Duration: 51 minutes 36 Seconds
Lisa: This interview is being conducted on the 1st February 2017 with Geoffrey Phillips at his home in Lower Sutton Farm, Brighstone. Good morning Geoff.
Geoff: Good morning.
Lisa: Where were you born?
Geoff: Ivy Cottages at Billingham.
Lisa: And was that your family home?
Geoff: No, my father worked for the farmer there in those days and I was born at Ivy Cottages.
Lisa: So your father was a tenant farmer then, at Billingham?
Geoff: He was a Foreman for the Estate in those days and then we moved from there to Caw Farm at Chale.
Lisa: And how old were you when you moved there?
Geoff: I was about a year old I think.
Lisa: Very young then.
Geoff: Yes very young.
Lisa: And is that where you grew up, Caw Farm?
Lisa: And what type of, you said your father was a Foreman?
Geoff: Yes he was the Foreman at Caw for the farmer.
Lisa: What kind of farm was it?
Geoff: Well they grew everything then; vegetables, grain they grew because for bread-making and potatoes, sugar beet, the whole range of vegetables they grew in those days, yeah.
Lisa: Do you come from a farming family? Were your Grandparents farmers?
Geoff: They were mixed up with the farming, yes, they were, the line all back through I suppose, in those days and it carried on through.
Lisa: So can you tell me a bit about growing up on the farm then?
Geoff: That was good days that was because we were in amongst it all and all the different men that worked on the farm and it was completely different in those days to what it is today and that’s how you learned so much about farming because you were brought up with it and you were in amongst it every day of your life.
Lisa: So did you have certain jobs that you had to do as a child?
Geoff: Oh yeah, you had different little jobs you used to do, yeah.
Lisa: Like what?
Geoff: Well, we’d help feed the pigs and the chickens and things like that.
Barbara: He also drove machinery at a very early age.
Geoff: And you also got mixed up with driving different things at an early age which they don’t allow today (laughs).
Lisa: So what sort of things were you driving then?
Geoff: Well the old tractors. In those days, nothing modern in those days, it was all the old things ‘cos after the War there wasn’t much about really.
Lisa: Not many vehicles?
Geoff: Not many, no and what there was were old ones because a lot come over during the War, they said, on the lease lend. The WARAG and that had a lot of them didn’t they so there wasn’t a great deal but what there was were old ones.
Lisa: Where there jobs that were still done by hand?
Geoff: Oh yes, yeah, a lot were. All the hedging was done, the ditching was done by hand. The hoeing the crops, sugar beet, turnips and all that was all done by hand in those days and they used to have … some of the chaps used to do, I don’t know what they got, so much an acre for doing it so it was quite interesting really, so they had to work to earn their money. Piece work they called it, yes.
Lisa: So how old were you when you were driving then? Driving tractors?
Geoff: I don’t know really, I was big enough to get up on there and get your feet on the pedals (laughs). Yeah it was good fun really.
Lisa: Did you not have to have a licence in those days then?
Geoff: No, I never had a licence up until…
Barbara: You were meant to of course.
Geoff: Should have done but I wasn’t old enough was I (laughs). Because of a lot of people, going back during the War and that see, a lot of those chaps never had a licence any rate and they just drove and nobody took any notice in those days and they drove right up until recent years when they died and they had a licence they could give them but up until then they never passed a test or anything.
Lisa: Were there still horses that were used for work when you were young?
Geoff: Yes, oh yes, the heavy horses, yes, they used to do quite a bit of work in those days still, on the land.
Lisa: Would they do ploughing and that sort of thing?
Geoff: Not so much the ploughing but they used to do a lot of the cart work with the carts and also in the spring of the year when the crops were coming up, they used to have a steerage hoe behind them, to hoe the crops and that. They did quite a lot of work like that, yes.
Lisa: So when do you think that died out a bit more then? Using horses for that sort of work?
Geoff: They gradually died out. Tthrough the ‘50’s there wasn’t much left then, the tractors and that took over more then because there was more machines got about and then when you got into the ’60’s it changed all together. The tractors and stuff got more up to date and we went right on through then, right up to the modern ones today. Yeah, it was a complete change really.
Lisa: So when you were a lad at school then, did you know that you would go into farming?
Geoff: I never thought about it like that really. It was there and you just done it and you never thought about doing anything else much really. No, it’s funny when you look back, you could have done different things I suppose but it was there and you just did it.
Barbara: Opportunities just weren’t around years ago, not like they are, the young ones now, you have so many opportunities. Before it was just accepted, that was the work and you got on with it.
Barbara: You were saying about the children; they were a very useful source of working because it was cheap labour and the farmer just forgot about regulations. The youngster was there as soon as he was big enough to do it he got on there and he did it and he was a jolly good source of cheap labour.
Geoff: You went …well I’d pick up taties and all that sort of thing, yeah. That’s how you got your pocket money, you didn’t get nothing else like the kids do today.
Lisa: What school did you go to?
Geoff: I went to Chale School.
Lisa: And were there lots of children there from farming families as well?
