February 28, 2009

Bill Charlton: Bellingham memories. Wartime diet

Northumberland, history, humour, wartime 1939-45

By Bill Charlton

The bridge over the North Tyne at Bellingham
The tiny cottage at the end of the bridge, (which at one time must have been a toll house) was nicknamed 'the rabbit hutch' and the nice lady who occupied it (who nobody knew much about) was inevitably called 'The Rabbit' (but not to her face!)

Rabbit pie
Often in the war years things were a bit tight in the food and money department, and Mother would at times ask us lads what we’d like for our dinner tomorrow night. Without hesitation Cliff and I would both blurt out ‘Rabbit Pie please’.

Mother’s response was then you’d better get out and catch some! So off down the byre we’d go to collect some snares, and take off around the wood side of the show field fence looking for runs to set our snares.

After a while and half a dozen snares later we would wander out into the open field and off the rabbits would go for cover where the snares were set. Then we’d retrace our tracks to collect our next dinner, but first we would have to gut and skin them. This along with the offal went down an old rabbit hole and stomped in with our hob nail boots.

Mother would then prepare the meat by putting it in a white vitreous enamel dish of salt and water to soak over night. What we didn’t need the dog would get. The next night at dinner Cliff and I would scuffle over the kidneys so mother had to share them out between us to keep us both happy.

Trout & ducks
Brother Cliff would often go fishing in the Tyne for trout, and on his way down to the Riding stone area where he would fish, his Aylesbury & Khaki Campbell Ducks would follow him to the river for a swim around while he fished. After he’d caught a couple of trout, he’d make his way back home with the ducks following him.

Cliff and I used to keep bees and we had a couple of hives. We’d collect the honey when required and keep a check on the Queens to see how many new Queen cells were developing.

During the war years we used to be allowed 10 lb of sugar per hive to make candy to keep them alive during a hard winter, When the bees swarmed we would go out and collect them in a cardboard box to start a new hive. It was great fun keeping bees and interesting.

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