March 13, 2010

Northumberland tales. The 1947 snow storm.

By Dr Tom Batey

Not 1947 but 2009 showing the same problem - blocked farm
roads waiting till the thaw.

Photo kindly provided by Helen Brown, Tarset shepherd who was
faced with this challenge.

A winter to remember

The winter of 1947 was certainly one to remember. I enjoyed Don Clegg's account of his journey back to home to Rochester from school in Newcastle on the bus.

My, how they used to cram us into the country buses in those days. They would pack and shove folk in until you could hardly breathe. Sometimes the conductress would be unable to move down the bus to get the fares, and had to wait until a few passengers got off.

Problem was not snow
The main problem farming in 1947 was not so much the snow, we could cope with that. It was the lateness of the spring.

At home we managed to eke out our hay until the grass came -but it was well into May before there was much to eat on the inbye fields.

Nowt to eat
Some folk were forced to sell stock as they literally had nowt left. I remember we bought a couple of young beasts at Hexham from Harry Wilkinson who was so embarrassed to sell them- they were an awful sight - just skin and bone. In September we sold them for twice what we paid - they'd 'cowp'd thor creels' in money as they say.

Winter hard on the yowes

We lost a few ewes - including my ewe. When I was, born George Walton of Woodburn Hill gave 'the bairn' a half-bred yowe lamb, and she faithfully produced a pair of lambs every year which we sold fat, -the proceeds going into my piggy bank.

That was until 1947 when at the ripe old age of 14 the winter was too much for her. She'd given stalwart service.

No car for 6 weeks
We couldn't get the car out for six week as the lonnen between us and the village was simply filled with snow, and we just had to wait till it melted.

Snow plough
The local snow plough was a useless ornament, parked when not needed in the aforsaid lonnen.

It was made of thick wooden slabs, V-shaped with sides about 18 inches deep. Out the back was a long thick pole- presumably to help steer it as it was pulled behind the Council lorry - not in front of it which would have made much more sense!

It was never of any use and could only cope with a modest snow fall. But the plough made a great play thing for us kids - an imaginary pirate ship.

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