Geoff: Oh yes, all through the village there were all the different, well you knew most of the families all through the village in those days, yeah. Yes, it was alright really.
Lisa: So what did you do when you left school then?
Geoff: Went and worked on a farm (laughs)
Lisa: Someone else’s farm?
Geoff: Yes I did, yes.
Lisa: Who did you work for then, your first job that you did?
Geoff: I worked at Atherfield then, for an old farmer there, who’s dead and gone now but I used to go and help haymaking and that before I left school.
Lisa: Can you talk me through that? Tell me a bit about it?
Geoff: Well, we went haymaking and then they had the pickup balers so you done a time with the pickup balers and you found all the ins and outs of that so you knew what was what and in those days they put a bale sledge on the back of the baler that you stood on and you would stack them in a heap of six or eight bales and you’d just slide them off them and you had them in the heaps but the hard part was when you came to pick them all up and put them on the trailer because it was all done with a prong in those days or a pitch fork, whatever you call them today. It was all done by hand in those days and that was the hard work of it but you just done it because there wasn’t nothing else.
Lisa: So how was it cut then?
Geoff: They used to cut it with the old grass cutters, the old finger mowers and yeah I did that as a nipper. You were sent out to cut 15, 20 acres with the old finger mower and just did it and never thought nothing about not doing it; it was good fun, yeah.
Lisa: So how long would it take to get that amount, you said 15 to 20 acres, how long would it take you to get that amount into the barn?
Geoff: Well when it was baled I suppose it would take, I don’t know, a couple of days perhaps, yeah and you’d stack it all in the barn.
Lisa: And what if it rains?
Lisa: You’ve got to do it quicker? (Laughs).
Geoff: Yes (laughs). You had to get on or it got wet, you had to wait and get it dry again and start again but no, it was all part of it really, yeah, but now they’ve got all the machinery and they don’t have the hard work like that but we done it and I used to pitch those bales when I was 15 with the men and you never thought nothing about it really. It was just how life worked and yeah, it was good fun really because you had a gang of chaps see. You don’t get them now, you get one man does whatever today but you had five or six of you, it was always a lot of silliness going on and it was a good bit of fun.
10 minutes 35 seconds
Lisa: Would you say that was one of the things that’s changed most in your lifetime? The fact that there are less men required because of the machinery?
Geoff: Yes it has, yes it’s dead now on the farms really with men, because one man got a machine and he can go out and do whatever today and it’s a shame really because it’s changed completely to what it was, yeah.
Lisa: So can you talk me through … you said that you first, when you left school you were working at Atherfield Farm for a farmer there. Talk me through what happened after that, the different places that you’ve worked.
Geoff: I left there and went to Thorncross Farm, it was a bigger farm.
Lisa: What type of farm was it at Thorncross?
Geoff: They had a dairy, a big dairy there and arable. Can’t remember how many years, I did quite a few years there and I left there some when in the mid ‘60’s I suppose because the money wasn’t that brilliant in those days and I went on to the County Council then, for a few years and I drove lorries and diggers and everything then, for a few years.
Barbara: We were living here but my father died suddenly and then therefore we were both working, living here, working off the place and then doing the farm work early morning, late at night so we were putting a lot of hours in.
Lisa: So that’s how you came to be here then, at Lower Sutton Farm.
Barbara: He came because of me.
Geoff: Yes, that’s right.
Lisa: Because of your Barbara, and this particular farm was your family farm. Yes …?
Lisa: … so you took over together then, farming here?
Barbara: When my mother was alive, obviously we were with my mother as well, you know.
Lisa: Yes, so tell me a bit about this farm then? How many acres have you got here?
Barbara: About 100?
Geoff: About 100 I suppose.
Barbara: Unfortunately for us, most of it is cliff land.
Geoff: Cliff land a lot of it.
Barbara: And we lose something like three feet a year.
Geoff: We had a dairy herd here.
Barbara: It was mixed years ago, yes. We fattened turkeys, dad had pigs.
Barbara: Cattle, it was a real mixed farm but there was lots of little farms around here with cows and that weren’t there.
Geoff: Oh yes, yes.
Lisa: So how big was the herd when you had it here?
Barbara: About 40?
Geoff: About 40 wasn’t it?
Barbara: With [inaudible].
Geoff: But then the quotas killed everything off.
Lisa: Can you tell me a bit more about that?
Geoff: What the milk quotas? Yeah you had a quota for the amount of cattle you had, or cows you had and then they said the country was producing too much milk and they gave you a quota. Well then every year they cut the quota down a bit so you couldn’t make so much money and you had to buy in quota and it got to that stage, you either bought in quota or you got out of it so we decided we’d pack up the milking side and get out like that.
Lisa: So about what time was that, and about how much were you getting per pint?
Barbara: Was when we got out of the cows. Out of milking anyway.
Geoff: Out of milk, yes.
Lisa: So how much would it have cost then, or how much were you selling it for?
Barbara: It used to go to the Creamers didn’t it so I mean, I can’t remember now, you’re going back a lot of years for goodness sake.
Geoff: No I can’t remember what you got a gallon then, no, not now.
