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My Sister Susan

John Clothier


On the day I was born my elder sister Susan Mary was already 15 years old and about to leave Bruton School for girls to start two years practical work in our cheese dairy before taking on a Cheesemaking course at Cannington College near Bridgewater.

Susan was very lucky at the time to get on the Cheesemaking Course at Cannington as they were run by Miss K. D. Maddever who was one of the greatest teachers of practical cheesemaking ever to grace the West Country Cheddar arena. K.D. as she was known to some of her closest associates, had the great gift of being an incredibly clever person, and had the ability to impart some of that greatness into the students that were lucky enough to gain entry to her courses.

Being born 15 years later than Susan, I cannot really remember properly meeting her until she was 18 or 19 years old and almost at the end of her Cannington training. I must have been almost as much of a pain to Susan as I was to Jim in a way, as she was kind enough to let me into her very “grown up” world sometimes. This would involve taking me to the Cinema to see Laurel and Hardy, George Formby who was a great favourite, as he played Banjo with great skill, and numerous Cowboy stars such as Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Tex Ritter and others, all of whom sang by the way, these Guys were known as the Singing Cowboys, and I absolutely loved their work which was great entertainment for a lad like me. Their world of fancy cowboy outfits, horses and very decorative Sixguns gave me an introduction to my love of Country Music which some of you will know that I still like to sing and play a little.

Music and the ability to remember songs and sing along to the memories, have been an amazing help to me during the more difficult times of life, and the somewhat lonely task of milking cows on one’s own, tractor driving before cabs and radios, and generally doing farm chores in the darker days of winter’s early or late hours.

Anyway Susan, like Jim was very patient with me and my interminable questions about everything she was doing and where she was going, and the world of two much older siblings was absolutely fascinating, for an inquisitive little so and so like me, and I couldn’t wait to be able to do all of the things that they could do.

After her K. D. Maddever training Susan became a very proficient cheese maker and quickly gained the skills of making consistently good cheddar, which was incredibly difficult in those days, without the technical sophistication which we are now able to call on. She also managed to win the greatest prize that our little business had won to that date, which was the Reserve Champion Cheddar at the Frome Cheese Show. As the Frome Cheese Show was the greatest showcase of its time for the hundreds of Farmhouse Cheesemakers of their era this was a great honour, and one which everyone at Wyke Champflower rejoiced in and remembered for many, many years.

Later on after she married Mr. Norton Look she went on to become an expert Double Gloucester Cheese maker for their little business.

As you can feel I am very proud of my family’s hard won expertise as Cheesemakers and even more proud that this business skill, has been carried forward to the current generation of Clothiers and that we are among the few survivors of three thousand Farm based Cheesemakers who were around when my mother started taking lessons from her mother.


Next time … early lessons in business and economics at the Wyke Champflower School of the same!



June 2020


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