Thursday, 16 February 2012

The Home Guard Contraband (1945 ish)

The railway "lengths men" were a gang of about six men who maintained the railway tracks and fences on their length between half way to Stafford and half way to Norton Bridge based at Great Bridgeford. Father got to know them well as they were also in the home guard.
When father was cutting large field of corn (Wheat) they would hop over the fence for half an hour and help stook the corn, with a gang like that it soon got done. It was the same again when it came to loading the shoffs of corn from the stooks.
Father always took down plenty of pitch forks in anticipation, and they knew when to be working close by. No money changed hands but he gave them plenty of taters and eggs and in the case of the engine driver he got half a pig.

The Home Guard Contraband

The railway line it ran through, some of father's land,
He got to know the railway men, quite a happy band,
They were in the home guard and all the farm men too,
They often jumped over the fence, to load a wagon or two.

For this he gave them taters, or anything they hadn't got,
Often at the home guard meetings, the sergeant got forgot,
For this is where it all changed hands, just behind his back,
If they ever got found out, they'd be on the rack.

An engine driver was among them, he'd got what we want,
He slowed his train by the field, tender full of coal he flaunt,
Every morning at nine thirty, rolled off big lumps of coal,
Father loaded it on his cart, this man he did extol.

A coal house full of best steam coal, mother to do the cookin,
Big bright fire roared round flue, she was so pleased herein,
Only cost a half a pig, its contraband you see,
Delivered by dad and Eric in a coffin, the law could not foresee.


( You see the wheelwright was also the undertaker and coffin maker, and he was also in the home guard, and the local policeman never looked in coffins, so it was easy to move a contraband half a pig in that way)

The railway is a four track line that runs from London to Scotland, and every day the "Flying Scotsman" would run through at full steam at 3.45 pm heading north, and back again sometime during the night. It was said that the lines were cleared of other traffic, so as not to impede its progress, quite a number of other express trains followed including some named ones.

Local trains were diverted onto the slow lines until they had all passed. For some reason the railways, always named the tracks Up Fast , Down Fast, and Up Slow and Down Slow, it was always Up to London, and Down to Scotland. They must have an upside down map.

It was reported by an engine driver that we had had a beast on the line, we went down and a couple of lengths men were sent as well, to clear the carcase off the tracks. On arrival all we found was a half of a yearling's leg and foot, a bit of blood and guts and nothing else could be found, we just presumed it must have been hanging on the buffers of an express train when it arrived at Euston Station in London.

To us, the moment 8:17 AM means something- something very important, if it happens to be starting time of our daily train. To our ancestors, such an odd and eccentric instant was without significance - did not even exist. In inventing the locomotive, Watt and Stevenson were part inventors of time.Aldous Huxley (1894 - 1963)

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