Barbara: But it used to be in churns and if you wanted a bit of cream you could take it down, after it had stood a while, get the cream off and you used to have to take the milk churns up the road and then after time went on … well first of all we had like the cow stable wasn’t it, then we put in a milking parlour…
Geoff: Milk parlour, yes.
Barbara: … and then they brought in bulk milk tanks …
Geoff: So we put a milk tank in, yes.
Barbara: … so the lorry then had to come down to the farm to collect but in a moment, if we give you a quick show round of the bits down there to explain things, you know, better?
Geoff: Oh yeah it all went didn’t it?
Lisa: So where would it be processed then?
14 minutes 58 seconds
Geoff: In Newport in those days.
Barbara: In the town, at the Creameries.
Geoff: At the Creamers, down at, down the back of Sainsbury’s
Barbara: Near Sainsbury’s. And then in the ’62, ’63 winter, oh boy, now that was, they say, that snowed, that was.
Geoff: That was a good’un.
Barbara: And you used to have to take milk churns to Newport and the tractor was an open tractor, no cab or anything and you used to go across fields and things and take the milk from us and from Thorncross, into Newport and that was cold wasn’t it?
Geoff: Yes, it was frozen up here for six weeks here, weren’t we?
Barbara: We didn’t have water in the bungalow for six weeks and three days and we had one tap down the farm running, we left it running, where the cows were because it was warmer down there and everything, we had all these animals, chickens, poultry and here, up here, everything had to come from that one tap.
Geoff: Yes because it was frozen up wasn’t it, solid, yes, God, yes.
Barbara: And when you did finally get to go out it was like toboggan runs wasn’t it?
Barbara: It was high.
Lisa: And it was like that for about six weeks?
Geoff: Yeah. Yeah, because that morning it was, how snow falls and it’s soft but as it got daylight it just froze solid and you could walk over the top of any edges, everything. Yes it was solid wasn’t it, like that.
Barbara: He had a motorbike, being a very young lad at the time and he’s ridden over hedges and ditches, the snow was so high, which we didn’t know, you wouldn’t know it was all under, he drove, he didn’t have to but he wanted to because he was young.
Geoff: It was lovely, you could go out, you had drifts (laughs). Yes it was good times, yes.
Barbara: And in fact, when we went to school, after he went to Chale he went to Ventnor and that’s when I met him, when I was about 11 years old and I started at Ventnor because we were on the same coach and, anyway, after a while, he used to drive. Now you listen to this, this is true, God’s truth, used to drive the school coach from Chine up round to Pyle and get round Atherfield Green and the coach driver used to get up the back of this stuff, everything he had and Geoff was a nipper going to school and he used to drive his school coach there day after day after day, wasn’t it?
Barbara: Before the driver took over again, now you think what they’d do about that now (laughs).
Geoff: Oh dear.
Barbara: That’s as true as I’m standing here.
Geoff: It was good fun wasn’t it, yes, dear oh dear.
Lisa: So you say that you’re still working now here then?
Geoff: Oh yeah.
Lisa: But you don’t have your cows anymore?
Geoff: No, not any cows now, no.
Barbara: We diversified, we had to yes.
Lisa: So what are you doing now then, here?
Geoff: Well the cliff land, I rent out during the summer for grazing and I do odds and ends and a few repair jobs, whatever and my own thing.
Lisa: Are you growing anything?
Geoff: No, only grass now, don’t grow any crops now. I’m supposed to be retired (laughs). Supposed to be!
Barbara: We’re also known as the Dinosaur Farm you see, because there were always dinosaur bones from our land so we opened up, I created that, we did the Dinosaur Farm so we have somebody now that used to be a Manager for me and he’s doing his own thing but he does that. What else have we got? We’ve got a few holiday, five holiday caravans.
Lisa: So that’s what you mean when you say you’re diversifying?
Geoff: Yes, yes.
Barbara: Yes. It’s not farming but it’s surviving.
Barbara: But we’re not big enough, we’re 100 acres, you can’t make a living on 100 acres, you have to do other things.
Geoff: Must be up to about 1000 acres today really but land is scarce, there’s only a certain amount of it.
Lisa: So thinking about in your lifetime then, you said that there were lots of smaller farms around this area.
Barbara: Yes, different dairies, yes.
Lisa: Have they all come to an end now then?
Geoff: Most of them yes, there’s not many left now, no.
Barbara: No, you just can’t make a living on, you need more and more land to make a living, you know?
Geoff: They’ve been sold up and gone and made bigger farms and everything like that really.
Barbara: We’re the last of the line to actually sort of farm like that here as well because, as I was saying, you can’t make a living at it so I imagine after us it’ll, yes.
Lisa: What do you think the reason for that is? You know, why it is so hard to make a living from farming on the Island now?
Geoff: It’s what’s called progress.
Geoff: Yes it is, you laugh (laughs).
Lisa: No I’m asking because I’m really interested in why. Is it because of … because we can get things cheaper?
Barbara: I think, what you buy in the shops, yes.
Geoff: Well yes that’s right.
