Mary Heslam – Part B (CSWIG3B)
CUMBRIA SPEAKS ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
13 WEST STREET
TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW
2017 Cumbria Speaks Oral History Project
Respondent: Mary Heslam
Date of birth: 29/12/1936
Date of Interview: 18/05/2017
Interviewer: Isanna Curwen
Interview conducted at Mary Heslam’s home.
SUMMARY OF MAIN CONTENTS OF TRANSCRIPT
Second part of interview
- Courting William. (William teaches Mary’s father to drive)
- Early married life – moving home to begin farming. Independence.
- Land drainage and moss.
- Buying and selling land.
- Acquiring sheep and cattle.
- Pregnancy, trouble at the pub and childbirth.
- 1956 mains electricity is put in.
- Farm increases in size.
- Family relations.
IC Hello Mary.
MH Hello Isanna.
IC This is Thursday 18th may 2017 and its… and interview of Mary Heslam our second interview and er, the interviewer is Isanna Curwen. Ok. So, thanks for talking to me again.
IC Er, I was, last time we ended up finishing around about the time of your wedding and so I’d like to go from there if possible.
MH Urm yes, er, although I think, just before…to sort of lead up to after I met Willian. Er, he used to come up to…my parents had The Sun at the Red Dial.
MH At the red dial and he used to come up courting me as it were and er, he was only 18 and after 2 years mam and dad felt the business was doing well and er, so dad decided to buy a car. Up till then, we hadn’t to spend a penny, we hadn’t to have anything…er…fancy clothes or go out a lot. We’d to save everything so that the business would do well. And so William met us at that time and so dad would have a car and he asked William to teach him to drive, you see. Willian was 18 and was used with driving tractors.
IC Can I ask, what…what year that would be, roundabout?
MH Er, well we were married in 1955 so it would be 50, round about 53, yes. And…if I’ve worked it properly. And so William said he would, he would teach dad to drive; give him driving lessons. So dad bought one of those little Ford Populars, er sort of like a biscuit tin, just a little black biscuit tin, and my sister was courting at the time and her boyfriend was Fred, Fred Sinton, and he said, ‘Would you teach me as well,’ you see and dad said, ‘Yes you can, we’ll both get taught in the car.’ So William used to come up and give them lessons in the car you see, and Agnes and I, me sister, used to go off with them. Erm, dad and Willian in the front and Agnes and me giggling in the back. And the first time we went off, dad…William drove the car down to the bottom to Red Dial and turned onto the Caldbeck road and then they changed seats and dad went into the driving seat and William into the teaching seat and us girls in the back.
IC Up the hill.
MH So er, William told dad how to set off the gears and the er…mirror and all that sort of thing and the brake and dad took it in. Dad was clever, he soon learned the mechanics of it, shall we put it, and he was off. Toad of toad of hall wasn’t in it; dad was the king of the road. And of course, if you go up the Caldbeck road, anybody who knows it, so far along there’s a very bad turn as you go around towards erm…Brocklebank. And this bad turn was getting closer and closer to us and, erm, William said, ‘I think I would slow down now, George’, and further,
no, ‘Will you slow down George’, no. (Shouts) ‘Will you bloody well slow down.’ So of course William didn’t know where to put himself but he hadn’t…couldn’t…dare not do anything else, you see, and we girls were giggling in the back, we weren’t in the least bit bothered. Our dad could do anything so we weren’t frightened, you see, but William was. However dad did slow down, ‘Sorry lad, sorry lad, but I had everything under control’, he said so this was to be the pattern of William teaching dad to drive. Erm, so, that was how it went. And then, when it was nearly time for them to take their test, Fred and William, this night we’d gone down to Wigton – we’d been able to go down to Wigton for fish and chips because we had a car, you see. So otherwise we used to erm, I think…I…did I tell you the other time about the porridge situation? I don’t know whether I did, but anyway, now we were able to get food, and er, so we went for fish and chip and were all enjoying this and mam said, ‘Well it won’t be so bad if one of you passes.’ And dad said, ‘Oh Fred will have to pass as well.’ So he was quite confident that he was going to pass you see, so of course they went in for the test. Came home, Fred had passed but father hadn’t. The first time in all his life he’d never done anything er…tried anything that hadn’t passed. So of course, I, thinking I would be the dutiful daughter, said to him, erm, ‘Do you mind, dad, if erm, I go out tonight?’ ‘You have never in your life asked me if you could go out, why are you starting now?’ you see, and he chased me upstairs. So, I went into my bedroom and, like Juliette, I opened the window and sat at, sat in the window, waiting for William to come. And he came round the corner…at the time The Sun was just The Sun, erm, it had 2 cottages at one side and one cottage at the other. And the wall at either side of these, so there was very little parking at the front. And William turned the corner and I was in the window and I said, whispered to, ‘He hasn’t passed.’ William turned round and walked away and I shouted, ‘Coward’, to him, you see, and…and off he went away and didn’t come back for that night. Erm however, you know, er, finally dad did get passed and we got we got a rather different car and everything was enjoyed. And so it became time for us to get engaged and William did the right thing and he asked father and mother if we could get engaged and I got a nice engagement ring, and erm, it came time for our wedding…because erm, having the pub, The Sun, the hotel, we were always very busy at weekends so the parents thought we should get married on a Thursday, you see; through the week. Er, so we went off to, erm, buy 2 bridesmaids dressed, I had 3 bridesmaids, but er, my chief bridesmaid, my best friend Margery, er, she decided to make her own dress, which was a beautiful floaty pink dress, it really was lovely, and er, mam bought the other 2 bridesmaids their dresses which were pink fading into lavender. So it was quite nice. And I bought them all a ruby necklace each, so…I don’t think it would be real rubies but it looked like real rubies. And er, so they got those and er, we bought everybody their own head…headdresses and I went to Studdam’s in Carlisle which was in the square where Carlisle now…I’m trying to think where it would have been. Now, somewhere like Monsoon, where Monsoon is now, just along there, er, Studdam’s had a lovely wedding dresses and I bought my wedding dress there and a veil and er, so we were all set for the wedding on the Thursday and all the family came and er, the aunts from down south, all came and everybody had hats. And er, beautiful dresses, cos it was in September and the weather was lovely and er, men had hired suits to wear, you see. Well, when father came, the legs were far too long cos father was quite a tiny man, you see, and well my twin aunts er, Mary, and Isabelle, my mother’s youngest sisters said they…leave them on George and we’ll shorten them so dad stood with his legs apart and these ladies knelt down in all their finery and shortened father’s trousers. Er, one of them was a seamstress and the other one was a nurse, and even though they were twins and even though they were seamstresses and nurses, one leg was shorter than the other. So, we just left it. He said, ‘Oh it doesn’t matter’, said dad, but one leg was shorter, so when we strode out into the church there was the one leg shorter than the other but anyway, we got we got married and the reception was held in what was called the parish rooms, at the time. I think erm, it’s…the Jehovah’s Witnesses meet there now, but it was a parish room where the brownies and the guides and the scouts and erm, the council and everything used to meet. There were quite a few small rooms below and quite a big room up above with a kitchen behind it. And er, so, we were in the big room above and erm, there were long tables and er, flowers and flowers at the back. In my photograph that I have in the house of William and I, erm, you can see the flowers on the window behind.
IC who would who arranged all that?
MH Erm, it would, to be honest with you, I really want going to say this but I suppose I will, it is history. It’s all erm, mostly the bride’s parents pay for most of the things, but it’s generally supposed that the er, bridegroom pays for flowers and the buttonholes and things like that. That was the rules in those days. Certain rules go out of the window now, but in those days that was how it was. And Gorden’s supplied the lovely salad wedding breakfast that we had, and all the cakes and things, but no-body had thought about the flowers, you see. We’d thought about everything else but the flowers and William’s mother, er, we’d thought about one or two flowers on the table but nothing else. But the aunt who bought the yellow dress for us, came up erm, quids or whatever we call it, and she said, ‘Oh we can’t have this, you’ve got to have flowers, more flowers than this,’ so she bought all the flowers and put them behind the window, which was very nice of her; aunt Lizzie. And er, she did that and it was it was a lovely…erm…William’s mam, after the wedding, took all the flowers, even though she hadn’t paid for them, she took all the flowers. And anyway…
IC Were they a Wigton family as well? William’s family?
MH Yes, yes, William’s family, er, William’s dad, of course, had the farm, but he was also a draper, he was trained to be a draper, and it’s rather a longer story, we’re going on another tangent, as it were, he was, his brother was killed in the first world war, and William’s father was never fit for to go to war, he er, always was very tiny, light man and was never in a good health. So, his father actually had a farm which he had rented. Er and, so the couple who were renting; he paid them off, I don’t know whether he was due for to be retired, or what, but he put his son on the farm, you see, so that he wouldn’t be taken into the first world war. However they did come for him and tried to take him, but he managed to er, keep him at, at home. And so, they lived not far from us and William’s mother, she came from a family of ten and her mother had died when she was fourteen. Er, oh, this childbirth and everything, I supposed, poor woman she was just 42. But they were all, in the, this immediate area, related. Sometimes I can’t remember what tales l’ve told you originally but it seems funny that the old man who gave me, who lived next door to us when I was little; in the Stampery, he happened to be William’s great uncle so it all worked in together.
