Friday, 23 September 2011

Grandma always had a very strong ‘best’ float 39

Grandma Kirby  (1920)

This is a story about my grandma, who worked against all odds to rear her brood of nine kids, and some of the things she got up to, and realise where I get my temper from, though it takes a lot of provoking these days to wind me up.

Mothers younger days
In his late teens father got his first rented fields, about 12 acres with a small shed where he bought his first sow, then swapped it for his first cow and started milking, this was adjacent to his own fathers farm, where just a few hundred yard down the road on another farm where my mother was born and lived. Mother was brought up on the farm at Coton Clanford, she was one of 9 children and was a twin, they were the 7th and 8th born and reared by there elder sisters, grandma was widowed not long after the youngest was born.

 It was a struggle for her to run the farm and rear such a big family, it was not uncommon for her to be seen with a pair of work horses ploughing, and doing all other laborious work that had to be done about the farm, helped of coarse by some of older children and a faithful bachelor cousin Charlie, who stepped in and stayed with her for the rest of his life.

This is the old Coton Clanford Chapel as it is today, its now used by the local scouts as a HQ, but when it was used as a chapel it had seating for about twenty and a pulpit and an organ that had to be tredled, also a small vestry at the back (lean to at the far end). Still got the original iron railings along the front. There are three foundation stone built into the front wall one each side of the porch and one above, but they are that badly weathered the sandstone lettering is now unreadable.

The Chapel was situated just down the road where, as grandma played the organ and sometimes conducted the services, it was compulsory for all the family to go twice every Sunday, a very small building holding no more than 20 seated but at times many more would pack into its small room. Very loud and enthusiastic singing was the main aim of the venue; later mother was in the Seighford school and St. Chad's church choir.

Grandma, mothers mother (Mother had lost her father and father had lost his mother,) was a very tall and robust woman, about six foot and sixteen stone, not a person to be ignored. When I knew her as a little lad she was getting bent with age and nowhere near her youthful height, She always wore a hat and a huge hat pin, normally black and a black dress almost ankle length and a dark three quarter length coat with big pockets, and to top it off when going to chapel or visiting she always had her fox fur. This hung around her shoulders with a clip on its jaw to make it look as though it was biting its own tail. The foxes eyes were bright and very piercing, and as it hung over the back of our chair at home one night father was manipulating its head round the settee just as the cat was purring round the other way, when the cat saw the piercing eyes glaring at it, the fox jumped forward .

Need I say the fox lost a lot of fur and father got cussed in no uncertain terms, amid peels of laughter from all the family?

Grandma always had a very strong ‘best' float to go to town in, most people had traps or gigs, rather light and delicate in build and lightly sprung for comfort, but she had to have something that would take at least a good proportion of the family.Like car drivers now they had "road rage" and aggressive drivers as well in them days. I fear to tell you that grandma was one of these.

A long standing feud with a person who used the same road to Stafford and back, found themselves using it on the same day, on a very narrow section of road along Butterbank, but they were going in opposite directions. Neither would hold back to let the other through, so with a quick flap of the reins grandma increased speed, and rushed the gap, she set her jaw, and clenched some of her teeth, her hat pulled well down and pinned in all directions as usual .

 With one wheel on the grass and a steady eye for the road beyond she got through, slowed the cob to a trot she never looked back. If she had looked back as some of her family helpers did, she would have seen a trap still moving along the road slowly, the driver on his back side in the middle of the road, and the axle and wheels of the above mentioned vehicle twisted and half way over the hedge.

The hubs of the respective vehicles had met with great force, grandma having the greater weight in wheels and cart contents, lost only a scuft to the paint, the other almost totally destroyed.

Mother started school with her twin sister at the age of 3 in 1912 at Seighford school walking just over a mile past Oldfords farm and across the footpath that comes down the cumbers (a field south of the school, one I farm now) the footpath coming through the blacksmiths garden a cottage by the side of the school, where the school care- taker lived. The head master then was Boss Plant and the infant school teacher was Miss Pye who taught me to write in the same class some 30 yrs later.