Barbara: What you buy in the shops isn’t anywhere near the price that the farmer will get and then of course, the world we’re in today, they can import everything from everywhere can’t they so.
Geoff: That’s what I was saying just now, one man does a lot of work with one machine and the machines are bigger so you’ve got to have bigger fields and everything to correspond with the machinery today and the machinery costs a fortune to start with today.
Barbara: And in things like, weight you know, nowadays you’re only allowed to pick up a little tiny little bag of weight. When he was 16, he never has been that tall, you know? They used to pick up two and a quarter hundred weight?
Geoff: Two and a quarter hundred weight, those big sacks.
Barbara: Sacks of stuff and they were as big as what he was you know and go up and down. Well nowadays you’d never be allowed to, you know.
Geoff: 25 kilos now isn’t it (laughs).
Barbara: Because it’s built his muscles up and he’s very strong, extremely and when it came to pitching the bales, I’m not joking, I’d be on the load and he’d be pitching to me and then when, so you have like the trailer height, then you’ve got about eight bales high and yet you’d be pitching right up to me and well, hardly any man alive left in this country any more could do that and then he’d throw the rope over and then I’d climb down the rope.
Lisa: I suppose that now we have a lot more imported produce don’t we.
Geoff: Yes, that comes.
Lisa: Whereas, perhaps when you were younger the Island was maybe more self-sufficient, would you say?
Geoff: Well you were in those days, after the War because during the War they grew as much food and everything as they could to survive.
Barbara: You were encouraged, you go back then and the British farmer was encouraged to grow as much, produce as much, milk, food, you know whatever.
Geoff: Well you had to.
Barbara: And then suddenly with this EU turnout we joined the Common Market and that and then everything was sort of cut.
Geoff: Yes, just flooded in from everywhere.
Barbara: Yes. We didn’t have a very large quota, then when they brought the quotas in, it would be like with your job, you get several years where it’s cut back about 3% every year and your bills go up and your money’s going down and you think well, after a while, you know it just isn’t viable, no matter how much you love it you just, it’s not viable.
Geoff: No, it’s like the milk job at the moment for the ones that are in milk, they’re struggling now look, with these cuts on the price of it.
Barbara: The saying is ‘There’s never a poor farmer’. Well it might have been many years ago but oh boy, it’s not like that now, you do, I mean, yes and of course where there aren’t many people on the farms now, it’s very depressing for a man if he hasn’t got much company.
Lisa: So in your lifetime then, what would you have said was a prosperous time for farmers?
Geoff: I suppose.
Barbara: After the War.
Barbara: After the War, when they were encouraging all the farmers to grow as much as they could.
Geoff: Well then, they done very well then because they got all these handouts didn’t they, subsidies and they done quite well along then for quite a number of years. I don’t know what they get today but in those days they done quite well.
Barbara: Until the EU lot came along.
Geoff: Well yes.
Barbara: And then they started cutting everything back.
Geoff: Yes and the prices went down then didn’t they?
Lisa: One thing we’re interested in, in the museum is finding out more about the Isle of Wight dialect …
Geoff: That’s gone now hasn’t it?
Lisa: … and whether there were any words that island farmers use that are just peculiar to Island farmers. Can you think of any?
Barbara: There’s nammit, that’s the, which is the…
Geoff: Yes you had nammit.
Barbara: That’s summersaults, do you know that?
Geoff: They say, “Who is it over yonder?” (laughs).
Geoff: Oh yes.
Geoff: Oh scoat, yes.
Lisa: And what’s that?
Geoff: Well if you had a corn rick or a rick of bales in the barn and it started bulging out, you’d get a big timber called and put up against it to stop it falling out and that’s what they called a scoat. There was a hell of a lot of sayings, I can’t remember them at the moment.
Barbara: Trouble is when you’re asked is trying to remember them.
Geoff: Yes (laughs). Yes they had some weird names really, if I could remember them.
Barbara: But he has got the Isle of Wight dialect and yes, he still uses the old sayings.
Geoff: Yes, can’t remember them off-hand like that (laughs).
Lisa: (Laughs). Have a think and see if you can remember any. Maybe you could write them down for me? That would be interesting.
Transcribers note: Checked above with reference to:
Barbara: My mother had a very strong Isle of Wight accent too didn’t she?
Barbara: But somehow or other it missed me.
Geoff: Yes, no there’s quite a few sayings if I could remember them.
Barbara: Well think about it Geoffrey, let them know what you know.
Lisa: Yes have a think about it, I don’t want to put you on the spot (laughs).
Geoff: No, no.
25 minutes 5 seconds
Lisa: Can you talk to me a bit about Agricultural Shows and the County Show over the years? Is that something you’ve been involved with?
Geoff: No I’ve never been involved with it.
Barbara: Used to be at Blackwater.
Geoff: Used to be down at Blackwater.
Barbara: And it was good then, it was a real agricultural, farming show, it really was good, and when they moved it to Northwood it’s never been the same, and also I think at the same time a lot of the farming families and that, they’re not involved in farming the same anymore and it’s sort of changed completely.
Lisa: What about the Market? Can you tell me a bit about the old Market at Newport?