IC And did you all know each other before you and William were courting?
MH No we didn’t, but, having said that, when I was about nine or ten years old and we living in Brindlefield and mam and dad were saving hard for to get their own business and everything, er, I was walking down the road one day and these two little boys came up, be about eleven or twelve years and they came on their bikes. And one was a pretty little boy, he still alive but of course he’s my age, older than me now. And he had lovely blonde curls, he was a bonny little boy. But this other boy, I thought, I just like you. And I was only about nine or ten, but I took a shine to this other boy and I never saw him again until he turned up and it was my William. And, so, you know, it was, so I had met him before but I didn’t know who he was until then. And er, but I’d taken a shine to this boy. And so we had…our best man was called, Joe Todd and he farmed about a mile away from us in Bolton-low-houses and William was very friendly with him, so he became our best man. And what had happened was, he’d gone down to see William and he’d had a drink or two because he was so terrified, really, I’m saying terrified, not frightened, terrified. And so when he got down to William’s, although William’s dad didn’t drink didn’t go out to drink or anything, he had some drink in the house so Joe said could he have a whiskey, you see, so Joe had another whiskey and another…this is what I was told later, and another, so when he got to the, when he got to the…he managed in church, but when he got to the reception and the er, speech had to be made, Joe was petrified, absolutely petrified and as drunk as a, miner just coming out of the pub. And so, my bother in law, Fred, who had learned to drive with William, took over and he made the best man speech for us so we had to end up like that.
IC And when, after… you were married did you go straight into the farm?
MH No, er, next door to The Sun was a little cottage. There were two houses on one side and a little cottage on the other and the little cottage had one room down and one room up; literally, that was all it was. And it had a nice little garden at the front which was, as I say, walled off and in it; this was nothing in those days, were a man and wife, their little boy and the man’s mother. They lived in that, in there, you see. Well when mam and dad went into The Sun, when they first went in, they rented it and then it was owned by er…the oh, again I forget names but it will come to me. They were quite, very wealthy people in the area and it was only one of the things that they owned, and she used to ride about, she had side-saddle, she’d a beautiful riding outfit and everything, and she used to…it was a double-barrelled name, sorry I’ve forgotten it, but they owned the farm at the Dial, the big farm at the Dial and lots of other properties around. And er, so when she died, the last of the line, the properties came up for sale, so mam and dad were able to buy The Sun, they bought the little cottage next door as well. And a house came vacant at the Dial, at the Red Dial, so this couple moved out which was better for them of course, cos it was a proper house and, we, mam and dad were able to have the little cottage which they intended to put to The Sun. So William and I lived in there in our first, married life. And I used to…he…like chips and his mam hated making chips so he used to come to me and say, ‘I could just eat some chips, Mary.’ So I used to make the chips on a gas fire under the stairs. I don’t know how I did it, but I used to do that and er, we used to have our coal and sticks and everything, but…were in The Sun so William was used, with his mother, in the morning, having the fire all lit for the farm, you see; the fire was lit and everything and so, in The Sun we never bothered you see, until evening when the customers were coming in. The fires would all be lit for them. But, so at first, I was never bothering about the fire, I never thought about the cold or anything but William started to say, ‘Mam always has the fire lit in the morning’, you see, so I thought ‘Oh, I’d better light the fire, you see, I was using the sticks and the coal and then after a month or two my dad said, ‘You do realise Mary that that’s our coal and I’ve chopped all those sticks, you see, so that was cut out. Although man and dad were very generous it was, it wasn’t, they weren’t going to go that far, you see; providing us with coal. But however, unfortunately, we’d only been married about seven months and Williams father died so then we were going onto the farm. And by that time mam and dad also wanted to put the cottage to The Sun to make a bigger…
IC So it was very early into your marriage that he died.
IC So it was automatically expected that you should take over the farm straight away?
Yes, yes. So William’s mam bought a bungalow in Wigton, Curdrew, on Howdrigg bank, on the right hand side. And er, she went down to Wigton and we started out on the farm.
IC And could you tell me where the farm is…which farm?