From my own recollection of Miss Pye, she was getting quite old when she taught me, but she was quite slim and elegant, old fashion in her dress always wore her hat when cycling to school on her sit-up and beg bike, it had a heavy looking chain case a large basket on the front, and carrier on the back where she strapped her rain coat, and on the rear wheel it had protective cords threaded from the mud guard to the spindle in a fan shape to stop her dress and coat catching in the wheel.

She taught us to write in big bold sweeping loops then later how to join them up , I notice even now there are some people, taught by Miss Pye, who write very similar to each other, including mother and myself. Miss pyre retired and lived on to over a hundred, she lived in the same house all her life.

On leaving school mother went into "service" in a big house up the Stone road at Stafford to bring in the essential money to help keep the family at home surviving. It was a very lean time for farming and not enough work at home to keep them all in full time employment; grandma always said she looked forward to Sunday mornings as there was no postman to bring unwelcome bills.

It was around this time father bought a motor bike, an old Valasett belt driven machine and he and mother used to travel the area on a Sunday afternoon when she was off work but he had to be home for evening milking. Mother being an absolute wiz at knitting, knitted him his only pair of gloves he ever had for on the bike , they had to be specially made as he had lost two finger on one hand in an accident clearing the blade of a horse drawn mowing machine when living with his uncle. In all my life I had never known him own another pair of gloves.

Grandma's Shopping Day

This happened along Butterbank Coton Clanford Nr Stafford ( around 1920)

My old grandma she had nine kids, she took them all to chapel,
Twice every Sunday she played the organ, till rafters they did rattled,
Squashed in and full it seated twenty; all singing hearty and loud,
This was mothers training, a life of hymns and chorus proud.

Grandma was a keen driver, of the horse and float,
And when she went to town, two pins in hat and on with coat,
Load up the younger kids to help, all singing in the back,
To get supplies to last the week, then the whip she cracked.

A fine old trot the cob strode out; to town not long it took,
Sell some eggs and butter, done the shopping no kid forsook,
Halfway home the road got narrow, another trap was bearing down,
Twas a neighbour who had a row, and grandma put on a frown.

Grandma pulled her hat down tight, and then she set her jaw,
She was not the one to give way, and flip the horse some more,
The float hub cap it struck the trap, and knocked the wheels from under,
Not looking back she kept on track, and home with face like thunder.

In modern terms you would say, that this was only road rage,
No one he could complain to, his trap in pieces sat in rampage,
Grandma upright stood six foot, and no one crossed her twice,
Count her hat pins as a gauge, to see if it's safe to ask advice.

Owd Fred

Heated with coal and logs, lit by paraffin lamp and candles, and when Grandma got modern, she had a wireless powered by an accumulator. (accumulator a glass battery with two terminals on the top, four screw caps on the cells, and a cord loop to carry it about, it was taken to the local garage to be charged up)

The Cast Iron Range

In years gone by when cooking was done,
Cooked with coal and logs, in pots upon,
Then the cast iron range, came into use,
In house and cottage, all black and spruce.

Blazing dancing flame, reaching up and back,
To chimney hood its drawn, all sooty and black,
Had two ovens, with big black knobs,
To cook for the family, and bake the cobs.

Kettle on a hook swung over the fire,
Always on the boil till tea we desire,
Pots on the side to boil the taters,
Pan on the trivet fry bacon for the platters

A toasting fork, to toast the stale bread,
Hung on a nail in the homestead,
Nothing was wasted, all was used up,
Meat boiled off bones, made broth to sup.

For years and years these ranges were used,
The lectric came in, and every one enthused,
Cooked with a switch, on the wall turned on,
Off and all went cold, missed the faithful range be gone.

Owd Fred

Grandmother used to say, "The black cat is always the last one off the fence" I have no idea what she meant, but at one time, it was undoubtedly true.
Solamon Short

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