Duration: 42 minutes 53 Seconds
This is the 15th May 2017 and this is an interview with Mr Roy Collins and Roy and I are going to be talking about memories of farming on the Island.
Lisa: So Roy, how did you come to the Island? Can you tell me a bit about that?
Roy: Well my mother bought a fish shop in Ventnor and that’s where it all started from ‘cos when I was evacuated, that’s next to the old Town Hall, and I came down here about a year later I suppose it was, about 1947 and then I had to find a job and that’s where I found Mr Russell. He used to give me a job ‘cos I could milk cows ‘cos a lot of people I knew didn’t know how to milk cows and I was only a young lad. I didn’t care where I went, where I didn’t go and you know that sort of thing, and it worked out very well. I got the job at Week Farm and I stayed there for four years until I got married. Well when I got married of course I had a sort of starter job of giving my wife a house which I did do. We got a job at Whitwell and Whitwell gave me a job and a house and that’s where it started from. I went from there to Goodwood House, looking after the cows there, and that sort of thing, and then I went from Goodwood in about five years’ time and that set me up for life really ‘cos I was there for a very wealthy man. I ran the farm, and I got on well with him and I got on well with the job ‘cos it was my ideas he wanted me, so I put my ideas into practice. We started … I got a job at Moke’s Farm, it was called, in 1954 and he looked after me well and I made him a profit on what he wanted to do so he was quite happy and I was. When it came to my mother in law, my wife’s daughter, she wanted to go back home to her mother so I had to give the job up and go back to the Island in 1946 -7, … I’ve got to think about this for a little while, I’ve got to get the right dates … I was working at the end of ’49, then I got married, in 1953, then I went to Goodwood, 1957, you’ll have to excuse me for a bit because I’ve got so many years to cover.
5 minutes 18 seconds
Lisa: You have because you’ve lived a long life haven’t you? Now you don’t need to worry too much about the dates, but you’ve obviously worked for many, many years in farming and I wonder if you could tell me a little bit about when you moved to the Island and you worked at Week Farm, what kind of farm was it then?
Roy: It was mostly dairy, corn, wheat was … well, I used to plough two horses with the tractor driver, ‘cos in those days a tractor driver was very hard done and I used to, like where you plough, he used to measure it out, 18 yards, 20 yards whatever, and there’s always odd corners with the tractor so they put me in there to travel with my two horses, shire horses, they were beautiful, and I used to do that but I spent quite a good time learning the jobs. I was learning the sheep, pigs, my chickens were nothing to me but I learnt all about them and I had a good time. I really was upset when I had to leave him.
Lisa: What was the name of the landowner then? Who owned the farm?
Roy: Russell … oh God …
Lisa: Don’t worry. I’m sure it will come to you.
Roy: Yes, it will do.
Lisa: About how many cows did they have?
Roy: Oh we built to about 30 odd.
Lisa: And what was the milking process, can you tell me about that?
Roy: The milking process? The cows just came in, it would be dark sometimes. The cows could just get to their stalls ‘cos they always had something to eat and there was about 30 odd and I milked four or five of those.
Lisa: And was it by hand?
Lisa: The milking was all by hand.
Roy: Yes, Russell didn’t change that situation ‘till two or three years later. He [inaudible] to the machines and that all started another problem, rotation.
Lisa: Did the milk go into churns?
Lisa: And was it collected or was it sold locally?
Roy: No, it was collected by a lorry from down the road. They had a … well you don’t recognise it now. There was a dew pond half way down this road, going down to the Main Road where the man would be picking it up from the lorry. Well, there was a dew pond down there, see it every day, just a dew pond where the water used to come out. I went down there last Saturday week, my son took me down. I’ve got a river running down there now and I suddenly thought, that was 50 years ago when I saw that last. 50 years ago, and I worked with a man called Chick Davis and he used to go down , he could go anywhere with old Dutch, the horse, he’d take himself off down to Peashoot, the other side of Week Farm, he’d take it down there at night time, go and have a drink, turn the horse round and when Chick used to come out from the Pub, he used to put old Dutchy on a walking rein and then he’d just slap her on the thigh and she used to take him all the way home to Week Farm, up the Shute, you don’t know the Shute I suppose? It’s very steep and he used to take her home. Yes she was a good girl for him. Yeah he used to take her home overnight and she used to stop outside the barn where she gets undressed to go out on the field and that’s how she got on but I had a nice time there.
10 minutes 41 seconds
Lisa: So there were two shire horses then that …
Roy: At least four.
Lisa: Oh, at least four shire horses that worked on the farm.
Roy: Yeah, we had four. There was Dutch, Prince and Sharp I think he was called. The other one was called, you know she … no I had good horses, I enjoyed them.
Lisa: Was there any machinery that was used on the farm then?
