October 18, 2008

Partin wi’ brass

Farming in the North Pennine Dales
By Clive Dalton

A tale Eric Wilson told me that he never got down on paper was his regular experience of having to part a Dales farmer from his “brass” (money). Eric used to relate how he would be summonsed up the Dale by a farmer who had called in to the company yard and showroom on market day, and now wanted to buy this new bit of machinery because things were moving away from horse power to the early tractor power. The machines of most interest were new tractor mowers driven off the tractor Power Take Off, and improved machines to turn and condition hay.

Eric would leave his office early in the morning to arrive at the farm around morning tea where the crack (talking) would start – about anything other than the need for his visit. This process would continue till dinner (lunch) and into the afternoon.

The core of the discussion was the accepted need for the new machine but the scandalous price it was and what a life-threatening job it was going to be to find brass to pay for it. The machine was always “far ower dear” and that he’d had second thoughts and would try to get through another season without it.

While Eric spent his time pointing out the machine’s “features” and how much more work could be done, faster, and of better quality, the farmer would have little of it. The farmer kept coming back “t’t cost” and the problem of him having to “gan te’t bank” for a loan, and how “borrowin muney” had never been part of the family ethic – as there could be another 1930 slump “arroond t’ corner”.

Afternoon tea of ham sandwiches, cakes and fruit tarts came and went, with still no sign of a deal. Discussion continued of pending disasters for the farm and the Dale caused by the season, the government and the world, until supper of cauliflower cheese and afternoon tea’s leftovers arrived.

After this was devoured and fireside chairs were drawn up and pipes filled with fresh baccy, Eric said he used to make a move to leave having given up on a deal.

“Aye well, Aa’ll be off then”, Eric said was the trigger. He would be going out the door putting his cap on making for his van when the farmer would shout from the kitchen - “Aye alreet then, yid better send ‘is yen o’ them machines up then.” Aa’ll hev te find brass from’t somewhere!

“Mek sure ye deliver it for nowt, and send lad up wi’ it te mek sure it works. An’ Aa’ll be expectic guarantee for ten year an’all.

It had been a long hard day!

It had been a long hard day Eric said!

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