Tuesday 22 July 2014


Of course the world has changed dramatically since my childhood days in Kingsley. Many of the things we did as children have been banned by useless politicians who resort to banning as the first port of call when anything goes wrong. Experience tells the world at large that the banning policy never actually works. In the case of guns, it is now, not possible to legally own a pistol in the U.K. if you are an ordinary citizen. Problem solved, well not quite, as there is now more gun crime involving pistols than there ever was before the ban was imposed. The only people inconvenienced have been lawful gun owners whom held licensed weapons. Criminals don’t apply for licenses or ` obey the law, sadly politicians don’t seem to understand this simple truth. I have never had, nor do I want to own a pistol. Just in case anyone thought I was banging the drum as a disgruntled ex-pistol club member or something similar. The point being that the only people inconvenienced by the banning culture are ordinary decent and law abiding citizens, banning makes not a jot of difference to the criminal fraternity.

So, as far as I, and many of my childhood friends were concerned, we began our association with guns at an early age. In those days western films featuring cowboys and Indians were all the rage and consequently most little boys had toy guns and holsters just like their cowboy heroes. These, quite fancy, pistols fired caps which made a crack rather than a bang. They did not discharge any sort of missile. The first gun I had that actually shot something from its barrel was a very basic pistol. Known in those days as a pop gun, it had some sort of plunger. A cork was pushed into the end of the guns barrel and when the trigger was pulled the plunger was released and the cork fired by the compressed air which had been released into the barrel. The cork left the gun with a loud pop, hence the name of the gun. All very harmless but it was the beginning of the process of teaching us the correct way to handle guns. Even with such a harmless toy, the principles of gun handling were rammed home to me by my parents. In short, you never, ever point a gun at a person. This simple rule was drummed into me and, I am sure, my mates. There were no half measures, break this rule and the wrath of God would have descended upon you. So it was that those of us that had guns learned to handle them safely and with respect, I do not recall a single accident or injury involving a gun in Kingsley during the whole of the time I lived there.

From pop guns most of us acquired an air gun. These came, in those days, in two forms, pistols and rifles. The operating principles were much the same in that the barrel was broken and pulled back to compress air in a cylinder which was released after the barrel had been closed and the trigger pulled. Thus a lead pellet was fired. Depending upon the size and power of the individual weapon a pellet could be fired quite a long way and with enough force to kill rats, birds, squirrels and rabbits etc. As children (and with a resident village Policeman) we were able to wander around with our air rifles unhindered. Just imagine the almighty fuss if a child did that today. I am sorry to say, for the most part, we used our rifles to shoot living things and whilst rat shooting was seen as a bit of a service by farmers I regret having shot some of the non-offensive birds which fell victim to us. Although crows, magpies and other egg stealing species were considered fair game.

Later in life as I became a teenager I acquired my first shotgun and was then able to shoot some rather more edible game in the form of rabbits and pigeons with, very occasionally, a stray pheasant. I still have the first twelve bore I owned. This was given to me by my grandfather Charley Gilliam. It is an old hammer gun of extremely dubious condition. The old barrels are worn very thin and there is much slack when the weapon is closed. Beneath the under lever is a washer which grandfather had fixed there in order to take up the slack.There are also other modifications, no doubt, designed to make good the general wear and tear of this old gun. I didn’t fire it many times as, realising that the gun had been made to fire black powder cartridges, I considered the modern nitro cartridges had a very good chance of bursting the barrels. None of this really mattered, the gun was, and is, a treasure for me. For many years it graced the wall above our fireplace in our old Dorset farmhouse, but of course, that is now banned and the gun remains securely locked away in a steel gun cabinet bolted down so as to be immoveable. It was even suggested by the Licensing Officer that I should destroy it!

I doubt very much if the boys of today’s Kingsley are able to wander the fields, woods and commons with any form of air rifle. Sadly, if they did, I expect within a very short time there would be a police armed response team, helicopters overhead and a major incident declared. Without a doubt those of my generation had the best of it, this free and pleasant land of ours is now subject to multitudes of freedom restricting rules and laws all courtesy of politicians whom consistently fail to deal with the real problems and causes of crime and violence. Have things got better or safer, if they have I will eat my hat. Enough said.

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