February 24, 2009

Daft Laddies tales of North Tyne & Rede: My H Samuel's pocket watch

Northumberland, farming, humour, dialect, Daft Laddies, history, 1950s

By Donald Clegg

Don's watch by H Samuel's of Newcastle upon Tyne. It's now in gentle retirement with a new boot lace to keep it safe
Do you remember the H Samuel Ever-Right pocket watch? It cost all of 30/- (£1.50) in the 1950’s and was a must for any self respecting artisan. It had a big, clear face, a chunky knob to wind it up and luminous pointers. Mine sat proudly in the breast pocket of my heather-mixture Harris Tweed jacket that I wore to the Highland Show in Paisley, near Glasgow, one year.

As the jacket got shabbier with age and holes appeared in the elbows it became my regular garb for cold days on the farm, milkin’, muckin’ oot and lookin’ the hill. H Samuel came too. He was always attached to the jacket’s button hole by a length of stylish leather bootlace, alongside the deer’s horn dog whistle that I carried to give an air of professionalism to my woeful performances as a sheep dog handler.

On the North Tyne farm where I was working there was a fairly deep open drain running across the back field and, in a wet lambing time, it could present quite a danger to unsteady young lambs as they tried to follow their mothers across the swollen stream. To ease the problem the boss decided that I should build a couple of sheep bridges across the drain, using old railway sleepers.

With the Fergie and trailer loaded with pinch bar, spade, bushman saw and sleepers I duly set off for the bridge building site on a warmish, sunny April morning. In no time, of course, the Harris Tweed jacket was cast and hoyed on to the trailer along with my woolly jumper. Work progressed steadily until all was satisfactorily completed and I straightened my back to admire my handiwork. All that remained was to collect the pinch bar, bushman and spade and head home for dinner.

As the heavy tools thumped, one by one, on to the trailer bed I suddenly remembered my H Samuel Ever Right pocket watch, worth 30/-, with its stylish leather bootlace, was in my Harris Tweed jacket, right in the firing line! The spade had landed squarely on top of it! Carefully, I examined the flattened remains of my pride and joy.

Miraculously, in spite of having a neat hole punched right through the newly invented plastic glass and through the steel back cover by the watch’s main gear spindle, it was still ticking away merrily and my H Samuel pocket watch continued to be Ever-Right for a canny few years afterwards.

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