Tape 184. Mr Reg Kent, side 1

Tape 184

Mr Reg Kent was born c 1930. He was interviewed on 23 March 1999, when he lived at ‘Rosanald’, Manor Road, Hatfield Peverel.

For more information about him, see Kent, Reg, in the People category

The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at ero.enquiry@essex.gov.uk or 033301 32500.

[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]

Side 1

[Discussing photos M744 to M748 of Half Hides farm, in 1950s]

Mr K:    That’s the house, as you see I told you [???] (Q: Ah, isn’t it lovely). And of course there’s the end, and me and my brother on our bikes just coming up the path beside it, you can see that’s the end of the house. (Q: Which is you then?) Me, this side (Q: On the right there.) Oh yes. [photo M748]

Q:    So how old would you be then about then?

Mr K:    I can’t quite remember, I keep meaning to get my driving licence out, cause I still have it, where I used to pass my tests.

Q:    Right. I see, you moved around such a lot you can’t remember where you were when?

Mr K:    I can’t, not without finding that driving licence out and finding that test.

Q:    So you weren’t at Half Hides all that long then ?

Mr K:    I can’t quite think. We started the Witham Football Club off, cause they hadn’t got nowhere to play football. (Q: Really?). So father said ‘Well, he says, when the cows are not on there, [???] cows, you see, you can have that field to play football on. So of course that’s how the football club started, at Witham, until they got their own field. So it was right behind the cemetery you see. There’s the cemetery. There used to be a …, they’ve blocked the road off now, haven’t they, one of them roads off up there, because you used to be able to go through there, across the cemetery, and come out right down beside the footpath here, right beside of Half Hides farm. Cut through, up Cut Throat Lane, out to Rivenhall.

Q:    Yes, I think I’ve done that.

Mr K:    Yes, yes. But of course it’s on the estate. You can find your way through, and I have done. (Q: But you go through all the houses, yes.) But I done it through this way. See, we had a herd of cows up there and we used to have to, when the turns were built, down through here, we used to have Adams and Mortimer down here, through a little road, cut through there, and take it down to where Fiveways is now, the Co-op [bottom of Highfields Road]. (Q: Oh I see.) That’s where the milk used to go to. Yes, that’s where it was all bottled. I used to take it on the back of the tractor. Done it every morning, before I had my breakfast, used to milk the cows and …. (Q: What time did you used to get up then?). Well, early in the morning. [laughter] I still do now. I can’t lie abed, I’m a bad one for lying in bed.

Q:    So was this when you were quite young?

Mr K:    Well according to that photo, I must have been here seventeen or eighteen, I must have been.

Q:    Yes. So you weren’t here when you were a little boy. (Mr K: Oh no, no.) It was when you came as a teenager.

Mr K:    No, cause we came there after Queenborough.

Q:    So Queenborough, then he sold that. I mean did he, did he rent all these places or did he …

Mr K:    No, father bought em and sold them. I don’t suppose he ever paid for anything, I suppose there was a mortgage, and he made a little out of every deal. Not taking a lot of notice, I used to grumble because poor old mum used to have to get all the chattels and go, in a cattle float, because there weren’t no blooming furniture van, used to have [???] cheap enough. I mean we moved out of there to Mersea Island. (Q: I see.) Then we went to Stisted. [laughter]. That’s right. From Half Hides to Queenborough, Queenborough to Stisted, Stisted to Mersea. We had a lovely five hundred acre farm at Mersea. £4,800 that was then. I remember that quite well. And we built a herd of cows up, churns of milk going away every morning so we got a cheque coming in every week. I got up to milk the cows one morning, I went into breakfast, and he couldn’t drive. ‘I want to go to Chelmsford this morning’. I said ‘What you going to Chelmsford for this morning?’ ‘I’ve had enough of this, I’m going to put it on the market and sell it’. I said ‘You sell this, I’m off’. ‘Where you off to?’. And that’s the word I got and I went. That’s what you got then. [laugh] Yes.

Q:    So where did you go then?