MH The farm is down a little lonin at Red dial, at Red dial there are what people always think of a 4 road ends, but er, there are, there’s another little road end down here, where you are now. And the farm was, we’re in Granger House Farm, but the other farm was Wellhead where the family, the family had, and that’s goes quite ahead of my story with Granger house, cos when we first went we were in the other farm; Wellhead. And er, William’s mam went off and after, shortly after that…we’d been only married 7 or 8 months and I found I was pregnant. So, er, the baby was going to be born 9 months later, of course, so we’d been married well over a year. So we were very good couple we were, very, behaved ourselves. In fact it was so funny actually. When we were courting, er, William would take me off in the car and then when we, when we maybe had a ride out or, gone to the pictures or whatever, when we came back we used to park at the front of the Sun and canoodle, of course, in front of the Sun and this time when I got in to the house, mam said, ‘If you don’t mind, Mary,’ she said, ‘it isn’t very nice you canoodle in front of the Sun, er, go somewhere else.’ Well, we never thought anything about it, but when I think about it now, fancy your mother telling you to go somewhere…I mean we would only…giving each other a kiss and a cuddle, but if we went off somewhere else there would be more hanky panky going on. However, we were, we didn’t hanky panky and we were, we behaved ourselves.
IC And what did you think of, when you went to the farm, it must have been a big change for you and a big change of life. How was that for you?
MH Yes, it was. It was a very very, big change, but, I think because I was so young and because mam and dad had made us fairly resilient er, doing, helping in the Sun and serving and cleaning and all that sort of thing. And er, William and I sort of getting on so well and William being delighted in a way. He was sorry about his dad, but his mam and dad were quite old when they had him. And he was very sorry about his dad; he got on well with his dad but I think he actually couldn’t wait till he could get on with farming himself. And we were on our own and he, and he absolutely loved it. And so I never thought about the pitfalls or anything like that and I don’t think he did. And I remember we had to get…in those day, it just had started, where the drainage grants were coming in and we had a 7 acre moss right at the back of us. Which, it wasn’t too bad, but William always had to keep going in and doing the drains and cleaning it out and everything like that. It was quite a lot of work and these drainage grants came in and so if, he said, ‘I think we’ll have this 7 acres drained.’ And er, so, Mr, Mike Mc Donner came, an Irishman, very very Irish he was, the more he talked the faster he got and the less we understood him. But we liked Mike and he came on a bike and he had a, a swan necked shovel and an ordinary shovel and that was his equipment. And he came and he dug and he dug all that year and he made quite a good dent in the drainage system and things were getting really well. But when we think about the drainage – and it’s the same happens right through farming, that first year, we were charged so much, so we got a certain amount of money back because we were, er the, because of the grant, so the following year William, said, ‘We’ll do it again and get more of the moss drained’, so the following year the famous Mike Mc Donner came, but this time he had 2 men helping him, he came in a car and he’d a JCB. So, it got done and the drains were absolutely smashing and the land yielded and everything, and we were able to put cattle on. But who got the money? The drainer had put his prices up. So, we had to pay as much as we would have a year ago if we hadn’t had the grant. So who gets the grant for the that sort of thing? The first time it comes in the farmer gets it, but after that, the drainage man gets it. The first time it comes in the dykes are done and the farmer gets it, but after that the dyker gets it for the hedgerows. So all these grants that the farmers get, that we think the farmers get, they only last the first year and after that…Erm, not saying that the drainer or the dyker or whatever, or whatever erm, are dishonest, they’re just, do, and people pay, you see. So in the long run the farmer doesn’t get the grant. However, the 7 acres of moss were fine, we got crops off them, we got animals on them.
IC Can I ask you what moss, is?
MH Well, moss, well, have you heard recently, well l’ve known this for a long time, but er people don’t realise that a moss is a wet, very very wet land and they have different mosses on and different insects and things like that. They’re better than er, rainforest for taking the carbon monoxide out of the air, better than a rainforest and we have one of the biggest in England, in Cumbria. And that’s er, beside Glasson and over by Bowness and that way. It’s er, I don’t know how many thousand acres and people are only realising that and taking it in now. Before they were taking the peat out and things like that, and now its sphagnum moss they have in and there’s dragonflies and all sorts. Beautiful it is, and the different flowers and er, flora and everything. So we have 7 acres here and after a while when William and I were just on our own on the farm, because when we first started, er, and we bought this farm next door, we had a hired lad who lived in with us. But when we were on our own it got to be the moss was still a lot of work and its gradually gone back and back until William said, ‘I think we’ll just leave that to wildlife, cos we’d got the other farm so we’d plenty of land and er, so we’ll call it no mans land, now. So it’s there for just, for wildlife. And there’s deer on, and er, William was certain he saw a Hen Harrier and all sorts, so it was, it was. We like it like that and the children liked it like that, left it as a moss.
IC So did you have 2 farms, effectively?
