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[5] John (Jack) Wales: Evocative walk, Earith British School and Chapel Lane

Earith British School, Colne Road(The Earith British School is on the Colne Road. John Wales is speaking.)

We used to run out of school and run over there and get a ready cooked twist, you know, and he used to put his big shovel in (the oven) and pull them out.

Miss Green used to be there (cottages next to the school)  and she didn’t like children and if we kicked the ball and it went over you never got it back, so in the end the school got the local carpenter and he built a – it’s gone now of course – a big wire netting frame so it couldn’t go over any more.

Fred Rawlings, hay presser, lived between the School and the Anchor Pub.
He cut hay from a stack with a large hay knife in 4 ft squares and put a long iron rod through it and moved it onto his press.
Then, turning a handle, the cogged wheels squeezed the hay together.
Then he tied it together with thick twine, very hard work indeed. A lot of his hay went to London for the horses.

(Into Chapel Lane , which used to be called Back Lane)
I remember we did (go to the Methodist Chapel at Earith), instead of walking up to Bluntisham (St Mary’s), well I don’t think the Rector was doing a thing then, and we used to go round the Chapel with Miss Sismey and Mrs. Sutton and you had a card and a gold stamp if you attended regular.

This used to be a lovely kitchen garden, belonged to Miss Parren the big house on the front.
We used to go and play croquet there. Very old red brick wall — hand made.
Threw stones at pear tree and cut the pear off – just like that!

The next yard was our yard. (John Wales’ backyard)
I can remember my father saying when he was a lad there was a horse dealers next door with all the stables and they had a horse that they couldn’t do anything with, but Barnum and Bailey’s Wild West Show was in the country and they said they’d got a man who
performed in the circus who could ride anything.
So they got this man to come so they told me father, they said; “be out the back gates at 4 o’clock and he’s going to ride this horse, you see.”
They got on and it went over jump, shot the man off and killed him.
And they carried him, father went to get a ladder and they carried him away.

We used to play football in the yard with tennis balls and they’d go over — this roof and another and get stuck in the middle — I used to creep up with rubber sole shoes on making sure you didn’t pull the tiles out and Georgie Maile was there: “Bloomin’ boy, come off my roof!”

There were stables all across here and you could go down the middle.
The pub was here with a big window (The Wheatsheaf) and you went through a door and there was the passage way and you were allowed to go through and come out onto the front, you see.
And the door into the pub was sometimes open and you could see all these old men sitting there and this copper spittoon was the other side of them and they were sitting there and of course they used to chew tobaccy and then spit and this used to go right across the room — smack!

Pear Tree Cottage, Chapel Road, Earith(Just past Pear Tree Cottage is Rose Villa )

That was where your (David Enfield’s) grandmother lived wasn’t it? I can see her standing there grey- haired.
The sign Rose Villa was painted on the brickwork. Your (David Enfield’s) grand-dad had land down by the Gravel Pits and my father used to plough it for him in the autumn.

(Stevens Row, vacated in 1934/35)
They were all properties with steps up to them and they used to throw ashes onto the path to keep it made up.
Mrs Cook lived there and she always wore a peak cap.
Polly Darby, we used to taunt her and one day she chased us, Brian Russell and myself, up our back yard through his yard twice, she was in her 7O’s and still she chased us waving her stick.
We ran to my mother who was visiting Mrs. Hard across the road!

See all of John Wales‘ blog posts.

(Extracts from ‘Keeping Time by the Crows’ University of Cambridge
John Wales retains copyright on original contributions)

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