Wednesday 21 March 2012

Interesting people: Batty, Waters, Bailey

As mentioned in last month's edition, Lewis Batty was my best mate throughout our childhood days in Kingsley.

Having moved to Woodfield from the Straits in 1953 I was much closer to Lewis who, at that time, was living in a cottage beside the Chapel. Actually there were two Chapels within a couple of hundred yards of one another. In order that the reader may better appreciate the following bits and pieces, I will endeavour, with the help of Google Earth to place the two buildings.

So, if you have walked through, or around, the Ockam Hall tracks towards Fir Hill, there are a row of cottages on the right hand side at right angles to the track. These are about fifty yards up from the Hall and are exactly opposite where there old Cadet Hut once stood. It would appear from Google that the hut has now gone. Continuing on the track splits, one branch going around to the right, and the other going straight on towards Fir Hill. Following the right fork, the first chapel was just a few yards along there on the right. The second one could be found by continuing up the track towards Fir Hill a further fifty yards or so and then turning right towards a track which went down between a number of buildings towards the fields, which are now a golf course, and over to the Mill. Where this track began the Chapel was on the bank on the left.

To the left of the Chapel was the cottage in which Lewis and his family lived at that time. There was, I believe, another cottage of some sort, possibly attached to the chapel where Mrs. Bailey, the Chapel Caretaker lived. The previously mentioned track towards the fields, ran through the centre of Mr. and Mrs. Waters farm, Meadow Gate Farm. Their house was on the left and their dairy buildings etc. were on the right. The track became a quagmire when it was wet as Mr. Waters cows walked up and down it twice a day in order to get to their fields beyond Fir Hill. I was a regular visitor to Lewis's house and it was here he introduced me to the delights of fishing. Walking down the track past the Waters farm brought one to the gate into the fields. I think the first field belonged to Mr. Waters and extended towards the mill a couple of hundred yards. There after the fields belonged to Dean Farm, and I think, extended up to the then railway. On passing through the gate into Mr. Waters field the track went over a stream which flowed down and into the main river off to the left. It was in this stream that we went fishing.

But to the people, more of our fishing later, Mrs. Bailey was, as mentioned, the caretaker of the Chapel and I seem to remember that she also played the organ. I have no idea what denominations either of the chapels represented. I do recall having gone into Mrs. Baileys chapel on the odd occasion when some special event was happening. But to Mrs. Bailey herself, she was a small, thin lady and when seen in the village always wore a long brown overcoat and a brown suede round kind of hat. The most striking thing about Mrs. Bailey, as far as naughty schoolboys were concerned, was her rather strange gait. She walked with a distinct waddle, swaying markedly from side to side as she progressed. This was a source of great interest to those of us that noticed such things and we diagnosed Mrs. Bailey with none other than Duck's Disease. Why, I have no idea, but that's how it was, whenever she was the topic of our conversations, one of our number would mention the fact that she suffered from Duck's Disease. Why, you might ask was she ever the subject of our conversations, good question.

Within the gardens at the rear of the Chapel were a number of fruit bushes, blackcurrants and raspberries. These, at certain times of the year, were the subject of our attention. We entered from the track through various holes in the hedge and scoffed as much fruit as we could before being discovered and chased off by Mrs. Bailey. She was even unsporting enough to tell Mrs. Batty, Lewis's mother, on one occasion and therefore was not our favourite person. We could never see the harm in a bit of scrumping, Mrs. Bailey did not share our point of view!

As I have said Mr.and Mrs. Waters had the dairy farm down the said track, it was in its day, quite a big dairy farm if the number of cows being milked was anything to go by. Mr. Waters was not very tall and very lean. He always wore a cap and mostly could be seen with his sleeves rolled up, and as was usual then, his trousers were held in place with a large leather belt and a pair of braces as well. When it was cold he wore a pullover, when it was really cold he wore a jacket or an old rain coat when it was wet. He almost always wore gumboots on his feet. His name was Sid. Mrs. Waters was, as I imagine, a dairy farmers wife should look, in most ways. She was short and rotund with a high colour. Her hair was short and brown and she had a very loud shrill voice. But her most outstanding feature was her huge chest. Of course little boys were not interested in such things at that stage in their lives, but in the case of Mrs. Waters, the objects were of such a dimension that we always thought she would topple over forwards. Needless to say these items were the source of much comment and laughter amongst our group. Bra technology was obviously not then what it is now and this great chest hung down to the level of the lady's waist. Mrs. Waters drove a small black car, ( most of them were then, black that is ), probably an Austin or Morris. When she went out she wore tweedy clothes and always a hat. Come to think of it most women did wear hats in those days.

But, there were two reasons, apart from her chest that is, why Mrs. Waters became of interest to us. One was quite fun the other a complete pain in the neck. On the one hand Mrs. Waters, when she wanted Sid, would shout across the track in her high voice. Booming out would come the unmistakable summons "Seed". I don't know if she couldn't pronounce Sid, but Seed it always was. Every time, we as a group, travelled up the track between the Waters' farm we broke into a chorus of "Seed" at the top of our voices and when one or other of the Waters appeared we ran for all we were worth. When we saw Mr. Waters driving his cows across the common over Fir Hill, from the safety of some hidden vantage point we would holler "Seed" at him, this was generally considered great fun.

The track through the farm was used regularly by us in order to get to the fields, stream, river or mill and, therefore provided us with quite a lot of contact with Mr & Mrs Waters. Needless to say when confronted directly by either of the pair, we were the essence of politeness and good manners, as you would expect us to have been. Apart from the fishing provided by the river and stream the fields beside the river and up past the mill, (which now make up the golf course), were in, the autumn a good source of mushrooms. Most years a goodly supply could be found within their boundaries. People within the village were aware of this and many would rise early in the morning to seek a picking before too many others had the chance to get there. Indeed, I have known people to be out in the fields before first light and seeking the fungi by torchlight.

I remember one year my uncle serving with the Canadian army in Germany was over on leave and he came to Woodfield and knocked up dad in order to go in search of mushrooms in those fields. However, as boys most of our mushrooming was done at a gentler hour and we would go in search of them whilst fishing. We usually found a bag or two before returning home and it was upon our return journey that we would encounter Mrs. Waters. She always seemed to know when we would be coming up the track with our booty. I guess she watched our progress from the farm and pounced when we got to her gate. She would emerge from her house with a basket, stop us and ask if we had found any mushrooms obviously knowing full well that we had. She would then ask for a look.

Upon us opening our bags she would inform us that Seed liked, and was very partial to, the odd mushroom! She would then go on, "I don't s'pose you mind my Seed having a couple for ees breakfast". No sooner said she would begin selecting the most succulent and largest specimens and remove them into her basket. Sometimes our haul would be reduced by half before she would let us go on. Perhaps, you might think, repayment for our rudeness. Well we didn't think very much of it at all and she became public enemy number one as far as we were concerned. We would go well out of our way to avoid the farm when mushrooming in order to avoid her predations. Seed might have liked,and been partial, to the odd mushroom but it seemed to us that she kept him fed on the things … all of them ours! Well,when all is said and done, we did have pretty much free range over their fields which gave us access to both the stream and a large part of the river which occupied much of our time and provided hours of pleasure for us.

More interesting people next month.

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