Northumberland, farming, Daft Laddies, humour, dialect, learning , history, 1950s
By Donald Clegg
A steep larnin curve
In the first few months of life on the farm, the Daft Laddie would be faced with a steep learning curve as he discovered that mud and muck were a major part of his daily routine, and that a gate left open, a bucket of milk spilt, or forgetting to bar the hens in at night (all by accident of course), would earn him an earful of colourful abuse from the boss, and a reminder of his lowly status.
This was described by the boss to neighbours as 'the bluddy Daft Laddie, that fool of a Daft Laddie, that goniel of a Daft Laddie, that bluddy Bellingham or Rochester Daft Laddie' - and these were the nice ones!
Gradually however, as the daily round of mucking o0t, beddin up, milking and fothering became a familiar routine, the Daft Laddie would perhaps be allowed to get involved in a variety of farm maintenance tasks without the boss breathing down his neck.
Fettlin fences, rebuilding dry staene dykes, rickling gaps that were ower far gone to repair fully, cleaning oot fell drains, redding oot the caert shed, pulling Runch, Redshank and man-high Fat Hen from among the turnips, (napping) breaking stones into the potholes and spurlin’s on the farm track, and other similar jobs that required little or no decision making, regularly came his way and he gradually began to feel a part of the regular cycle of farm work – a very small cog in a very large machine.
This newly acquired independence meant that the Daft Laddie had even more scope to dee dafter, and sometimes more dangerous, things. His confidence grew and he began to wear his Rogerson’s ‘heathor louper’ boots with more panash as I well remember doing myself. I can think of a number of incidents involving tractors that illustrate this particular point.
You always lived in hope that your improved status as a 'half-trusted Daft Laddie' may impress the Sarvant Lass on the next door farm - but it wasn't something you could place much money on. As sure as God made little apples, her boss would have been taakin to your boss ower the dyke when they were lookin the hill, and would have shared the news of your latest faux pas!