Roy: Well they were just starting then. That’s when he bought his first tractor.
Lisa: And what was it?
Roy: Little Russell. He started that one ‘cos the first tractor he had, had the spiked wheels on ‘em ‘cos they could hardly travel on the roads you see and when he got this, he went everywhere. He used to plough everything. If it was bare he’d plough it. He loved it ‘cos it was all brand new to him too. Oh yes, we had a good … ‘cos he used to always pick on me, well I say pick on me, he used to laugh about it. He was a big man, a very big man. He had hands … I thought I had hands big enough, he had hands that made mine look small. He was big man and he always used to grab me for loading because I was the same height. I might be only about 13 or 14 stone, he was weighing in about 16 or 17 stone. He was a big man and he used to call me over there. He’d say, “Roy, come and help me load this wagon up” and of course they were two and a quarter bags then, they were heavy. My muscles used to feel sore afterwards (laughs). Good old Russell.
Lisa: Did you learn to drive the tractor?
Roy: Oh yes, I soon got on that.
Lisa: And did it make the work much quicker with the tractor?
Roy: Yes. ’Cos we used to … he used to have it out all day with the tractor, ploughing and everything because it was so much easier.
Lisa: Can you tell me a bit about harvest time?
Roy: Harvest time? Yes, he used to … well I’ve seen … I don’t know if you’ve ever seen waves of wheat flowing … it was marvellous … very nice ‘cos this was at the end of the War and of course there was all billeting of soldiers and everything and the girls used to tease me, it was shocking … they were WAAFS and they used to help us with the wheat and the barley and all that stuff, loading the wagons up you see? They used to get up to tricks, those girls, well they were full of life.
Lisa: So you needed extra help at harvest time then?
Roy: Oh yes, it girls that lived down now … where it is now is the football ground. That was the field they mostly helped because it was next to the Heights where they used to come down there and say, “Do you want to give us a job?” Course Russell used to give ‘em … just to throw the sheaves onto the wagons you know, it was all done sort of simple but it was very good.
15 minutes 24 seconds
Lisa: So how was the crop cut? How did you cut the crop then?
Roy: Just put it in the machine, used to cut the crop and put it into sheaves and you had a man coming along putting them into sheaves, whether to tie them or not tie them and all that sort of thing. And … it was very good. I was pleased to just be working there. Week Farm, it was a big farm.
Lisa: How many acres was it?
Roy: Over 300.
Lisa: And how many farm workers were there?
Roy: Three. Oh we did everything. We did our haymaking, we had horses for haymaking. We didn’t have a tractor. We had two horses, shires, we had two of those to pull the cutter and then you’d wait for it to dry for three or four days, and then they used to stack that where they could pick it up easy and we had a good team. We had a man there called George Colman, he was there for … on the farm itself he must have been some years there because he was 70 odd then when I knew him and he was a wiry old man. He was 72 and of course he was disappointed I was leaving when I went to the other place but I was thinking of my wife you see? Got a new job to go to and a house that went with it so we all mucked in together you know?
Lisa: So this was in Whitwell was it? Was this on a different farm?
Lisa: What was the name of that farm?
Roy: Veals. Mr Peel.
Lisa: And what kind of farm was that?
Roy: That was the same. Cattle.
Lisa: And you had accommodation that went with the job then?
Lisa: So where did you live in relation to the farm?
Roy: On the farm itself.
Lisa: You lived on the farm itself?
Roy: Yes. There’s a house at Whitwell right on the corner, and I had the pleasure of working there for nearly three years, I think it was. I left there in 1950 something, 51, 52, and when I left there to go to Goodwood, I said to Eileen, “Well this is a step up to what I was doing.” I said, “I’m not just an ordinary labourer making jobs of things I know.” I went to Goodwood. I had an interview with him, a Colonel somebody, Seegar, and I went to him for … I stayed there nearly four years, in the early ‘50’s.
Lisa: Is this Goodwood on the Mainland?
Roy: Yes, Goodwood House.
Lisa: Near Chichester? The big house?
Roy: The big house. We had …
Lisa: Did you move over there then?
Roy: Yes, I moved the whole lot. We had a cottage there. Oh yes, never went anywhere unless Eileen approved of it. That’s my wife, because she was a good secretary and she could get a job anywhere. She was known for that. Anyway, we got by, we got by and we had a good time.
Lisa: Did you move back to the Island after Goodwood?
Lisa: And where did you work then?
Roy: Mope’s Farm, [inaudible]
Lisa: Whereabouts is that?
Roy: Denham, not far from Denham and we stayed there for 17 years. Well I ran the place, I did everything I wanted to.
Lisa: Were you the Manager there, the farm Manager?
Lisa: And was that a time of change in technology?
Roy: Yes, oh it changed a lot.