Mr K:    I went, I took a cottage down at Ulting, Hatfield, just down Ulting Road, I don’t know whether you know Ulting? On a fruit farm. Tied cottage. Looked after myself. The chap took, and I’ve still go the reference he’s got that he give me. Yes, there’s no trees there now, all the fruit has gone, it’s all pulled out. (Q: So you worked for him.) Yes, I worked for Tony Blunt[?] then. Yes, yes, driving tractors and spraying the fruit, and doing all the fruit side of it.

Q:    So how old roughly would you be then, when you went there?

Mr K:    Well I got married at 25, that was when I, I must have been about twenty, twenty-two, twenty-three.

Q:    I see, so you were still quite young.

Mr K:    Young, yes. [???]

Q:    Which of these farms were you born in then, or is that …

Mr K:    I was born in a cottage at Great Leighs. In Spring Lane, in a thatched cottage, Fortune’s cottage it was called. And I have took the photos down, and spoke to the gentleman. They heard I’d been there, and I have got in touch with some people in Great Leighs, you know, my old school friends. A lot of them keep dying, you keep losing them, you know, and I go over there very often and see some. They told these people I was born in … ‘Oh, we’d love to meet him’. And of course I’d got some photos. Dad with a wheelbarrow, round the side, how it was then, it’s been altered a lot now. Used to have jump of a beam then to [???]

That was a lovely old thatched cottage, and the beam was across the doorway, used to have to step over it to get in the other room. [laugh] I can remember the two, I believe they were two sisters, I have spoke to my sister about it since, and they had a tiger skin on the floor in front of the fire, with the head, and I can remember that as plain as anything. But I can’t remember going upstairs to bed or nothing. But I can remember walking in that room and seeing that great big tiger skin laying in front of the fire with the head on and the feet laying outside like that. I reckon they must have been wealthy people according to what I was. But that is where I was actually born. Then he bought a piece of ground nearly opposite. Well he lived in a barn for a little while, until he’d finished building this bungalow up on this bit of ground, and what we called Chase Side, and then we went up there, until I was, I went from the junior school at eleven, and we had to go to Panfield Lane School then, that’s right, there was three schools built, the one at Witham, Bramston, that was the same, Panfield Lane School, and the one at Ongar. That was all three schools built the same. Yes. And the same principle and everything. And when you was eleven, you had to go to them. You may remember that as well as what I do. I’ve got to be careful because you might give your age away.

Q:    I was wondering if I dare ask you how old you are?

Mr K:    I’m 68 this year or 69.

Q:    You look full of beans.

Mr K:    I’m not, I’ve had twenty-two years I haven’t been able to work, I’ve injured my spine. I’ve been driving tractors all my life. Big vehicles and big tractors, that’s vibration, vibrate the, dislocate my spine. But that man down the station, that acupuncture man, he’s got me on my feet. I mean I’ve got a wheelchair I used to get about. I still have to use it now if I go anywhere long. I can’t do jogging or anything stupid. I have to use my loaf. I mean if my wife and I go shopping in Chelmsford, after about three quarters of an hour I think to myself, she says, look, come on, we’d better go and stop and have a cup of tea. And we have to go into Butterflies or somewhere and have a cup of tea. And have a break for half an hour, and then carry on again. I’ve got to use this now, rather than be stupid and do it all in one day. I used to go out there and dig that whole garden in one day, and then I didn’t do nothing for three days, but I’ve learnt a bit of sense now. Dig two rows. Well I’ve laid a lot of it to lawn, I can use the lawnmower, and at least my wife can do that if I was to creased up. And I’ve only got a small bit of garden, I like my runner beans, I like my beetroot. I’ve got two rows of peas just coming through I see this week. You know, just a little bit, just to keep me occupied. And I’ve built a steam engine since. I’m steam engine mad. (Q: A great big one?) Oh no, only a model. I can sit on and ride it. I’m hoping to do carnivals with it this year. [laugh] But that’s the sort of thing, I mean really. I mean, Dr Teverson at Witham, he says it was the best thing I ever done when I made a steam engine. When I come out of Bartholomew’s hospital they told me ‘Don’t go home and prop yourself up in a chair with cushions, get about’, cause I would be in a wheelchair in eight years permanently. But I beat them to it. I’m still going, and I’m not in a wheelchair permanent. And Dr Teverson laughs. ‘It’s the best thing you ever done’, cause he calls me Reg, he says ‘when you built that steam engine’. He said ‘It got you out’. He said ‘I know I had your daughter down here’. ‘Look’, she said, ‘he goes to the rally on the Sunday, and he can’t move on Monday’. He said ‘It doesn’t matter, he’s sitting there thinking about all the people that’s talked to him’. It done me more good. Yes, so that’s the sort of stupid things I done, I mean I’m stupid. I mean I’ve gone stupid again now, this winter, I won’t go to sleep now, the television, I’m going to watch this, but you don’t, you drop off. So I’ve gone in for tapestry. (Q: Oh, well done.) I’ve done one, I’ve done the village of Finchingfield, three thousand five hundred stitches. Everybody says ‘I never ever thought you’d sit and do it’. And now I’m doing my steam engine now, I’ve done my own patterns, my own print, and I’m doing my steam engine now’.

