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RECOLLECTIONS OF BLAISDON HALL

For Newish Anecdotes just Scroll down

 

25 FEBRUARY 2010    FURTHER 20 BOOKS AVAILABLE FROM JOHN WARD.  SAME PRICE £10.00 INCLUDING P&P.   New stock - 8 Books left.

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OUR FIRST VENTURE INTO THIS PROJECT CAN BE JUDGED AS AN EXCEPTIONAL SUCCESS, BY ANY STANDARDS.  WE PRINTED 200 BOOKS IN FULL COLOUR AND RAISED £831.52 FOR SMILE 2006/7 - A PROJECT TO SAVE THE LIVES OF CHILDREN AND BABIES IN LIBERIA FROM DYING FROM MALARIA AND/OR HIV/AIDS.  All Sold and raised, with 28% Gift Aid,£88.00 as part of Blaisdon's contribution to the National Mission project in Africa.

NOW WE ARE IN THE PROCESS OF ADDING NEW STORIES IN READINESS FOR THE PRINTING OF AN UPDATED REVISION.  SEND YOUR STORIES TO TERRY O'NEILL AND WE WILL DO THE REST.  IT IS STILL OUR WISH TO GO FOR A NEW EDITION ONCE WE HAVE SUFFICIENT NEW STORIES TO MAKE THIS A VIABLE OPERATION.

Until then I will add a few anecdotes to this page below.  First from, guess who?  That's right Tony Brady.  Move to the bottom to read these amusing anecdotes which brings back memories of that fine Salesian, the late Father Dan Lucey SDB, who most of us will have known and loved, even those not on the Farm.       

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Terry O'Neill has painstakingly put together a wonderful collection of your memories of your times at Blaisdon Hall and often including some very intimate stories of how you came to be so lucky as to have arrived in the care of  the Salesians at Blaisdon Hall.  

It was hoped that somehow it might become possible for these Recollections to be printed professionally in a book.

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 To purchase further copies, these may be obtained from:

John Ward

 22 Church Close

 Uxbridge

 Middx, UB8 2XG 

at a cost including postage & packing of  £10.00.   Higher price results from smaller volume print, which may take longer to sell. All profit will go to Blaisdon's contribution to the Project part of the National Federation Salesian Mission Appeal.   

John Ward, who arranged the original, and this further production, with Father Sean displaying the new book, with Charlie and Terry (just) in the background.

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The Willie, on page 42, that Brother Alan Garman SDB  was writing to, was none other than Wilf Borg, who recently purchased a copy of the book.  He was delighted to see his letter published as he has only recently come into contact with our Association.  See his Personal Profile also recently added to our Heritage.

John Ward 30 October 2010 

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NEW ANECDOTES (Now also obtainable via Library section.)

                          

No 1:  IN THE PINK  - by Tony Brady

A couple of years ago Roger Allen sent me 2 vintage (1950's) editions of the weekly newspaper: The Farmer & Stock Breeder. It was marvelous to read once more the advertisements for all sorts of farming products and equipment. One machine caught my attention: it was an earlier version of the seed potato planter which was mounted on a three ridge plough behind a Ferguson tractor and hauled through finely harrowed soil being raised up and let down hydraulically. It carried two lidded steel hoppers: one for potatoes the other for fertilizer.

Two workers sat alongside each other on the machine's rear metal seats and while it was in motion picked potatoes from the open bottomed hopper that sloped towards them. They had to drop the potato at precisely determined intervals down a tube in front of them. The spuds - pink King Edward's - and white granulated fertilizer were earlier loaded from a parked up trailer at the field's edge into the hoppers. They rested their heads against these as they and the planter were dragged up and down the sowing field. Due to the size of the appliance they could neither see each other or communicate because of the tractor noise. The hoppers were replenished as the planting progressed.


The planters had to keep looking down, as a clicking wheel, powered by a drive-shaft connected to the tractor, turned in front of their gaze and determined the moment to drop each potato ensuring the correct spacing of the seed potato in the covering soil ridges formed as the machine proceeded. They were exposed to the all kinds of weather conditions. On windy days the fine fertilizer, which was tube-fed directly into the ground in front of the dropped potatoes, blew up into their faces. Some protection from rain and winds was afforded by the pig-meal sacks which were worn as monk-like hoods on heads and covered the shoulders.


Roger and I, suitably dressed as described above, worked together planting potatoes on this form of machine. He always remembered how Father Dan Lucey, who drove the tractor (in his uniquely manic way), would forget that we were behind him and promptly drop the implement on which we were sitting, with a bone shaking thud on the ground or unintentionally fling us off as he swung around at the headland to line up to form the next ridges!