MH Both next door, yes. Er well, William’s mam went down to Wigton and she never liked it, never liked it at all cos she’d been on the farm, she’d been born in the country, so she didn’t like it and this farm came up next door, and er, we’d, by then we had Catherine, the baby, and I was expecting another baby, you see, so William said, ‘I think we’ll have a shot at buying’…but you couldn’t borrow money, you couldn’t borrow money in those days, you see, so we had to, by hook or by crook and whatever. We’d 2 fields that were well away – where Speet Gill is. We’d 2 fields there and the farmer there was willing to buy them and give us cash for them. William’s mam said, ‘Can I come back to Wigton and sell the er, come back to the cottage if you buy the farm, the other farm? I would rather come back to the cottage and er, sell the’…So by hook or by crook we got enough money to buy this farm and of course in those days, the farmhouse wasn’t counted, just the land. If you had been selling it today, the farmhouse is counted as well as the land. But then…so, we, it was quite reasonable for us to buy. So we…
IC And can I ask how, what animals…were the size of your farm, cattle and sheep?
MH We had, we had. We weren’t in the milk. We had, when we were over there, we had built a byre out of what I think would possibly be some, er, very tiny weavers cottages. I think down here, when we look at the land, especially the gorse bushes, usually grew, er, again, I forget names, it usually grew…what you make linen out of. Er, and we have a retin pond and everything, you see. So it was, the weavers would be there, you see, and they would probably be two little cottages and so, they were in a bad state, so before William and I were married, but when he was still young, they made it into a byre and he bought…he was intending to go in the milk, but it was costing rather much more than they could afford. So we bought, er, cattle to fatten. And used the byre and we had one or two milk cows that we put calves to. And we’d one called Esmeralda, actually, and she was in the byre in the other house and she was so prolific with her milk, if that’s the right word. She had 4 calves put to her, you see. And it was quite interesting doing that. So it was cows and calves and one or two sheep and fat cattle, which we used to buy in from Ireland when we got this farm that we’re on now, we used to, William used to go to Ireland a few times and buy cattle there and have them shipped over to here, you see.
IC And then you’d fatten them?
MH We’d fattened them up, yes and it was, I don’t know whether you can remember, well, you can’t, but there was an Irish girl, she was a political called Bernadette Devlin, and she was quite a, er, she wasn’t liked in the press. She was dark and she was fiery and she was er. So we got this one or two cattle and one of them was black, curly black hair, it had, and it was bad tempered too..Ber, William called it Bernadette. It was given the name Bernadette, and it er, it was a milker and she’d milk and she had some calves, but we used to have a terrible time with her, trying to put the calves to her. But she was Bernadette, after Bernadette Devlin. And er, so that was how our farming was on the…I remember when I was expecting my first baby, erm, of me, I was getting bigger and bigger and this was when we were on the other farm, so William said, er, no I said to William, ‘I think I’ll have to have a coat, a new winter coat’, to cover up the pregnancy which you did in those days, you know, you did…not like the great bulges you show nowadays and take photographs of them. We were rather more discrete. So I got rather a nice red, bright red coat. So I suppose it wouldn’t cover it much up, but it was bright red. But this night it was wintertime and the snow was thick on the ground and William went to look at the sheep to see how they were doing, and he came back in and it would be about midnight and he said, ‘Sorry lass, we’ll have to go out.’ This ewe was lambing, you see, and er, she, we’d to put…me red coat on and off I went out. And of course I couldn’t bend down, kneel down in the snow, because of me condition, and hold her head down as you do, so that William could put his arm up inside her to draw out the lamb. Er, because I was getting heartburn doing that, you see, so I said, ‘I’m sorry I’m going to have to…No, it was the other way round, I was gonna have to just lie on her, rather than just hold her down, I was gonna have to lie on her to do it. So here’s me lying in the snow on this ewe and William pulling it out. And I wrote a poem about it, it, actually; the blood on the, red blood on the snow and my red coat matched. You see, in the, in the snow.
IC It’s a wonderful, a wonderful story.
