Eighteen year olds and ferrets

Some of those I teach have reached their eighteenth birthday before the school year has even begun. It seems odd that adults would be sitting at desks in a secondary school classroom.

I am not sure when the English school leaving age was raised to sixteen, but I remember a boy coming to stay on my grandparents’ farm at Pibsbury after he had left school at the age of fifteen.

Steve Frood was a friend of my cousin Steve. They both lived in the village of Harwell, which in those years before the changes of boundaries was in the county of Berkshire. Both of them would travel down to Somerset to stay on the farm, where they would pass their time fishing in the local rivers and shooting in the fields and copses that were among the acres owned by my grandfather.

To a boy who was ten years old, Steve Frood was the especially fascinating one of the two friends. Neither of them could have owned a gun, they borrowed shotguns from my uncle, but Steve Frood had his own ferrets. He was stern in his warnings to anyone who might be curious that the honey-coloured creatures were not friendly and might quickly bite anyone foolish enough to try to stroke them. Dressed in a green army surplus jacket, he would head off to the fields with a broken 12 bore shotgun under one arm and a basket containing the ferrets in the other hand.

The ferrets seemed uncooperative at times, or perhaps were not pleased at the prospect of returning to the basket. Released down rabbit holes, they would fail to reappear and Steve Frood would spend hours intended for hunting rabbits trying to recover the ferrets.

Only from a distance of fifty years, does the question occur as to how the ferrets travelled to Somerset. The Steves would have come to Somerset by bus or train, the Royal Blue or Black and White coach service, or a British Rail Western Region train. How acceptable would a wicker basket containing a pair of ferocious ferrets have been on either mode of transport? Perhaps there were protocols governing the transport of such animals, perhaps they were required to be carried in the boot of a coach, or in the guard’s van of a train. Would there have been an additional charge for the carriage of ferrets?

It’s hard to imagine the eighteen year olds I encounter going hunting with a shotgun and ferrets.





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4 Responses to Eighteen year olds and ferrets

  1. djc says:


    PUNCH cartoon! Chas Keene 1869: ZOOLOGY. Railway Porter (to old lady travelling with a menagerie of pets). “‘Station Master say, Mum, as cats is ‘dogs,’ and rabbits is ‘dogs,’ and so’s parrots; but this ere ‘tortis’ is an insect, so there ain’t no charge for it!”

  2. Tim in the Midlands says:

    Frood is an unusual name. I wonder if your Steve was related to Herbert Frood who, in Chapel-en-le-Frith in Derbyshire, set up a factory producing brake linings under an (almost) anagram of his name: Ferodo?

    • Ian says:

      It is an unusual name, which is why I think I remember it. I am not even sure of the exact spelling, whether it was “Frood” or Froode.” It seems a name of great antiquity.

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