Lisa: So can you tell me a bit about the changes?
Roy: Well most changes we had was the place where you could get anything done. If you wanted to put wheat there, it was done for you really, you know? ‘Cos you’d just fall in for the rotation of the job. You had all rotation of the wheat, corn, barley. It was very nice. I thoroughly enjoyed it. ‘Cos where I was in charge of it, I could do what I liked.
Lisa: And did you have many more machines then? Did you have a combine for example?
Roy: Well no, in those days you hired them. We had a barn, we had an exchange of how they tied them, for the wheat and all the barley. We used to have a barn so there were two big openings. We had a big opening through the middle and the … each side, there was no end of what they called stacks of barley and wheat. There were two sides. You just push the … well you had horses and tractors then, they just pulled ‘em and pushed them into the middle of this barn. The other side would be workable. You’d have two men that side and two men that side and you worked to keep the thresher going. He’s going all the time once they started it and that’s how it kept on all the time. I went in there the other day after all those years. Oh …
Lisa: Did the … how did haymaking change in the time that you were working in farming?
Roy: Oh when you see these great big rolls now, we were dealing with handfuls of hay, just put into like a heap or to put two rows … and then what came along was a rake affair used to be just pulled or pushed by the tractor. These lines all in together. You’d go along and push that line into the hay, you’d come back to the other one and push line into there and you used to go along the line with a wagon then, pull it along with a horse and just throwing it on the wagon. That’s all it was doing but of course all the hard work was pushing the stuff all into circulation in lines so that people can pick them up. Now that was a hard job ‘cos you were being pushed together and that hay was really heavy ‘cos they all rolled into one you see? And then you had to have muscles to pick it up (laughs). Yeah, it was hard.
Lisa: And now it’s all done by baling machines?
Lisa: Did you have baling machines later on?
Roy: Later on I did, yeah. I had one at Mokes Farm. I had a baling machine. Oh yes, I put everything into that. Those were the days.
Lisa: I expect it made it much quicker didn’t it?
Roy: Oh yes.
Lisa: How long would it take to get the hay in with the baling machine?
Roy: Oh not long. No, I’d do a five acre field easy in a day. Oh yes, well I did the jobs I wanted to do then. I used to give her three thousand … we had over six thousand birds, chickens, all free range. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It was all free range.
25 minutes 41 seconds
Lisa: That’s quite a lot of eggs to collect?
Roy: Yes. Well we had a machine for that, to sort them out. You just used to put them on the shifting machine and the people, whoever was doing it, would just pick them up and put them in as large, semi-large, and all that business you know? It was all simple enough.
Lisa: And how were the eggs sold?
Roy: Sold through the man, the Governor, through his … well we used to call it his Canteen. He had a Canteen there and we used to send all vegetables, eggs, all that sort of thing went over to his Canteen and he used to feed quite a few people because he had a Canteen. He worked from about 9 o’clock in the morning. He had a Rolls, you can imagine money was involved. Well he used to be generous to us, he’d give me a bottle of whisky one day and when I got a cow to calve, and it was successful, you know? ‘Cos my son, he was only young then, I used to pretend he was helping me calve a cow you see, and of course he was all eager. He was only about three or four. He’d got his little wellies on, and he’d come along and I’d say,”Now I want you to pull on that ring, I’ve lined the calf up, all you’ve got to do is pull gently out. I’ll tell you when to stop” and of course he was only about three of four. He used to love it. Oh God … yeah.
Lisa: Happy memories.
Roy: Yes. Now what do you want to know?
Lisa: What have been the jobs that you’ve enjoyed most and least in your career in farming?
Roy: The least … well I can’t really think … being in dangerous places.
Lisa: Tell me a bit about that then.
Roy: Well, all fields aren’t flat, and I had one field that to me was dangerous and the tractor was only keeping me alive. And that was because on one of the fields, you went round cutting the grass. That’s fine, then you get down to the real breech where you meet nearly the top half to the bottom half. You’re cutting back and forth, back and forth and you’re left with a strip that was very dangerous to cut. You’re on a hill see, and you can just imagine, you’re cutting here and the fields got shorter and you’re left with a piece just about wide enough to take the cutter. Well when you got to that stage, it’s only the blade holding in the ground that’s keeping you there. It was so steep that if it wasn’t for the mower cutting the grass, that where I was cutting it was keeping the tractor and strong enough to stay there. Good Lord, you look at that and you think how things have changed, because they’re milking like anyone else would be in a three stall but the filth of it all. We were cleaning and that because little Russell, the man in charge he would have us cleaner than that to milk a cow. That’s how it’s done, about four or five of them in a group. They don’t mechanise the people.
31 minutes 23 seconds
Lisa: Did you eventually go over to milking machines then in later times?