MH And talking about that, we, er, it was getting on for, by then it was getting on for Christmas, and William…we always bought, or William always had bought, and we had the year before, a turkey from our best man’s family. And so William said, ‘Oh I’ll have to go up for the turkey’, you see, so er, he said, ‘Are coming up with us?’ I said, ‘No, I’ll tell you what, you just go and have a word with Joe, drop me off at the Sun with mam and dad’, you see. So off William went for the turkey and er, they dropped me off in my red coat and er, I sat in what we called the kitchen where, which was a friendly area, where all the customers met, mostly men, and told all their stories and played dominos and everything. So I’d quite a pleasant night. But in those days the pub closed at 10 o clock. So dad used to shout time at about five to ten and the last pints were quickly drunk and then everybody went out. And dad was just closing the door, and mam and er, were sitting in the kitchen by the, fire, and he was just closing the door and these two men sort of pushed in, you see. And one of them was somebody that dad knew and dad said, ‘Oh, it’s closing time, Billy’ and me dad, and they said, ‘Oh, we just want one drink George.’ ‘No’, me dad said, ‘No, you can’t have…’ We could hear them in the corridor. ‘No,’ dad said, ‘You can’t have a drink it’s closing time.’ ‘Come on, come on!’ you see and they got quite belligerent and it was obvious they already were tight, you see, and they were backing me dad down the corridor, and me dad’s saying, ‘No, no, I’m not giving you any drink, it’s time to go.’ And they were 2, both big men and as I say, dad was small and they were pushing him down, turned the corner and mam and me didn’t know what to do. And they turned the corner into the, towards where the drink was kept and er, dad fell then, over a crate, you see. Well, I, my presence of mind was…’Oh, Oh,’ I said, ‘You’re upsetting me, the baby’s coming, I can feel the baby coming,’ and I’m saying, and I was very good at tears, very good at tears, so the tears were coming and the baby was coming and so, er, these men turned on their heels and ran out of the door, you see. And just as they ran out, William’s coming back with the biggest turkey, all dressed ready for the oven; the biggest turkey you’ve ever seen, this great bare turkey and William’s walking in with that, and these two men are rushing out. And of course when they saw that, they rushed out even more and of course William was a nice big tall lad, but he was carrying this…he said, ‘What’s going on?’ and we said, ‘Well you know, you just come rather late for to sort of save dad.’ And they’d actually broken a couple of ribs when he went, he, they were brought to court and dad was given damages because of the situation. But that was how I saved the day. Oh, by, my first born, Catherine saved the day with, er, ‘I’m going to have the baby, It’s coming!’
IC And did you have Catherine at home?
MH Shortly after, no, I had her in hospital and about a week later, actually, it was just after Christmas and we were booked in for to go to hospital, but mam said whatever happens, you , I don’t care if it’s the middle of the night, you’ve got to come for me. And it was about half twelve and William was getting us into the car, and er, I said we’ve to go for mam, and he said, ’Oh no, he said, ‘cos your dad isn’t well with his broken ribs and that’, and I said, ‘Mam was quite adamant about it, we have to go for her.’ So we went up for mam and mam was sitting in the back seat and I’m in the front and er, she kept putting her hand on me shoulders and said, ‘Oh poor, lass. Oh my poor lass, oh poor lass’, all the way to Carllise. That was what she was saying and I was quite alright because I’d stopped. I’d stopped, I had no pain whatsoever. And…got into Carlisle and they put you through, you have an enema, then they give you a bath and everything and then they put, your, a gown on and you lie in bed and you, and I went to sleep; fast asleep. And er, about twenty past 6 in the morning, I woke up er, with me bottom, d’you mind me saying these sort of things? With me bottom, bare as anything, lying on my side and the most lovely young surgeon at the end of the bed, looking at me. And er, he was going, he said, ‘Do you mind Mrs Heslam, that was the first time I’d been called Mrs Heslam, that was nice, and er, he said, ‘This is my, this will be my twelfth baby’ and I think that it… passed the test of twelve babies for to pass his test of being a midwife or physician or whatever it’s called. And so, no, I said, and twenty past 6, and she was born at twenty to seven, so apart from the first pain at the beginning of the night, er, that was all I had, so it was like shedding peas, you know, it was quite, it was quite nice. She was a lovely little girl, born and er, so that was us. And then while we were still in Wellhead, the electric came. We’d all, it had been oil lamps and candles up till then you see, and cooking on the fire. And so the electric came.
IC And what year would that be, do you remember?
