January on the farm. 2022

Richard Fonge writes:

January is behaving as it should with some frosty nights as I write. The new year brings new beginnings, as well as a look back at the past.

These days we hear a lot about people coming to the countryside to live off the land. This is in most cases a life choice. But growing up as a school boy of the fifties it was still a necessity for most villagers. I think I saw the last of a village way of life, that was to change with the swinging sixties. Back then agriculture was the main industry of villages. In 1954 farm workers wages were £7 a week, so to make ends meet it was essential to have an allotment as well as a garden to grow vegetables, keep some chickens, not only for their eggs, but also for the pot or a roast depending on age. I remember the rearing of the pig  and the ritual of its slaughter and being hung up after salting In outhouses and kitchens. It has to be remembered how important the pig had been up to this time to most villagers as their main source of meat. The meat was usually about 75% fat, not good today, but back then when work was extremely physical and often entailed a bike ride or walk to work to an outlying farm it was soon burnt off. Other meat to be taken from the land were rabbits and pigeons. Potatoes were still grown in most parishes and when spun out of the ground in the autumn women and children would come in gangs to pick and put in boxes. These ladies were often very protective of their village and didn’t take kindly if the farmer recruited from a neighbouring village.

In those days with so little traffic, cattle and sheep were driven through the village and the Grafton hunt met in the village centre.

Life has obviously changed and evolved considerably in the last seventy years, but Sulgrave has retained that village community spirit. The only thing missing from those days were the rural characters, with their droll and dry wit. In Greatworth or Grit’orth as it was and is still called by some, there was a man called Freddie Bullock who, when as a baby was seen in the road with just a cloth nappy on a local called out “hello Gandhi” . From that day on he was called by that name.

Richard Fonge



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