Farm to Dairy
- Written by John Clothier
Most of my school holidays were spent doing what I loved best which was being out in the fields with the farmhands. In those days the farmhands worked in groups as all of the work was much more hands on and a great deal of manual labour was involved. The camaraderie among the workers was great and there was much joking and fun which went on during a day’s work. The women’s land army as they were called, worked alongside Dad, Jim and all of the other male farmhands and they were always treated with great respect by us all, as they were very efficient and willing workers. This way of working ensured that there was very little swearing or bad behaviour among the men, and I always thought that a mixed labour force worked much better together than all of one sex, and as you can imagine I enjoyed greatly the opportunity to work with the ladies!
This holiday farm work prepared me well for what was to follow in my early years on the farm. I left school a couple of weeks before my fifteenth birthday and went straight to work on the farm working alongside everyone, and learning the skills that our able staff showed. My first working week was sixty five hours, which consisted of six ten hour days and five hours on Sunday, two and a half hours before breakfast and a further two and a half hours in the afternoon. As you see the only time of the weekend which wasn’t worked was between milking on Sunday’s, all for the princely sum of five pounds two shillings and six pence! I found it quite hard going from a fifteen year old lad and had to go to bed at eight most nights otherwise I missed the cursed alarm clock which rang at five thirty am, with monotonous regularity! I haven’t detailed these working hours to garner sympathy, as this was the going rate at the time for a lad learning his trade on the farm. We have to remember that this was not that long after the Second World War previous to which, many thousands of farm labourers had no work whatsoever, as farming was in a time of Great Depression which was sadly only exacerbated by the food rationing and shortages, which was brought about by the catastrophic Wartime years. This time in my life taught me to value money for what it was meant for, in other words to improve one’s standard of living and not waste a single penny! Anyone who works sixty five hours for five pounds, less than a pound for a ten hour day will remember how valuable it is, certainly too valuable to waste!
Everyone who started at that time on the farm had to help with the milking of the cows, and I always considered the fact that they had to milked twice a day fairly irritating!
It was around this time that I knew that dairy farming and I were never going to be a marriage made in heaven, and that the nice warm cheese dairy was a much cleaner and more civilised environment to learn one’s trade. Owing to Dad and Jim’s relentless expansion into dairy farming our little cheese making business had to grow as well, this meant more staff were required including some dairymaids, which was an even greater attraction to get involved and help out as it were! But maybe that’s a story for another day…..
Next time, my elder sister Susan Mary becomes an accomplished cheesemaker.”