MH That was, it would be, well Catherine was born in er, 56, was she born, so it would be…no, no Catherine was born in 56, no, it was when Edwin was born, that was it, he was a baby. So he was born 18 months later so it would be about 1958, something like that. I could really work it out exactly what it was, but it was something like that. And er, so, the electric came and the men came down and we had, we got all the wiring done by Elwood’s of Wigton. He did all the wiring for us, for the house, and we bought an electric cooker and, what else did we buy? Er, we didn’t think about buying a television or anything like that, just a couple of things, but we had this electric cooker and, yes, we did buy a television. William bought a television and so all the houses down here had all got their electric things ready to use and the men were working all week and er, they were going to switch on, on the Friday night and so I was quite curious and I had the baby in the pram and er, no, I’m telling a lie. It was Catherine, it would be 1956 and I had the baby in the pram so I kept wheeling… they were working in the yard just further up because the man who had the…he had his own electric machine er, generator, in the yard there because he had er, steel business, he built farm sheds and things like that. And he’d 2 men working for him so he had his own electric and it was a good yard to work in. And they had the elect…the electric board van and everything there, and all the workers. So I kept going past to see how they were going on, you see, with the baby in the pram. And then when I was going past for about the third time, they would seem to be putting their stuff away. So I said, ‘What are you doing?’ and they said, ‘Oh we’re finishing for the night’, and I said, ‘Well it isn’t 4 o clock yet, are you not switching us on?’ ‘No no no lass, we’re not switching you on.’ But I said, ‘But it’s, erm, we’ve all got our electric things for to try over the weekend.’ ‘No, we’ll come back on Monday and we’ll switch you on on Monday.’ So I ran down to the first house and I said what was happening then I ran down to the couple who were on this farm at the time and told them what was happening, and so we all went back up again, er, the two other ladies, meself and er, the ladies that were in the house beside where the electric was going on; the other lady. So there were 5 of us all together, er, because the other lady wasn’t bothered cos she had electric, but the other 5 of us were there, and me with the pram. And we stood at the mouth of the yard, we wouldn’t let them past. We said, ‘No, you’ve to switch us on, we’re not letting you past.’ So erm, belligerent, and er, militant lot. And so, they had to switch us on, they went round and they switched us all on and I gave them all half a dozen eggs each for to…you know, to give them a bit of a reward so they were staying later. But er, it was so funny at the time. If I hadn’t been pushing past with the pram, you see, they would have been off and the whole weekend we wouldn’t have seen our tele or anything.
IC And how, how…Did electricity change everything?
MH Oh, it changed absolutely…for, just for the first, at the start, our cottage that we lived in, that me daughter’s in now, very low, well built in about the 1400’s, low ceilings, small windows, er, not a lot of light going in or anything like that. Had oil lamps and candles and everything, so of course when the electric was switched on it was like a new house and you could see all the dirty old wallpaper and stuff like that with the, er, oil and the candles and everything. So it was…for the first thing, it was for to re-decorate the place and then it was wonderful just to switch the cooker on, you see, and not make your chips on the fire, cos William did like his chips. And oh, all sorts of things. I didn’t get a washing machine right away, but I did get a wash boiler so that I could boil the clothes in. But we didn’t have a washing machine right away. And just the light and everything made such a difference.
IC D’you think it made people stay up later?
MH Oh, yes, yes and of course the television made a difference and er, I know when William’s mam came back, she hadn’t had a television down in Wigton, but when she came back she got a television in the cottage and we came over here and she believed the television…the people in Coronation Street and everything, were real people. That, er, what was going on was, you know, the absolute truth. So believable were the programmes to her, you see. So things like that made a difference and education wise I think the television helped us. The little girls next door, their parents didn’t want a television but they used to come down every Sunday night, it’s only a few hundred yards down to us, but they used to come down every Sunday night and watch whatever programme, it was maybe Lorna Doone or The Cabin in the Clearing or something like that. And they would watch for about an hour and then their parents used to wait at the back door and we used to wait at our door while they went up because they were so frightened after the, The Cabin in the Clearing and Lorna Doone, you see, so it was, it was quite funny. And they used to take my two little ones to Sunday school at West Ward, which was about, it’s about a mile and a half away. Er, because funnily enough, our house, our two farms, are in Woodside Parish and Woodside Parish goes right round Wigton like a polo, Wigton’s a hole in the middle. And Woodside is the polo mint, apart from a little tiny bite out by somebody, and that’s West Ward. The other 4 houses in this little tiny hamlet are in West Ward. The line, the border, goes between the two, we two are in Woodside, the other 4 are in West Ward Parish. So the little girls went to West Ward Sunday school where we supposed to go to Wigton, er, cos it was affiliated to Wigton, but instead we went to, er, the children went up to West Ward. And I remember once when Edwin was quite little, er, the vicar came from Wigton to see us and Edwin was, I was sort of in the house with the window open and Edwin was just little and the vicar said, ‘Oh Hello, and what’s your name?’ ‘Edwin Heslam, Grainger house, Red Dial, Wigton, Cumbria, England, you dirty hound.’ (Laughs) I don’t know why he did that, but, William didn’t really swear but he would say things like- you dirty hound, you know, so I think he thought he was being like his daddy, you see, I was just only too pleased that William didn’t actually, wasn’t really a swearer, or it might have come out something even worse than that. But, er, that’s what little Edwin said anyway to the vicar, ‘You dirty…’ no, sorry, ‘You dirty swine’, that was what he said, ‘You dirty swine.’