Q:    So you sound as if you’re like your dad really.

Mr K:    I’ve got to do something. I can’t sit and do nothing. No. I think this is marvellous when somebody, no, I don’t mind helping people if they, you heard about me got some Half Hides photos. I think it’s wonderful, I mean, all right you can see them.

Q:    Which one of you was the photographer then?

Mr K:    I don’t know who took the photos, it wasn’t me. [???]

[general chat about keeping photos, not noted]

[chat about taking model steam engine to shows, problem of smuts etc.]

[Back to Half Hides photos]

Mr K:    There’s the farm buildings again, I believe there’s dad there, with the sheep. They weren’t our sheep, they were let in …

Q:    So would that be further back down here? Is this those same buildings there?

Mr K:    This the opposite way round, there’s the gate. (Q: Oh I see.). You’re looking through the buildings this way. (Q: So that’s going to the cemetery?) That’s it, that’s the cemetery, the other way, that could be the cemetery at the back there. (Q: It does look a bit like that one, doesn’t it.) It does. But that’s looking at it the other way, you see. (Q: So even though you’re looking at the cemetery, you’re looking in a different direction sort of thing.) Now that one’s got the cemetery in the back of it. (Q: Ah yes.) Now that little boy that’s on the other photo, this one (Q: The boy with the sheep, yes.). Well, he was, my sister married a soldier and he come from Poplar, so of course she moved up there. Now he was a relation of her husband’s. Now he’s in Australia today, a grown man. But they used to come down weekends, they used to love being on the farm. And he’s stood there with the sheep you see. There’s dad there, and that little boy’s, I can’t even think what his name is now. But he’s in Australia today. I know it’s a fact, cause my sister’s husband’s brother has just died, and they’re arguing about the will. All relations. You can’t beat a good friend, they’re better than all the relations [laugh] I shouldn’t say it. That’s me. I mean relations can be a nuisance. But I mean if there’s anything there that you think you can borrow and make use of. Look, I’ve put my name and address on there, and me phone number. (Q: I’ll look after them.) Look after them.

Q:    So can you remember, you can’t remember that much about being there, you reckon [Half Hides]

Mr K:    Well, I can remember being there, I mean doing the farm, milking the cows, as I say, bringing the milk down here.

Q:    So was it, can you remember the sheep as well?

Mr K:    Oh yes, I can remember them, they used to run on the stubble for food you see, and they used to come in for lambing times. But they were somebody else’s. They came from a bloke at Sandon. I think they used to be brought all along the road. They used to years ago, I mean cattle floats weren’t so much. And they ran them, of course father knew him, and charged him so much a day or what, I don’t know, and they ran on the stubbles or on the grass and had their lambs, cause they wouldn’t be stubble laying when they had their lambs, cause that was new. And yes …

Q:    It couldn’t have been a terribly big farm then?

Mr K:    Oh no, it wasn’t a large farm, I don’t quite know how many acres it was, I can’t think. There couldn’t have been more than 100, 120, I don’t know quite, not myself. I don’t even know what my other, I have got one more brother, that is the one on the bike, beside me, he lives at Colchester.

Q:    What’s his name then?

