Homeguard were on duty on the wall here. They got in trouble. They had a pill box on Tessles ground, which is down past the Lakes and they were supposed to watch the Bristol Channel. Well the commander went down there one night and found them all asleep! And there was a riot!

There was a ramp down to the reen, Sealand Reen, for the horses to go and drink. They were cart horses we had. One was Flower, one was Blossom, one was Diamond. And Bonnie. My father wouldn’t let me take them down in case they trod on me. I used to drive them in the field, raking or tedding. It was dangerous. If I you'd fallen off the spikes would have you. I used to drive Flower on the tedder. She’d plod up the field away from the gate but she’d walk twice as fast back because she thought she was on her way home. Then you’d have a job to turn her around to get her go back up again. That’s how she was. She was willing she was. Because we had a pike we called it, like a crane, for digging in the hay and horse would have to haul it after on a rope and it would swing over the rick and pop it on the rick. And she’d do her best to get it up there because sometimes if we’d left it and it had rained and been on the trailer for a couple of day to settle, you would pick up a great wad. But she was willing until the tractor came in in 1946 and the tractor used to do the job.

We never swam but one thing we used to do, we had these 45 or 50 gallon drums, steel drums, used to cut them in half, but not in half that way, but in half that way (lengthways) so they were sort of like boats and used to go in them and paddle up the reens in them as a boy. I got too heavy. When I sat in it the river was near the top. I always remember by the Alter ??? reen there, by John Cornet’s, I sat in it and thought, no, I’m too heavy for it now, I’m going to sink. And he went and pushed me out, pushed me out into the middle, the idiot! I nearly killed him.

We had a good orchard down there. It was planted after the tsunami and 400 years is about the limit of trees and a lot of them have died off and gone over. There’s only a couple left now. [We didn’t make cider but] during the war they used to can it. The Women’s Institute at St Brides had a canning machine, it was only a wind-up one, and we used to get the tins and they used to fill them with pears, and syrup, sugar and water syrup, seal them. And then they used to put them in the boiler and boil them. They used to do it here. The canning machine used to fix to the table and a couple of people in the village used to come and help and peel all the fruit. And for helping they could have some of the fruit, some of the tins. They’d do it for three or four days non-stop.

I used to thatch the hay ricks. I used to do that with reeds from the reens or straw. And father did it but it was too much for him so I started doing it. I used to cut the pegs from the willow/withy trees and sharpen them. I’ve got a gash there, still a little scar there where I gashed my trousers and my leg. So I used to cut the canes from the reens, cut them, then do the thatching. I used to have a very long ladder and used to lean against the rick, then you put the butt down to start, you put a roll along the top first and then, then put butt down to start and then you turn the other way so the butts were up then. And then put about four layers up the side. Baling string we used to use, twine. We’d wind it on a peg, bring the peg over and put a bare peg in there and then wind the string around it. It was like thatch you know.