IC (laugh) Not much better.
MH No (laughs) no. But er, that was, that was the start of our rather bigger farming.
IC Yes, I was going ask about that.
MH Yes, yes.
IC Did the farm increase in size?
MH Yes, so then William was able to buy cattle as I say, go over to Ireland, with two or three other farmers. One of the farmers would take the car and er, they would go over by Stranraer and go into Ireland and then buy, you know, however many cattle they wanted and er, then ship it over and it would come to Silloth. Cos of course Silloth had always had been a…farming, er, port, as it were. It belonged to, it was called Sealeigh and it belonged to Holm Cultram Abbey. When the monks were there and they used to sell their wool…ship their wool out to the continent from Silloth, it would go all the way round and then down in…across to the continent. It was like gold, cos of course you know about the wool sack for the chancellor sits on. So Holm Cultram Abbey was very very wealthy, all the sheep and all the land that people used to give them to pray for them. And er, that’s what happened in West, in Wigton. Lady Maragret De-Wigton gave so much land to Holm Cultram Abbey so that the for, ad infinitum. (52.12) as it were, to pray for her soul, you see. Course they’d have stopped by now when Henry the 8th got at them I suppose, they wouldn’t be able to any more. But er, that’s, so it’s always been a port for bringing stuff in, Silloth and er, so that’s what we used to do with, erm.
IC And so what you would be the size of, would it be a herd, one herd, what would be the size of a herd?
MH As I say, it would be three or four farmers going and all buying so many, it would just
depend on how many you could see for to buy. And it was like, you know, he might bring in a dozen. I don’t think we ever really brought more than a dozen to twenty would be about our limit. Er, maybe one time it would just be about 7 you know, it would depend on what you could buy at the time because it was often done just on the street. Er and the spitting on the hands and shaking hands you see, and, we used to buy a lot from a farmer called Birke, which is an Irish name and he used to come over now and then to see us and he liked my…chips again. He liked, I used to make steak and onions and chips. And he used to come and er, if he was bringing, he maybe brought a big load of cattle over to sell over here, and William would buy some of those and they would go from market to market. He would have quite a lot and they would go to the Sands in Carlisle they would sell, it would sell, they would sell from Wigton, you see, and that’s how William got to know him actually, by buying cattle from him here…
IC I was going to ask whether, whether you bought cattle from…
MH Yes, yes and then he would say, ‘Well why don’t you come over to Ireland’, you see and, er, so…
IC Would that have made a difference to the price – because he went direct to Ireland?
MH Oh yes, yes, and then it was, it was a little 3 or 4 day holiday for them as well, cos William never, never thought about, never wanted to take holidays. But it was, he always bought a present back. He bought me some Estee Lauder once, rather…some Estee Lauder. Anything he bought back I loved. And something for the children, that was nice, and he used to bring his mother something back, didn’t matter what he brought his mother, she didn’t like it. It didn’t matter what you brought his mother, she didn’t like it. I remember at Christmas I used to, god, me brain out to try and find her something that she liked. Then one year I hit upon the right thing and it was 3 pairs of knickers. She used to wear her knickers down to her knees with the elastic in, you see, and I thought what can I buy her? So this time…there was a Studham’s where I bought my wedding dress, his brother was in Wigton, he had a shop in Wigton; Studham’s, it’s where the larger newsagents is now, and the post office have gone into it. It was a lovely dress shop, and, drapers it was, and so I bought these 3 knickers, one was in peach, one was in pale turquoise and the other was white. Wrapped it up and at the same time, er, Edwin…the children used to buy her a Christmas present, whatever they bought her, just little things, she didn’t like. But this year, she, loved, what, the best present she’d ever had were these knickers, you see, weren’t they grand, so I thought, I’ve hit the jackpot. So she got knickers after that. But Edwin was the best. Every er, Friday, she would give the children a packet of polo mints each, you see. Well Edwin was never a sweet boy, never bothered about sweets and I didn’t realise this and he saved these polo mints up and at Christmas, he gave her parcel of polo mints. Well she didn’t realise they were her polo mints, you see, cos she loved polo mints. The children got a polo mint each and she used to buy a few for herself, you see, and she was always sucking these polo mints, so he gave her her polo mints that year. So we were in quids, you see, cos Edwin had managed – he was about 9 then, and Edwin had managed to give her right present and I did so she was delighted.
IC I’m going to pause because somebody is at the door, excuse me one minute.
MH Right. Is that..