Mr K:    His is Bob.

Q:    And what was your dad’s name?

Mr K:    Spencer.

Q:    Spencer?

Mr K:    Kent.

Q:    Spencer Kent, oh very grand, yes.

Mr K:    Yes yes. My eldest brother was named after him though we always called him John.

Q:    What about your mum?

Mr K:    Mum, that was Dorothy, she was always Doll. She always said ‘Dad’s back in [???]’. I’ve thought of her a lot since I’ve been hiding[?], I don’t ever remember picking up a tea cloth or a dish cloth and helping her, you know.

Q:    That’s what women did then, wasn’t it, yes.

Mr K:    I suppose we was on the farm, as soon as we’d had food, there was something to do on the farm and off we went. But you see, I mean, I think, for her, washdays was a day’s work, on a Monday, used to get up, chop the sticks and light the copper, and you don’t think of these. I remember winding my brother’s fingers through to cut her mangle, big old cast iron thing with the wooden rollers. Oh yes, cause he’s laughed about it several times.

Q:    So were you still at school when you went there can you remember?

Mr K:    No, no. I’d left, I reckon I was about twenty then, twenty-odd.

Q:    So was it after the War?

Mr K:    Yes, yes, War was over then. Cause we lived at Willingale when War was finished, and I remember VJ night in the village hall, cause funnily enough I took the wife round there for a ride, oh not so many weeks ago, she’d never been to Willingale. I said ‘We used to call it Willingle’. Two churches and one churchyard, isn’t there. And I took her up the street. Of course that’s all built on now. Cause I left school about fourteen at Willingale, and I went as petrol pump boy. Yes. On the petrol pump. Half a gallon up, I had to wind it back again, another half a gallon. And I remember there was four school buses used to have to go out in the morning, little single deckers, and one driver, he was always late, well he started up on his own in the end, didn’t he. I used to get his bus out for him in the end when I got used to everything, that was the first bit of driving I ever done. Oh yes, used to start that bus up, back it out, and fill it up with petrol for him. [laugh] But that was life, wasn’t it, that was the sort of things we used to do.

Q:    So then you came along, so, when you were in Witham, did you just work on the farm or did you do other jobs?

Mr K:    No. I used to help Mr Marvin up at Church, I can’t think now, behind Church’s nurseries. Church’s nurseries has gone now, hasn’t it? There’s a little chase down beside it. Mr Marvin used to farm that.

Q:    You’ll have to remind me which Church’s nurseries were.

Mr K:    Going back, no you can’t go back past there now can you, cause that’s on a slip road, you go over the top of the bridge and round. Coming this way, they was on your left, oh, where they have a little place where you can buy a cup of tea and things now, before you come to Lynfield garage, used to be Lynfield café at one time (Q: Oh right, right up the, near the … by-pass.). Yes, well that used to all be Church’s nurseries. Yes, on that left hand side. Yes, well I used to go up and help at potato time. Used to have a potato machine. [???] him, me and his wife. In fact she lives at Hatfield Peverel, I very often have a natter to her. We used to both sit on there and used to be a big wheel going round with little flaps on it, and we used to have to fill all these flaps with a potato, so when it got to there it used to open and drop the potato, so it done two rows at a time, and we used to sit there and fill all these little flaps in with potatoes, big hopper on top full of potatoes, he used to drive the tractor, and I used to go and help him, times like that, you know, and I used to get a little pay like that, so [???] at home, used to have me board and keep, father used to say, what more do you expect. [laugh]

Q:    But you were still only pretty young then, when you actually – you went to Mersea and then you left there when you were still, before you married really?

Mr K:    Yes, before, I must have been about twenty-three, twenty-four, probably more. I got married when I was twenty-five.

Q:    So he was only really in Witham for a few years then?

Mr K:    Oh yes, yes, I can’t quite remember how many years.

Q:    He did very well though, if he started off, he started off as a farmworker presumably, really, your dad, and he ended up [???] on his own.

Mr K:    Oh yes. I can remember him biking from Great Leighs, I can just remember it, going to Felsted factory, on a trade bike, when [???] Felsted, well, they’ve just blown it up, haven’t they. Yes. The sugar beet used to go there. He used to go and bike work, used to bike. Yes. They used to years ago, no buses, [???] jump on a bus and go, but I mean, we hadn’t got a car then.

