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  Where you are: Living Memories - Derrick Brookfield
  Derrick Brookfield - Farming in Tickhill
 

 

Excerpts from a “Living Memories” interview with Derrick Brookfield in August 2006 by Rosemary Cornish

 

I was born at Castle Folds Farm.

Well, my first memory of farms is the amount of farmers there were in Tickhill I know I counted them up once and I think I got to 31 or 32. They were all in the village, or just on the outskirts.  

We used to milk (the cows) by hand in those days. Some if it was taken round the village – we had our customers round the village. I used to go with the bike and deliver it. I remember it was in a churn and you ladled it and then we went to bottles……  Then we bottled it at home. We put it straight into the bottle and had cardboard tops to put on. There are still some of those bottles about today. What I can remember is milk at 4 pence ha’penny a pint and a loaf of bread at 4 pence ha’penny. Now I’m sorry to say, today, if I get a loaf of bread it’s 95p and the farmer is getting something like 16 or 17 pence a litre for milk ..it’s diabolical but the supermarkets have got it tied up. 

…I remember going once for a week to another farmer and I got 10 shillings for a week of potato picking, I was rich!  

 I always remember the first time I went ploughing my father said “I’ll come and start you and set you a rig” and that meant you drive up one way and turn back the other way and leave an open furrow, then you shut it back in again so it cuts all the land underneath and he came and set  the rig and I know the horses hadn’t been done much and they shot up the field like mad and I hadn’t done a very good job and I always remember, he said “do you want another rig setting?” and I said – “no, I’ve done it!”  

We were the first farmers in the village to get a Fergusson tractor.  I found it a lot easier – yes. There was one thing you noticed, because you walked miles and miles a day walking up and down, but when we got a tractor you were pulling 2 furrows instead of 1 it was a big difference. 

…… what they call a four year rotation. We grew wheat or oats and we’d undersow that with grass seed. The following year it had to be either made into hay or grazed with the sheep, and after that it would go in with wheat and after that it would be roots, and after roots it would be either wheat or oats.

We didn’t grow much barley in those days, it were oats to feed for the horses or cattle. We didn’t grow much barley at all or a mixture of oats & barley and peas but of course, we cut them with the binder and stooked  them and they dried in the field. Harvest time to be a busy time. We used to ’open the fields out’, moving round the outsides with a scythe, tying the oat sheaves up by hand. For wheat, we just ‘opened out’ the corners.  I think we stooked  them  North to South so the sun got 1 side in the morning and the other side in the afternoon but if they came wet we used to have to go and turn them.  I’ve spent some time stooping and turning them and pulling them over where they’ve been stood around, to dry them – there’s a lot of work attached. 

I don’t think, in the village, anyway, that the war affected us too much, but 1 thing I remember is they dropped some land mines in one of our fields on Limestone Hill and I know my father was ploughing the field and he went up to plough the field, and the army was guarding these land mines and they wouldn’t let him in the field they said that they were magnetic and if he went near them on his plough they could go off so he had to go back home, and any road my Grandfather said ‘I’ll go and get it’. Now, it’s one of the lads who was in the army told me this tale and he says ‘Your Grandfather came up and they said ‘I’m sorry, sir, you can’t come in the field’ and he says ‘Thy’s not going to stop me! I want that plough and I’m going to have it. – my lad wants to go ploughing and if he can’t plough in this field he can plough somewhere else!’  

it would have been the late 1970’s I think or beginning of 80’s – the milk had got to go in bulk  by this time of course, we’d gone into machine milking  - about 1948 we started milking cows by machine.

So I said ‘look, we’ll stop sheep and milk more cows if we’ve got to put a bulk tank in.  You wanted at least 150 gallons  to be worth while doing it. So then we went into more milk and more cows Then – I think it was about 1983 if I remember, we finished with milk and started doing beef. It was …it became uneconomic for us to work with cows. And we’ve been in beef ever since.  Instead of milking we were buying calves in and feeding them and then selling them at the market for meat and we did alright with it. 

Well, it’s what they call diversifying isn’t it? On our sized farm – very near 200 acres – you couldn’t make a living on that and so he’s had to diversify.   It’s funny because I was reading in the farming press this last weekend that someone had been writing that soon, farmers will have to start diversifying again and grow food! 

I was chairman of Doncaster NFU for 2 years, and then I was chairman at the executive meeting at Leeds – I did my 2 year stint on that.  That involved quite a lot of travelling and I enjoyed it very much because, you know, you met a lot of people. I met some grand chaps. I think farmers are a breed of their own. You know, if you get 2 farmers together, that’s all they can talk is farming. 

You don’t wish you’d done something else? 

No.  I can remember, Margaret, my wife, saying years ago, when miners were getting a big rise,  and I says to her then, ‘Look, I don’t care how much they’re getting  - me, I wouldn’t go down the pit.  I think they deserve every penny they get, as far as I’m concerned’.  I’m very fortunate, out in the fresh air and it’s always different – the seasons are always different and you’re not doing the same job.  You know, you’re always looking forward and planning.. You know, I’m just sorry that farming has been in the doldrums these last few years but 7 lean years and 7 good ones and I reckon we should be coming to the 7 better ones soon. That’s my opinion anyway.

When was the Tickhill Show held? Where was it held? 

In the Summer…..I know we had one at Eastfield and one down at the Castle field and I think we had one on the cricket field if I remember right but my memory isn’t quite as good as it ought to be. 

…….Well, the horses did all the work like when you planted the crops, you used to harrow in between the rows and in hay time they were raking the hay, they used to run 3 horses in the binder.  They’d be cutting with the binder and they’d  to have 3 horses in that………..Well, we didn’t get a tractor until 1947. 

What did you grow on the farm? You talked about turnips and obviously the animals. 

In the root crops we grew, potatoes, sugar beet, turnips and mangels. Now the turnips and mangels were to feed to the cattle and sheep, sugar beet went to the sugar beet factory and of course, we sold the potatoes 

How did the war affect farming?  You would only have been a lad then wouldn’t you? 

I don’t think, in the village, anyway, it affected us too much but one thing I remember is they dropped some land mines in one of our fields on Limestone Hill and I know my father was ploughing the field and he went up to plough the field, and the army was guarding these land mines and they wouldn’t let him in the field they said that they were magnetic and if he went near them on his plough they could go off so he had to go back home………. 

……I was involved with the NFU, I was chairman of Doncaster for 2 years, and then I was chairman at the executive meeting at Leeds – I did my 2 year stint on that.  That involved quite a lot of travelling and I enjoyed it very much because, you know, you met a lot of people. I met some grand chaps. I think farmers are a breed of their own. 

.  I’m very fortunate, out in the fresh air and it’s always different – the seasons are always different and you’re not doing the same job.  You know, you’re always looking forward and planning. 

(For a transcript of the full interview click here)

 



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