By John Litt
I was born in Dearham which is situated between Cockermouth and Maryport, Cumberland in 1921. I have worked predominantly in agriculture since leaving school. I met my wife Doris during the war, the land army girls were picking potatoes at a local farm in Cockermouth where I was working.
We moved to farms in Nine Banks (a village on the border of Cumberland and Northumberland) and Temperley Grange, Corbridge before arriving in Burradon in 1947.
Burradon resembled a small town compared to the areas that I had lived previously. It was a small vibrant industrial community with a variety of shops, pubs and small businesses and life centred around the colliery and the production of coal.
Mr Jimmy Younger was the owner of Burradon farm. I was employed as second horseman. Jack Little was first horseman and Chris Ridley was third Horseman. There were a further 16 people employed on the farm, Harold Atkinson was the Byre man and he was responsible for maintaining the Byres (cowsheds) and caring for the cows. Harold managed the small dairy and milked the cows.
Mrs Craven was the farm's dairymaid. The remaining workers were tasks were varied and depended on the seasons and they could be pulling turnips and potatoes to assisting with the ploughing. It should be noted that Burradon Farm had more fields (the field on the approach to the Backworth line had been 5 separate fields) than present and as a consequence there were more general labouring duties.
A horseman was responsible for the care and welfare of 2 horses and prepared the animals for the forthcoming days work. Although the working day started at 6am for the horses, the horseman's day started at 5.15am. The horses were fed and cleaned and their collars and bridles were fitted, the horseman would usually receive details of the days work from Mr Younger at 6am.
Burradon Farm had a team of 6 Clydesdale Horses with a pair of 2 year olds, a pair of 3 and 5 year olds. An old mare was also part of the team which was retained to help the young horses settle at the farm. The Clydesdale was preferred to the Shire as they were taller and leaner and more powerful. Also the Shire was feathered on the legs (feathered is an alternative description for hair) and as a consequence it was more difficult to clean. Clydesdale horses had to be at least 2 years old before they would be used on the farm and training the horses was the most enjoyable aspect of a horseman's duties.
In 1947, Burradon Farm was part dairy and arable, although there were chickens. The horses were used for sowing crops, cultivating the soil, cutting hay and delivering milk to the customers of the farm's small dairy.
The hay was cut in the months of June and July and the stacks could be as high 30 feet. The hay was stacked manually with the help of the horses. A stick pole was placed in the ground and the horses pulled the guide ropes which raised the hay to the top of the stacks.
I also remember regularly sitting in the fields in the summer with the other horsemen eating our breakfasts drenched in the warm early morning sunshine which were wonderful occasions.
We worked 6 days a week from 5.15 am to 6pm and the average wage for a horseman was £3-7s.
I later began delivering the milk to the customers in the village. My deliveries started at the Far Row and then to Burradon Road, Office Row, Strawberry Terrace, Quality Row, North Row, Double Row, Paddy Mills and finally Allanville. We also delivered milk to Burradon School and a total of 70 gallons of milk were delivered daily. We also delivered potatoes and vegetables on request.
I recall the winter of 1963 as the weather was particularly harsh with substantial falls of snow and the conditions were hazardous for the horse. The residents had cleared their paths to the outside toilets and the snow was piled high, consequently the horse was unable to get close to the houses. In the circumstances, I had to throw the milk bottles into the snow and you will understand the empties were not collected for a while.
I was often approached by people in the village for donations for farm produce for prizes in raffles which had been organised to raise money. Mr Younger would always oblige and depending on the season, donations ranged from a bag of potatoes to a load of manure!
Although a house was provided with the job, contrary to popular opinion we had to pay rent of 8 shillings a week. We lived at Quarry Row (renamed Quarry Cottages) in a two bed property which also had a large living room and kitchen with a pantry. The house didn't have a stair case, upstairs was accessed by a ladder in the ceiling of the living room. I remember an occasion when the chimney was blocked with soot and to clear the problem I put the blazer on the fire. Doris called me outside where we discovered the roof of next doors property was on fire. The fire was extinguished and we later discovered that the builder had constructed the chimney around the rafters which had caught fire to our dismay!
Quarry Row was next to the Far Row which were houses occupied by miners from Burradon Colliery. Burradon had a strong community spirit. However, the sense of community was unique at the Far Row as geographically it was isolated and separate from the rest of the village. Neighbours were extremely friendly and kind; people could depend on one another.
Our friends and neighbours at the farm and Quarry Row over the years included Jack Crozier, Jim Dixon (steward at the farm), Jack Little(1st Horseman), Jock Dean (caterpillar driver), Harold Atkinson, Mr & Mrs Craven, Ernie Cuthbertson, Mr & Mrs Gaskin, George Dixon, Kit Ridley and Tommy Thompson.
Friends at the Far Row were Mr & Mrs Moore, Mr & Mrs Maddox, Mona Alderson, Mr & Mrs Parker, Mrs Bolam, Mrs Holmes, Mrs Annie Crozier, Mr & Mrs White, Mrs Greener, Mr & Mrs Super, Mrs Hewison, Lydia Mason and Bob and Peggy Wilkinson, Mr & Mrs Cryster and Mr & Mrs Wilkinson, all wonderful kind people and we shared so many happy times.
Mr Younger purchased a van to deliver the milk during the autumn of 1963. The van was not as reliable as the horse and constantly broke down and the delivery of the milk was not as enjoyable as it used to be. I left Younger's Farm in 1970 and went to work at Sterling Organics in Dudley.