Geoff: Newport Market? Yes.
Barbara: What do you want to know?
Geoff: Well they’ve got a supermarket there now haven’t they (laughs).
Lisa: So that’s where it was?
Barbara: Yes, we still refer to it, he says “Which supermarket?”, the Cattle Market, we know exactly where we’re going, you know.?
Lisa: Did you go there to buy or sell?
Geoff: Yes, oh yes, used to go in there didn’t they?
Barbara: Take calves and things in.
Geoff: Everybody went in on a Tuesday and had a yarn and everything else they used to, yes.
Barbara: Sell calves in there because we used to take them in the back of the van and take them up in there, it was a bit smelly.
Geoff: (Laughs). Yeah, every farmer used to go in there then, on a Tuesday.
Lisa: So how did you go about buying animals then? Was it by auction or did you agree a price?
Geoff: By auction, yes you had an Auctioneer in there, yes, they used to sell them, yes. Pigs and sheep, cattle wasn’t it, beef calves, poultry.
Barbara: They had rabbits and things like that.
Geoff: Yes, different things used to be sold didn’t it, even down to pushbikes at times I think (laughs).
Lisa: So that died out at some point then?
Geoff: Yes it got less and less over the years didn’t it?
Barbara: Well the small farms went away and the bigger farms, then the bigger farms didn’t use it in the same way.
Geoff: No because some of the bigger ones used to send cattle to the Mainland Markets and of course this one never got used quite so much and then they closed it down. Shame really but same with all of it really. But, yes, it used to be alright.
Barbara: I’ve got photographs of the last Market
Lisa: Oh that would be interesting to have a look at.
Barbara: But I haven’t got it to hand at the moment (laughs).
Lisa: (Laughs) That’s OK.
Barbara: Because not knowing what you wanted we didn’t know what to get.
Lisa: Another thing we’re interested in is how the landscape might have changed in your lifetime. You mentioned about you, obviously being here, you’re losing your land year on year are you?
Geoff: On the cliffs there, yes, that’s changed but even inland the countryside has changed because with the modern machines, a lot of the hedges went in the ‘60’s and made the fields and everything bigger for the bigger machines and that changed the whole landscape and also we had Dutch Elm, in …
Barbara: 1970’s, in the ‘70’s.
Geoff: …1970, which changed the landscape again because the elms died out and were cut down and we lost a hell of a lot of trees.
Barbara: The elms didn’t mind the salt winds, we had very, very strong winds along here and the elms survived it quite well. So lots of other places had other trees as well but along this area, really you had only elm, therefore, when the elm disease came along, especially like round here we had many trees beforehand. It was wiped out, but you were saying also about the hedges. Well, between here and Chale there was lots of little fields and lanes going across here.
Geoff: It’s all gone now.
Barbara: Of course that all went. Here we kept our hedges and trees but they were elm and we lost them and that’s when I got into conservation and on the place here now I’ve put in over 3,500 thorns, over 1,000 trees. Anything on this place, if it isn’t a suffering elm it’s what I’ll put in because you lose your wildlife. It’s terrible.
Geoff: Everything goes doesn’t it.
Barbara: The birds go, everything goes and that’s what … before we thought we would just have lost the trees, you know, then you found you’d lost everything and it was horrible here so I got into planting and I got birds back now and wildlife, I’ve done my best, I’ve got the toads back, you know, yes.
Lisa: So what do you see in here then?
Lisa: What do you see in here, in terms of wildlife?
Geoff: You’ve got the sparrows, you’ve got the blackbirds and blue tits, wagtails.
Barbara: Many different birds, yes, because our visitors, you know, tell us that they, how many birds that we have, we even get woodpeckers out here don’t we?
Geoff: Woodpeckers, yes.
Lisa: Is there anything which has died out from when you were younger?
Barbara: How do you mean?
Lisa: Well in terms of wildlife; is there anything that you just don’t see anymore?
Barbara: Hedgehogs. The ground-nesting birds and that, they’re not around the same because so many of the predators, whether it be in the air or on the ground, so yes.
Geoff: Which is a shame really.
Barbara: We like to see it all but it’s just, there’s a bit too much of the wrong ones now.
Lisa: And foxes?
Geoff: Plenty of them about, yes.
Lisa: Do you think there are more or less or the same, over time?
Geoff: I think there’s more than what there used to be, yes, but it’s the town now where people feed them, you see them in the daylight don’t you? So many people feed them in the villages and around.
Barbara: We get hit quite badly with the chickens.
Geoff: They get quite tame don’t they?
Barbara: Because I mean you pen them up at night, all the chickens and the poultry but the foxes come in the day and take them.
Geoff: In the daytime, yes. I suppose that’s how it is at the moment.
Lisa: Do you think that might be because of the hunting ban? Does that have anything to do with it?
Geoff: I don’t know whether it does or whether it doesn’t really.
Barbara: I don’t think it matters, they just get shot now don’t they, I mean let’s be honest.
Geoff: There’s a hell of a lot more of them getting shot than what there used to be, because the hounds are well and the exercises, whatever they do now. Not much good.
