I had six months to wait before I could ‘take’ my Second Mate’s Certificate so it was too soon to enrol at South Shields Marine School, as it was a three month’s course and at that time I couldn’t sit the exam until I was twenty years old. I came home in July and my birthday was in November, so to make a little money to last me six months I worked on a farm.
As it was harvest time, my first job was assisting in the fields of barley, which then was always the first crop. After the corn was cut and made into sheaves we stacked them in ‘stooks,’ tent like, in straight rows across the field. This allowed them to dry in the air before transfer to the farmyard, where they were stacked until threshing time. Each stack represented one day’s threshing.
I hated barley. As the sheaves were lifted from the ground, one under each arm to be stooked, the barley awns broke off and lodged under our clothes where, needle like, they stuck into the skin in various parts of the body. Oats and wheat were not nearly so bad although occasionally someone would let out a huge yell as a wasp found its way to the skin!
After a couple of weeks we loaded the stooks on to a trailer to be transported to the farmyard.
In the field we had a huge shire horse to pull the trailer between the stooks, and having done this job many times it barely needed any orders to move between the stooks or even to stop at the correct place. When the trailer was full, the farmer drove a tractor with an empty trailer across the field at full tilt. We unhitched the horse and connected the full trailer to the tractor then the horse was re-hitched to the empty one for us to start all over again. The farmer, who didn’t seem to know how to drive the tractor slowly, careered across the field with mad abandon with our carefully stacked load swaying alarmingly. On one occasion, he caught the rope which held the load in place on the gate post and half the trailer load spilled back into the field to groans of anguish from us workers. It would have to be picked up again later in the day!
The best times of the day, beside ‘finishing-for-the-night-time’, was ‘looance’ which is a particularly Yorkshire way of saying ‘allowance.’ About ten o’clock in the morning and three o’clock in the afternoon the farmer, at his usual breakneck speed, would have a ‘load’ on the otherwise empty trailer. This was a huge urn of tea, complete with pint mugs, which was well shaken by the time it reached us, and a large home made apple pie with chunks of cheese. We sat in the shade of a stook after giving the horse some well earned oats, ate the delicious fare and discussed the crop and other subjects. ‘Other subjects’ invariably turned to my chosen career at sea.
I enjoyed my days on the farm, all the while knowing, of course, that I would not be taking up farming as an occupation.
by Terry Took © 2016
Terry Took was born in Yorkshire but has lived in Tynemouth for over 50 years. He spent 45 years in the Merchant Navy which included 27 years as North Sea Pilot. He then spent five years as a lecturer at the Marine Department of South Tyneside College.
He is now an Elder Brother in Trinity House.
If you have any comments or would like to contact Terry then please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.