Roy: Oh yes, ‘cos when I went to Goodwood, there was a parlour. They had a six at a time coming through, you know, boom, boom, boom. Well we had to do it that way in Goodwood because you had a … we had about 130-140 cows at a time to milk. Well that’s why we were up at 4 o’clock in the morning because you had to have a distance between two milkings a day otherwise you were overdoing it. Yes, I don’t recognise that.
Lisa: Do you know where that is?
Roy: Yes, that is Newport.
Lisa: That’s right, yes. That’s the site of the original Market. Do you remember the Market when it was there or when it was …?
Roy: The Market, yes. When it was here.
Lisa: You do remember that?
Roy: Yes, ‘cos that was the Market where we always get people signing our log. Yes, I recognise the buildings. Especially that one, it was electric … television people were in there on that side. This is the real original Market ‘cos the other Market was down the road. Yes, it was very nice.
Lisa: So you could take your animals to sell, and you could buy …
Roy: That’s right, anything, chickens, ducks, everything was sold in that Square, everything ‘cos I think if you find the … I think there’s a watering place in that Square where they used to drink, the water people.
Lisa: This one, I think they’re sheep dipping.
Roy: Yes they are. Yes you’ve got two men throwing them in and you’ve got two men ducking. They used to call it ducking so when they got in there, they all had to swim. Like you see that one’s turned round to come back. I don’t recognise the trees at all. Oh, you’ve got some lovely photos. Oh God, we know where none of this.
Lisa: This is all loose. Is that loose hay or has that been … that’s been made into a sheath I think, hasn’t it?
Roy: Yes, that been made into a sheath.
Lisa: And then they’re loading it on the …
Roy: On the wagon. You used to have one man at the wagon because he used to put everything there you’ll see is slightly curved to come in so they pick up on the top ones later. They’re very nice.
35 minutes 14 seconds
Lisa: Now there’s some farmhouses here and we’re not sure where they are. We don’t know the locations of these places.
Roy: Some years ago.
Lisa: I don’t know if any of these places look familiar to you, they’re all on the Island.
Roy: Are they? These are really rural pictures these are, very rural. There’s a man who looks after his garden. I can’t recognise them dear.
Lisa: No? That’s OK. There’s an old boy. What’s this tall, this …
Roy: That’s a scythe, ‘cos he’s cutting something. He’s an old man too. Yes, he’s cutting something with a scythe. I don’t recognise him.
Lisa: What do you call this type of fencing here?
Roy: That’s sheep fencing, everything like that. Some are wicker, yes because you used to get them in two sizes. One you used to get a smaller one ‘cos they used to have to carry six of those when shifting sheep. I can’t think of the name, dear.
Lisa: And this one we know where it is because it says here. Did you have to have the Blacksmith come out to the farms to shoe the horses?
Roy: Very, very seldom. I used to often go myself. I used to take Prince and Sharp, two horses at a time. Of course I used to jump up on their backs and drive them down the road to Whitwell, or where Week Farm is. You can go down the road about half an hour, three quarters of an hour, and you’d deliver the two horses to the Blacksmith and he would automatically just do ‘em and then I’d drive ‘em back. That was a mornings work that was.
Lisa: And where was the Blacksmith?
Roy: Down at Whitwell. It’s a house now. When I went past it the other day with Michael, they had … they had the house and the front had been all filled in. It was a house now, all very up to date one by the look of it. No, it was very nice. Now, what have you got … oh this is the sheaves down …
Lisa: Already to be taken in I think.
Roy: Yes. All been made into stacks, what we used to call stacks. That’s very nice dear.
Lisa: Were you ever involved in any of the Agricultural Shows? Did you ever show any of your animals?
Roy: Yes. In Peel’s time, when I was Whitwell, we used to show his Ayrshire cattle. I’d go into Newport, we used to show our young cattle and all that business. We saw that, yes. Northwood, that’s right, 19th July. Yes I used to show the cattle. That was good fun.
Lisa: Did you ever win anything?
Roy: Yes we used to now and again win a second or third. We used to be amongst the medals. Horses, cattle, sheep, pigs and dairy cows. Yes, we used to watch those go and stand up for a Show. I used to love that, trying to show off the cattle. Because of course you’d pick a quiet one and keep her head up high and watch you’re back. It’s got to be level. You’ve got to know all the tricks of the trade.
Lisa: Did you have to clean them up first before …
Roy: Oh yes, shampoo they had real luxury. It was a day out, sometimes in … but there again in the holiday I used to love it I was very pleased with them all. Well, it’s been a nice afternoon.
Lisa: Well I’m glad you’ve enjoyed sharing your memories. Thank you very much for talking to me.
Roy: A pleasure my dear.
42 minutes 53 seconds
Transcribed December 2017 by Chris Litton