Due to the noise of the tractor we had to, like demented friars, run after the blissfully unaware Father Dan and overtake him to bring him up short. Other times, the both of us having clung on successfully, he would forget to engage the tractor power take-off drive and several yards would be covered without a potato planted until he was alerted by one of us dismounting, chasing and overtaking him by foot. Months later, as the three of us strolled through the completed planting - it could be up to twenty acres - there, as testament to Father Dan's technique, we could see the gaps in the rows of flowering plants. 


Another hazard was the likelihood of carbon monoxide poisoning from the tractor's exhaust fumes although, for this form of work, the exhaust pipe was usually - but not always - altered at the manifold to point upwards. Little wonder that when Roger and me staggered into the Stud Farm wash-house after our hours of hazardous toil our faces were sometimes almost as pink as the potatoes.

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ANOTHER LITTLE GEM - Re Father Dan Lucey SDB


No 2  More than a Junior Farmer! 

John Ward's Guestbook message of 14 August 2008 had the temerity to use the above term!  Great that he did as it inspired the  following wonderful little Gem

Less of the "junior" farmer though. I'll have you know that I was Pigman in Chief 1955-60. My uniform was a long rubber apron that went down to my wellies, my staff of office a large shovel which was expertly wielded in the daily removal of Gloucestershire's best organic pig manure of its day.

I obtained a degree -with honours -in wheelbarrow skills from The Blaisdon School of Honest Toil - Stud Farm Campus. My kingdom embraced two meadows and a plum orchard, a herd - at its peak - of 350 various sows, weaners, porkers, baconers and two boars. All were cosilly cared for in 10 fattening pens and expansive roaming after much coddling in the 8 pen farrowing house.

Several members of staff were directly recruited from the straw barn: from where after a night's kip, they immerged as I plunged a pitchfork into the straw for bedding. Ouch!

Father Daniel Lucey SDB was my Boss and regularly conferred upon me his praises: particularly when the porkers and baconners got 3 A's at the slaughterhouse and top prices at Gloucester Market as they always did.

Pigs remain my favourite animals and if anyone offered me a job of choice now, I would without hesitation, opt for porcine husbandry - we don't put things simply these days - the only snag would be: no Father Dan. An unforgettable priest who I think of every day.

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TRAVELLING IN STYLE by Tony Brady
Part One


In the years up to 1957, the farm workers were more than content to have two-wheeled transport to get about. Up and down the road and Drive between Stud Farm and The Salesian School - Blaisdon Hall; along the main thoroughfare to the Red Hart; on down through the village to Blaisdon Halt to catch a steam-train. Then onward and around the local villages: Westbury Upon Severn, Flaxley, Pope's Hill, Little London, Longhope and Huntley. Further afield to distant (10 miles) Gloucester City. I refer of course to the humble push-bike. Most of the incoming farm workers possessed a bicycle as the former owner gifted or sold it on as they left to join the armed forces. In my case there was none available as Johnny Dunbar (Senior Dairy Stockman) had taken over departing leading tractor driver Gerry William's racy dropped handlebars Raleigh. 


Even so, I was able to resort to the very convenient arrangement at the time: the slogan in Gloucester's top cycle shop read: "Hire-Purchase - It takes the Waiting out of the Wanting!" Very soon, after starting work as (Junior Pig-Man) in June 1955, and although Fr. William Boyd (Burser) would have kindly loaned me the full price, I made a Down-Payment deposit of two pounds and signed the Agreement to pay the balance of 12 pounds off at two shillings a week. I was now the owner of a brand new Raleigh Roadster with dynamo driven front and rear lights; 5 speed Sturmey-Archer gearing; cable, not rod-operated brakes, and a spring-down stand. A particularly practical and new feature was the metal guard which completely enclosed the chain. Father Dan had acted as my Guarantor and his self-presumed bonus was use of the bike, as and when.


Now, about this time Ronnie O'Connor, a Liverpool born, former Salesian School pupil returned to Blaisdon Hall after completing National Service in The British Army and was employed as a painter and decorator under the direction of Brother Thomas Palmer SDB. His room was in the former stables. Ronnie, who often looked and regularly expressed himself as: 'feeling like death warmed up!' soon declared that ".he would not be seen dead on a bike!" That included the mechanized transport of George Austen - Head Landscape Gardener - who zipped about on his whispering all aluminium (Italian) LE Velocette motorbike.


Obviously nicknamed "Scouser" I prefer to remember Ronnie as "Two Fags Ron" due to his habit of rolling two cigarettes at a time - one to puff on and another to perch on his right ear. When that second one was smoked it was time to stop whatever he was doing to roll another pair and so on. He was afflicted with a tic which caused his face to twitch involuntarily. Ronnie put this down to harsh childhood chastisements in a Cheshire children's home which he dismissed as "over enthusiastic correction!" 