Barbara: Never really caught many foxes at all.
Geoff: All I got was the old ones and the ones that had been injured by shooting, because the good ones, they never seem to catch but I don’t know, it’s all a waste of time really I think. It’s never appealed to me much, I’ve never been one for that, it’s up to everybody to do what they like I suppose but no, so, yes there are more foxes. Like I say, people in the villages and that feed them and of course they multiply more don’t they and that’s it.
Lisa: So you’ve brought some photos?
Barbara: Well no, not really, I mean just, I didn’t expect you to go through many but just an odd one.
Geoff: We’ve got those others.
Lisa: That would be nice, yes, that would be good.
Geoff: There are lots of photos.
Lisa: You mentioned about the Dutch elm disease that you have.
Lisa: Have you had any experience with disease, other disease over the years, either to crops or animals?
Geoff: Well they spray for different things, the corn and that for whatever it gets, but animals.
Barbara: Touch wood we’ve been lucky, we’ve never had Foot and Mouth or anything like that.
Geoff: Never had anything like that.
Barbara: But other than that I mean, you’d get all what anybody else, any other normal farmer gets, you know, you’ve got animals, you get sort of something or other with some of them occasionally don’t you?
Geoff: Nothing drastic.
Barbara: Nothing specific, no, we’ve been very lucky touch wood. Geoff also does a lot of ploughing, he’s got umpteen cups there (laughs).
Lisa: Talk to me about ploughing then, ploughing matches. Geoff, can you tell me how you first got involved in the ploughing matches?
Geoff: (Laughs). Yes, I worked for the old chap at Atherfield and I had to plough a field there for him, a grass field and he wanted it done just so and any rate, got this job done and he was just pleased with it and he said to me, “Come the Autumn I’ll put you in the ploughing match.” I said, “Ploughing match?” “Oh yes” he said. I said, “Well I’ve never done anything like that” I said, “I’m only a boy” I said. “That’ll be alright”. So I thought he’d forget about it. Well he didn’t did he. Come the Autumn he said, “I’ve entered you in the ploughing match.” “Oh, alright, when is it?” I think it was October or something like that and of course the time come along and off I went. Wasn’t old enough to drive on the road in those days but nobody took any notice. We got there.
Lisa: Do you remember where it was?
Geoff: Yeah, it was up at Kingston, top road at Kingston there, Bexfield and we ploughed and you were chucked in, in those days, with the men, you never had a class for the young boys in those days and I got third in the class against the men, which I thought was very good, I was real pleased about it. After that, then the next two years he put me in again and I had two firsts then, the two next years and of course the men didn’t like that did they (laughs). But that’s how it was but no, good lot of chaps they were then really, and that’s how I got really involved in it.
35 minutes 11 seconds
Lisa: And have you done it every year since?
Geoff: Er, missed the odd one or two, different times when something’s happened but then I decided to go over and use the old equipment. When was that? ’84 I think, when I went with the old gear because you had three chaps in the class then, they were more or less sure of a prize every year in that class and I went in there.
Lisa: So what are the different classes?
Geoff: Well you’ve got general purpose trailing and plough, general purpose mounted ploughs. You’ve got your semi diggers, you’ve got your match ploughs but it’s nice for us chaps because those old trailing ploughs, they don’t cost as much and they’re dragged out of hedges and whatever and got going again and we go up against the match ploughs and we can still beat the match ploughs which is very nice (laughs) but I don’t think the head goes much on it but that’s just the skill of the thing isn’t it, that’s [inaudible] ploughing a nice plough and we can still beat these chaps with the match ploughs which they’ve paid several thousand pounds for ‘em (laughs) which is very nice.
Lisa: And you’ve got your old equipment from about the 1930’s you said?
Geoff: Yeah, oh yeah, we had the one plough, he was growing in the hedge and I brought it home and I looked at it and I thought, ‘whatever did I bring that home for?’ and so any rate, pulled it all to bits and one thing and another and rebuilt it and got that one going and I’ve used him, I’ve been reserve champion with that one, I’ve been champion with him now and the other one I’ve been reserve champion with so they’re all good ploughs when they’re all put together again and it saves them for another day doesn’t it, otherwise they would have been scrapped. So yes, I really enjoy it, yeah.
Lisa: So what can you put all this winning down to then? Is it the skill of the ploughman? Is it the equipment? Is it the field?
Geoff: There’s a bit of everything really, you’ve got to have a little bit of luck and you’ve got to be very … have a good eye and then that’s half the battle but people say, but every time you go out you learn something different and when you stop learning you’ve had it but as long as you keep learning different little things you’ll keep improving and that’s all there is to it really. It’s just the luck of the draw really.
Lisa: And you’ll keep going I imagine? For as long as you can?
Geoff: Oh yes, I’m not going to give up, no, can’t give up no (laughs).
Lisa: Is it once a year on the Island?