Q:    I wonder when he actually started having enough to get a mortgage or whatever on a farm.

Mr K:    I don’t know, I don’t know, I never saw …

Q:    He was ambitious obviously then, wasn’t he?

Mr K:    There you are. I mean. Things weren’t so expensive then, was they. I suppose he bought these two fields, there was two fields, and a little tiny one, at Chase Side, up a Chase, and built a bungalow, in Great Leighs. Then we came out of the barn[?] So they tell me, I don’t remember that bit, not until …

Mr K:    Well I must have been six or seven, then I went to school, [???] school, which was made into two houses. And when they were making it into two houses, I got in there, because I’ve got a photo, of the ash tree in the playground, and us four[?] children standing underneath it, but we haven’t got a whole group, I suppose mother couldn’t afford the photos then, but we have got one, and I managed to get in there and take a photo of the same ash tree. That’s still there. But we’re not under it [laugh]. But I wanted a photo, and I took some of the school. Yes, yes.

Q:    Were your grandparents, any of your grandparents alive when you were little? Do you remember …

Mr K:    I don’t remember any, cause father, well, I suppose he was funny. I don’t know, they said he was a funny old boy, so he was, cause I mean, as I say, I mean, I spoke to him that morning, ‘Oh well, if you’re going to sell it …’. [probably Mersea] I mean I thought I was on a good thing, cause I was working like a Trojan, seven days a week, milking cows, we’d got the farm, I know we’d got a mortgage, but I mean, we’d got the cheque going into the bank every week or every month, and I thought, ‘We’re away.’ Nearly five hundred acres of ground, I know a lot of it was marsh ground, but you could run the cattle on that. That was lovely fattening ground. But he wouldn’t alter his ways, and no, he’d just had enough and he’d got to sell it. I thought ‘No, I’ve finished working hard like this’. All I was doing was making, well, for the solicitors and the blooming, for the dealers and for the [???]. Lenny’s[?] grain[?] company, that’s who it was, they’re still in Chelmsford today. I don’t suppose they’re the same people, but … They used to call them the forty thieves, I believe they were called then. [laugh]. So I mean, yes, so that’s how it all come about you see …

Q:    So you reckon your grandad was the same, perhaps?

Mr K:    I don’t remember much, I’ve seen photos of Grandad, and Grandmother. I can remember one or two of Dad’s brothers, coming to see us.

Q:    So were they all, were they on the land as well?

Mr K:    Oh, all farmers, yes yes. One of his brothers had a farm at Stock. Yes. But there was one lived down, where the Vine and the Reindeer are at Notley, you go down a dip don’t you, the two pubs there. And there’s a house right down in the dip. My wife tells me I took her down there to see him one day, but I don’t remember it. But he worked in Crittall’s all his life, with a sledgehammer, cutting, and the other one held a chisel and they used to cut the angle iron for the window frames, then. I mean I suppose at the end it was cut off with a proper machine, but that was all done with a sledgehammer and a mallet them days. And that’s how he finished up. But he never went in for any of the, that was uncle Basil, I believe that was called, whether it was Bosil or Basil. But anyway, that’s that one. And auntie Et[?], that’s right. Uncle Sam was at Stock. There was several of them dotted all around the country. But, no never had a lot to do with our relations much, I don’t know why. As I say, dad was a funny customer. My wife says I take after him sometimes. I said ‘We’ve all got funny ways, it don’t matter what you do’. But as I say, Half Hides, well that was about the biggest jump. We had a little farm at Stisted, not much. There’s nothing left of that now, all the land has gone with the big farmers, I think, and there’s only the house stand now.

And Half Hides was a bigger jump. But I know I got in a row over the crossing gates one morning, cause I used to open them, had to get off the tractor you see, when I took the milk, and then when I went back, I used to have a bit of string over the top of them, just lean over and just take the string off and they used to bang shut, you see. So they must have watched me up in the signal box, which the signal box could see [???] the crossing. And there was somebody waiting for me one morning. They wanted them shut properly. [laugh] Cullen’s seed ground was up there then, seed trial grounds. My other brother, middle one, he used to work for them, so he wasn’t far away from home. Yes, yes, yes. So …

Q:    Was the house, do you remember the house at all? I mean was it a reasonable, it was a fair size?

