February 28, 2009

Bill Charlton: Bellingham memories: Smoking experiments

Northumberland, history, humour, childhood memories, wartime 1939-45

By Bill Charlton

Smoking experiments

In our junior years in 1940/41 Cliff and I experimented in smoking by collecting dog ends off the road, looking in empty cigarette packets for a cigarette or cards which we used to save for a collection and swap with other lads in the village. The cards were printed in sets or different subjects such as famous footballers, famous cricketers, famous trains and so on.

At odd times we’d buy a clay pipe for a halfpenny each, and fill them up with ‘baccy’ we’d saved for a few puffs with the pipe each, Alas, one day we were caught by the local bobby Dick Oliver who was a Special Constable. He lodged at the croft and was on his way to start his duty shift in the village. He told us not to smoke that rubbish as it would make us sick,

He told us he’d show us how to fill a pipe properly with real tobacco when he finished his shift that afternoon, as he lodged with the Wright family two doors from us at the Croft. Well true to his word, we met him at the seat at the Show field entrance where he then showed us how to cut the ‘Warhorse’ tobacco with a knife, how to rub it in the palms of our hands to break it up before filling the clay pipes which he’d also brought with him.

The ‘Warhorse’ tobacco was strong black stuff ; he didn’t tell us this but we learned it later! Never mind, he got us all lit up and going full steam, and off we went up the Dunterly road puffing away like old hands. When we reached the farm, the Muscovy Ducks which were often out the front eating the grass did’nt look the same to us.

Instead of white, they looked green and by this time we were starting to feel a bit dizzy and sickly. That brought us down to earth a bit about smoking for a while. But a week or so later he caught us out again smoking fags, so he just took us into his digs (Mrs Wright’s house), put his hand up the chimney and blackened our faces with soot. Then he kicked our backsides out the door.

We didn’t dare go home so we set off down to the Tyne to wash it off but that just made it worse. Unknown to us he had told Mother what he’d done, so we got in trouble again. Dad was away in the war and perhaps Dick was trying to keep us in line - which he did.

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