Geoff: The Island match, the big one, is once a year but then the Steam Club, we have a couple of those. Then Karen, she does the big memorial one and then we get one at Atherstone so we get several on the Island now, we’ve basically got it going a bit better, otherwise you just had the one and that was that but like I say, we’ve been going to Lymington off and on over the years and ploughed over there and done very well and I’ve ploughed in the big Hampshire one three times I think it is, three times, yes so I’ve done quite a bit, yeah.
Lisa: And you’ve shown me a photo here of you with some of your trophies that you won in 2011.
Lisa: So there’s five trophies there, are they for the different ..?
Geoff: Yes, different classes yes, different matches yes, so it’s not a bad run is it? (laughs).
Lisa: And in the photo as well, you’ve got one of your tractors in the back there…
Lisa: … because that’s something that you’re passionate about and interested in, restoring these tractors.
Geoff: Yes, yes that’s the one that was in the photograph all in a rough state but it’s back in running order now and the one I use in the matches.
Lisa: And you said all your tractors are Island tractors?
Geoff: Yes, yes.
40 minutes 2 seconds
Lisa: Have they all got DL number plates?
Geoff: They would have if you had the logbooks (laughs) and I haven’t got all the logbooks I’m afraid. They got lost or whatever, some might not have had them see, because years ago because they were on a farm they might not have even went on the road so they might not have been licenced. I think they were only £100 and some odd when they were new in the beginning I think so, I think they’re worth more than that now so all good fun.
Lisa: They look brilliant don’t they when they’re all …?
Geoff: Oh yes, I like to see them all done because it saves them for another day doesn’t it?
Lisa: Well you’re preserving heritage aren’t you?
Geoff: That’s right, yes.
Lisa: Have you got some other photos?
Barbara: I was just showing when we had a silage pit, they used to go up on the silage pit there, I mean, you know it was highly dangerous, probably totally illegal I imagine.
Barbara: And then the building we were in; that was one of the cow stables and again that was my mother but you know, we used to go to the parlour for the milking …
Lisa: So this is when you had the dairy here, when you were milking here?
Barbara: Yes, but Geoff is excellent with all animals, birds, everything and at one time he had a pet partridge.
Barbara: Didn’t he used to lay by the fire?
Lisa: Did he live in the house?
Geoff: Yes, oh yes he’d lay in front of the fire.
Barbara: Yes, well you see the trouble was.
Geoff: Oh there look, in front of the fire.
Barbara: There he is on Geoff’s .
Geoff: Lovely little thing he was.
Barbara: Geoff moved a machine and we didn’t know there was a nest there.
Geoff: Broke a lot of the eggs.
Barbara: He broke some of the eggs so he rescued what he could and he thought he’d see if he could hatch them out and then release them but two came out, one died and then left one.
Geoff: Left one.
Barbara: Well it then got so tame you couldn’t release him again so he lived with us until he finally died. How long do you think a partridge would live for? I thought a couple of years, eight and a half years that thing lived for.
Lisa: So he was in the house for that long?
Geoff: Yeah, oh yes, he was alright he was. If the weather was rough he was in here, he was fed and watered and warm. You can see that look, he used to turn over in front of the fire (laughs).
Barbara: I house-trained him.
Lisa: Like a cat (laughs).
Geoff: Yes, yes.
Barbara: I’ve house-trained a pig before. We had like a doll pig that was in here and we used to, you know. Over the years with different animals we’ve lived with all sorts of animals haven’t we Geoff?
Geoff: Yes a little partridge, he’d talk away to you wouldn’t he. Yes, lovely little chap he was.
Lisa: Who’s in this photo here?
Barbara: I’m the child …
Lisa: That’s you?
Barbara: … and that’s my parents. That’s in one of the buildings we were in down there.
Lisa: Could I take a photo of that one?
Barbara: If you want to.
Geoff: If you want (laughs).
Lisa: This must have been in the 1940’s sometime then?
Lisa: What year did you say you were born?
Barbara: It must have been early ‘50’s because I was born in 1945, so what do I look there? Eight? Something like that.
Lisa: Yes I think so.
Barbara: Is there a date on the back by the way?
Geoff: ’52, yes
Barbara: Well we did a pretty good guess.
Lisa: What was your maiden name?
Barbara: My mother was a Jones and married a Jones so that confused things.
Lisa: (Laughs). Well at least you didn’t have to change anything.
Geoff: I was cutting the wheat with a binder and that.
Lisa: And you were using that up until when? I mean that looks not that long ago.
Geoff: No, no.
Barbara: I think that particular photograph was taken for when you did it for like an exhibition or something.
Geoff: For a demonstration, yes.
Barbara: But that’s what he was doing earlier on.
Geoff: That’s what they used to do.
Lisa: So that’s a binder is it?
Geoff: That’s a binder, yes.
Lisa: It’s quite … I don’t want people to come, to think that I’m coming across as ignorant or rude, because I don’t come from a farming family myself.
Barbara: No, no.
Geoff: We wouldn’t expect you to, no.
Barbara: You’ve got to explain it to the people that are listening.
Geoff: If you don’t ask you don’t get.
Lisa: Yes, it’s all new to me so that’s why I am asking questions about things that you probably take for granted and I don’t know about.