Mr K:    Oh no, it was a funny old house. Oh yes. Yes, yes. It was the best thing they ever done when they pushed that down I should think. [laugh]

Q:    What makes you say that then?

Mr K:    Well, I don’t think we’d got any running water, I think we’d got a pump. I don’t even know, I don’t think there was electricity even. No, no. At Great Leighs when father built the bungalow there, I can remember him digging the well. He dug the well and mother, we had a winch over the top, and mother winding all the dirt up in a bucket. And they had all red soft bricks, I can remember them now. Made a frame, that’s how they used to dig wells apparently. Made a frame, to fit the size. So you keep digging under that, and as the frame went down, they’d keep the size for you, it was down the middle. Keep bucketing the dirt out the way, or getting it out somehow.

Mother used to wind it up in a bucket. And then, get up, stand all your bricks round, weren’t cemented or nothing, not to make a well. They was locked in. And as the weight would take that frame down, and he had to get out in the end cause there was too much water, and we never did have to worry about water after that, we had all the water we needed, and that was beautiful. Lovely clear, beautiful water.

Q:    So, was it a well here then, when you said you’d got no running water? [Half Hides]

Mr K:    There was a pump in the garden. There was a pump in the garden. In fact I think my, well it is, the one what my brother in law, my sister’s husband, has got it in his garden now, up the back, as an ornament, all painted up.

Q:    I’ve forgotten, I can’t picture where the pond was in relation to the house.

Mr K:    The pond was at the back there. Where all the trees are. Them trees are round the pond.

Q:    Oh the trees …

Mr K:    Yes, they’re round the pond. Yes, yes. There was a front door and we used to go round the back for the other door. Yes, yes.

Q:    What sort of state was the pond in, did you use that at all?

Mr K:    No, no, never used .. I suppose the cows went in one way [???], yes, yes, to go down at it. Yes, yes. There was a bit of wall, or a fence anyway, I think it was a wall. I don’t know whether you can see it on the bicycle one better. Oh no, that’s beside the garden, that is. They look like runner beans.

Q:    Well, that’s very good of you …

Mr K:    No, well, I couldn’t find the house one, that’s what got me beat, and I thought to myself, I reckon that’s over at John’s, and I wonder, [???] they live at Tiptree, as I say he lived at Tiptree, he died last Christmas twelvemonth.

Q:    Well, Gill [Thomas] said she had one of the house …

Mr K:    What’s that, Jan’s mother?

Q:    Mum, yes, so I can ask her for that.

Mr K:    Oh yes, yes.

Q:    Then we’ll have the whole lot won’t we, yes, I’ll have to …

[chat about getting photos done, not noted]

Mr K:    … I don’t like Hatfield Peverel. I never have done.

Q:    Oh really? That’s a shame.

Mr K:    No, but my wife has lived there all her life, and born there and everything else, so, you know, she wasn’t to move. We had our own bungalow built. There was a piece of ground there belonged to father in law, well he wouldn’t do nothing about it when he was alive, but when he died, mother in law was talking about it one day, well that was all shrub, we had to keep trimming it up, keep tidying up. I was a digger driver then, I went digger driving after I come off the land, after I got, we went in one of mother’s tied cottages, that belonged to mother in law then, or father in law. And I says, ‘Right, that’s good-bye to land work’, I said ‘I’m going into Crittall’s to earn some money’. I only had two months in there, that was too much for me. Ah, that was Unions, I’ve got to be a good boy, and the Unions say this, and the Unions say that, and I don’t know whether, you might be Union, I don’t know, but anyway the chap who I worked with, cause you have to work in pairs in Crittall’s, you might know that. And he belonged to the Union, ‘Well, I got a Union meeting this afternoon’, he’d be gone, so I was covering up for him. Well I don’t mind working, but I’m not going to work for two people. So of course, then they said I’d got to belong to a Union after I’d been there a month. I said ‘I’m not belonging to no Union’. I says ‘Look at Taffy’, he was a Welshman, I said ‘Look what he does’. ‘Oh well we must have Board meetings’, I said ‘I don’t care if you do or what you do, I’m not paying out to keep that lot up there sitting drinking tea’. That was me, I’m a funny old bird like my father. I said ‘There’s no need for them to have a Board meeting every afternoon’. I said ‘They’re sitting up there smoking fags and drinking tea’ and I said ‘There’s me working’.  Oh, they had me in the office, the management and the heads, oh, they tried to get me to stop, I said ‘No way’, I said ‘I’m not stopping, I’m off’. I said ‘I’m not going in a Union, I’m going’. So I left. I left and I went digger driving.

