His name seems to have long disappeared from local memory. It would be hard now to identify which fields he owned. The land was acquired by neighbouring farmers, the hedgerows grubbed out to create fields amenable to the use of modern machinery.
In a memory of him, his car is parked in a field of stubble. It was one of those 1960s estate cars where the tailgate split in two, the rear windscreen folded upwards, while the lower part folded flat. The tailgate was open, the reason why it was open is far beyond recall.
Perhaps the car was a Triumph Herald. Did they have a split tailgate? There was a stripe down the side of the car, the paintwork had the freshness of a new model, the chrome bumper and hubcaps were gleaming.
In my recall, he was standing near the car, he wore a checked shirt and a tie. Ties were not a frequent sight in ordinary farming life. The solicitor and bank manager would wear a tie, the vet might wear one, working farmers did not. Wishing to verify my memory, I asked my mother about him.
“He was hopeless,” my mother replied.
“Why?” I asked.
“He had no idea about farming. He had been left the farm by his father.”
His efforts seem to have been unprofitable for the farm was sold.
He had been older than my grandfather, who was born in 1913, his birth would have been in the Edwardian or late-Victorian era. How readily might have someone who grew up in the Edwardian age have adjusted to the rapidly changing realities of England in the 1960s?
He was a man of gentle manners, softly spoken, unfailingly polite, a man from a culture very different from that of his yeoman farmer neighbours who were men who would have enjoyed neither the education nor the refinement to which he was accustomed.
Perhaps he had been a child at a time when there were farm workers to carry out the daily agricultural work, perhaps his father’s role had been one of oversight and a foreman had ensured that the farm was well managed. The First World War reduced the supply of agricultural labourers, mechanisation began to change farming, the depression years were difficult. Perhaps by the time the farm was bequeathed to him, it was already going to be a difficult task to sustain the farm.
Perhaps the car parked in a field of stubble represented the problem, whatever his background, whatever the life to which he had been accustomed, a new car was beyond budget of a working farmer.
The car would not have been a Triumph Herald, as that had a single tailgate. A split tailgate suggests a Morris Oxford estate like my father had. JYC 742D; a Somerset registration. Why do I remember that after 50 years?
Ah, I hadn’t thought about a Morris Oxford estate.
Y, YA, YB, YC, YD – I used to love seeing those registrations when I was far from home.