Geoff: Well no, that’s fair enough. If you don’t ask you don’t know but I wouldn’t expect you to know really.
Lisa: No. A binder you said?
Geoff: A binder yeah. That’s the Isle of Wight name for it. Unless there’s another name for it, I don’t know (laughs).
Lisa: (Laughs). And that was a threshing machine wasn’t it, the one with you?
Geoff: Yes a thrashing machine, the other one, yes.
Lisa: Thrashing or threshing?
Barbara: Threshing, with an ‘e’ (laughs).
Lisa: So that’s the Isle of Wight term for it then (laughs).
Geoff: Yes (laughs). A thrasher! (laughs).
Barbara: Saying about snow, that’s on top of Pay Hill, that’s a hill that’s over there, there’s a car under there.
Lisa: Good grief, it looks like Austria, not the Isle of Wight. That’s thick isn’t it?
Barbara: As I say we do get snow but that was in the ‘70’s, yes. I digress, I mustn’t do that. A very brief look, nothing other than that, that’s what I was referring to, my mother, you know with the tape and that with John (inaudible). Because I mean, it’s sort of an unlikely thing to say but that’s what it was, and that’s when, along that time when the this lot came (inaudible) they’d had the photographs. Not John but another lot.
Lisa: This sounds like a silly question as well but when you go to a Ploughing Match, is there a difference between different parts of the Island, in terms of.
Geoff: The soil?
Lisa: Yes the soil.
Geoff: Oh yes quite a lot, yes.
Barbara: It can even vary on the same farm even.
Geoff: Oh yes.
Barbara: Different fields.
Geoff: Because sometimes you get there and you think ‘Oh this is going to be alright’ and it don’t work like you think but no, it does vary quite a bit, yeah. That’s where the skill comes in because you’ve got to get that soil to go and do what you want it to do really. It doesn’t always work like that (laughs).
Lisa: So does some soil have more clay in, or more stones?
Geoff: Oh yes some places, yes, we’ve been, they’ve been very clay and very hard and it makes it hard work like that but another time you get a nice bit of soil and it works real nice. But this last year, people kept saying it was a rough bit of land but we’ve had worse and the plot I had worked well and I can’t say anything more than that, I was very pleased with it.
Lisa: What’s your soil like here?
Geoff: It varies. Out there, this first lot up through is quite nice and then you get down the lower end and it’s changed, heavier there and you get over in this other field and he’s a real devil. You’ve got all nasty clay and everything is real hard, yeah, he’s real hard work at the moment, yes. Then Thorncross land, you’ve got that clay here as well so we’re not the only ones but they do vary, and other parts of the Island, Arreton and all that, you’ve got the lighter sand all down through and over this way, down through Bowcombe, you’ve got the chalkier soil, all down through there so it all varies, yeah. Yes, it’s quite interesting, the different soil really.
Barbara: That’s something else that we raised, that’s my mother that one is, but we’ve had all sorts of animals in the house. In fact even now, you know Geoff will come in most springs, he’ll say to me “I’m not saving any more ducks.” “Alright Geoff.” He comes in, “Oh look these are the small (inaudible) down there, there was no mother.” So we have a box and a light and in they come into the house again, but that was a calf that was born. A cow goes about nine months, something like a woman and one cow was knocked off a step from down in the yard. We saw it happen but couldn’t stop it and she was about eight months pregnant and she calved and that calf was born that night, so it’s like a, very like a baby being born a month early and it was no bigger than like a small collie dog. It didn’t even have hair, it had, it was like bri-nylon it was …
Geoff: Yes it was awful.
Barbara: … so anyway, another thing we had in the kitchen anyway, under a lamp and that but we raised it didn’t we?
Geoff: Oh yes.
Barbara: We raised her to a nice young cow later on.
Geoff: Yes, we milked some milk out the cow didn’t we and fed it on that, yes.
Barbara: But oh, the things that we’ve done and we’ve raised.
Geoff: Yes, we saved it didn’t we?
Lisa: So this is your mum?
Barbara: My mother, yes.
Barbara: Yes, Sylvia Jones. I’m not usually in the photo because I’m taking the photo (laughs).
Barbara: I’ve got so many different, a selection of animals, I can’t find that photograph to hand Geoff, well there’s various photos on there of different things that we’ve done.
Geoff: I don’t know where it is.
Lisa: Oh that’s OK, you’ve shown me some really good ones anyway so thank you.
Barbara: But Geoff’s usually the one to get animals, poultry go, he’s got the most healing hands and he gets there, you know and, like that partridge, he had his finger.
Geoff: Yes, to get him to eat, yes.
Barbara: And they all think that he’s their mum (laughs).
Lisa: So you’re an unqualified Vet?
Geoff: Yes (laughs).
Barbara: You’d be surprised what we’ve had to do, yes.
Geoff: Some people are good at thing I suppose, I’m good at that I suppose so.
Barbara: He has an affinity with them all. Have we supplied you with enough of what you wanted?
Lisa: Thank you, we’ll draw the interview to a close.
End of recording.
51 minutes 36 Seconds
Transcribed September 2017 by Chris Litton