Q:    How old were you about then?

Mr K:    I was married then, so I was twenty-five, twenty-six, twenty-seven. Yes, yes, yes. But, I often regret, cause when I first left school, as I say I went petrol pump boy, and then the head mechanic there started up on his own after the War. Cause during the War you weren’t allowed to leave a job, were you, you had to stop on that job, they employer, the man who you was working for could hold you so you didn’t leave. So of course he tried to get away a lot, but anyway, he did start up on his own at High Ongar. And we lived at Willingale at the time, and I started with him. He said ‘Will you come with me, boy?’ And I went with him and I learnt welding, that’s how I learnt to do my steam engines, and, but, I wanted to sit on a tractor, I hadn’t got no sense when I was 15 and 16, you can see it when you get older. If only I’d have kept in the engineering, but I didn’t, and his wife frightened me, I don’t mind admitting it, I’ve told my wife since. She started making a fuss of me, and I was only sixteen.

And I thought ‘No, no way here, I’m going’. And I left. Been today it might have been a different matter, but I went [laugh], I shouldn’t say that. No, no, and I left, cause my father then moved from Willingale, we came to Hatfield Peverel, I don’t whether you know much about Nounsley, where the water runs across the road, well Bridge House farm. In fact I’ve been looking at photos this morning of Bridge House farm, and that’s when we moved there. So of course I went backwards and forwards to High Ongar from Hatfield Peverel for quite a while. I’ve got pictures of the little old two-stroke motorbike I had, yes, but, as I say, I left and I went to Ernest[?] Durrant[?], I was on the farm, and that was when I started farm work and tractor driving and, I never left it after that. And when we got married I came up to another farm, head tractor driver. I finished up at Braintree as foreman, but of course once I got my own cottage I thought, ‘Right, I’m going to leave tied cottages’, then I went digger driving, and I went all over the place. But that didn’t matter cause my wife was, I didn’t have to move her. And we’d got two children. So. But I loved digger-driving, I enjoyed myself digger-driving, I learnt a lot. Yes. And then I got to know a small builder, what said he would build a pair of bungalows, well, all in one like, semi, and he says, I’ll put yours up for the price of the ground. And I got to thinking about it, and I talked to mother in law about it, and I thought, yes. That was only a shell, mind you, with electricity and water on, so we could live in it. The decorating and everything would be down to me. So I had a deal with him, and he sold the other one off, you see, sold the other one off, which, I suppose, I dunno, well he must have had a profit out of it. But it didn’t cost me nothing to have the bungalow, so I got it for nothing. Well, we give for the ground, but I mean, so, that’s how we got our bungalow. Otherwise I don’t suppose we should have had one. But my mother in law give me the ground, give us the ground, so my sister in law had the other half. That is the trouble, I’ve got my sister in law one side and [???] [laugh]. So anyway, that’s how I got there and that’s how I’ve been stuck ever since, you know. But … then of course one day I was at work, in the digger, and I found out I couldn’t move my hand, and I had a job to get out the cab. I’d noticed I’d had a bit of back ache, several times. Anyway they got me out of my cab, and my digger, and one had to drive me home, and one had to bring my car behind, and I finished up in Bartholomew’s for about three months, didn’t I. I thought I was never going to walk again. But, I have !

Q:    Well done. Determination.

[chat about various recent health problems, not noted. Then phone call]

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