Proud of his achievement in completing his trade Apprenticeship - no streaks or variation of tones in his painting nor could the seams be seen in his wall-papering - Ronnie indulged himself amply in the leisure pursuits of drinking, betting, Darts and Shove-Halfpenny. Such pleasures were not confined to The Red Hart but a wide range of Public Houses in the surrounding villages. All these pastimes combined fully with his passion for second-hand cars. 


As Ronnie had spent his military service in a motorised Corps he was de-mobbed with a most prized "Golden Goodbye" of that time: a full driving licence. He soon bought his first second-hand car which was quickly replaced. This in turn went back whence it came, to the scrap yard in Gloucester, to be followed at short intervals on further trade-ins by a range of vehicles steadily improving in style and standard. There were exceptions: Roger Allen remembers accepting a lift from Ronnie at Hinder's Corner and having to keep his feet on the central drive shaft casing as there was no floor in the vehicle! The highpoint was Ronnie's purchase of a Lanchester, to which I will return later.
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TRAVELLING IN STYLE

Part Two


Down at Stud Farm we soon became used to Ronnie seeking help for his latest 
breakdown. No problem if the car failed to start at Blaisdon Hall as it was 
downhill on The Drive all the way to The Lodge. If it hadn’t started by 
then, there was no point in turning left for Stud Farm, as there was a 
steady upward climb from the Post Office to the next downhill run by 
Blaisdon Church leading to the sloping farm drive. Might as well roll on 
through The Lodge gates and glide downhill past The Rectory and come to a 
stop at The Red Hart. From there Ronnie - after a few pints of Frank and 
Elsie Hogg’s best bitter - would telephone Stud Farm and eventually, after 
getting permission from Father Dan or Brother Joe Carter, I, or a farm chum, 
would take a tractor and tow him in for repairs.


These regular rescue forays and the subsequent - under the bonnet repairs 
experience in the tractor shed - led Laurence (Curly) Stanton, Alan Ferry, 
Roger Allen and myself to pool some spare cash with which we bought an 
Austin 7. Laurence was principal shareholder as he held a full driving 
license, having done his army service in the REME (Royal Electrical 
Mechanical Engineering) where he had driven and maintained Centurion tanks. 
Under his guidance, we all learned to drive using the field paths and open 
spaces that the meadows afforded, once the silage had been cut and lifted.


One evening we all spun into Gloucester where we went to the pictures. After 
the show we got separated and I found our car which was parked up next to 
The Bonne Marché - the city’s Harrods well.. Selfridges. As the doors were 
unlocked - a not unusual nor worrying oversight - I got in and settled in 
the back seat to wait for the others. Presently, what we would have called a 
“Cheltenham Type” wearing a trilby hat and smoothing his moustache walked 
towards our car and inserting a key opened the door and got in. I sat still. 
Then he took off his hat and as he turned to place it behind him he saw me. 
“What the..! Who the devil are you?” he shouted in a posh voice. “I’m 
waiting for my mates” I said. “Get out immediately!” he ordered “I am 
calling a policeman!”


I realised, as I looked past the irate gent through the windscreen, that I 
was in the wrong car for, two cars ahead in the line of parked cars, I could 
see my chums standing next to our Austin 7 and looking around. I had got 
into an identical vehicle. I jumped out mumbling apologies as the man 
started his car and drove off. If laughter was a fuel in the Austin 7 petrol 
tank it lasted long after the ten miles we needed to get back to Blaisdon 
and remembering the incident still tickles me to this day.


Ronnie’s Lanchester - bought second hand - introduced us to the luxury end 
of 1950’s motoring. This marque was out of the Rolls-Royce, Daimler and 
Bentley stable and when seen in its natural mileau was invariably driven by 
a chauffeur. What a motor! Four lavishly lined doors; beautifully appointed 
wooden and leather interior; crafted tasseled rope hand grips and deep pile 
carpets. Four passengers fitted comfortably in the back seat, two drop-down 
hinged seats facing them while three passengers could occupy the front seat. 
All this and built like a tank. A loud throaty klaxon hooted with a press on 
its foot control.


One evening, returning from watching professional wrestling in Gloucester 
Baths, we were bowling along downhill and approaching Birdwood. Ronnie was 
at the controls and six passengers were on board. Suddenly there was an 
almighty bang and the car’s rear tilted down and to the right. In the 
headlights we saw a wheel running perfectly straight ahead, keeping 
perfectly in line with the white marking in the middle of the road, then 
disappear. “We’re on fire!” shouted Roger Allan and looking out the rear 
window we could see sparks were flying up as the axle scraped along the 
road. The scraping noise was combined with an ear-splitting squeal. 
“Everyone shift over to the left side!” Ronnie shouted. Five of us complied. 
The sparks and squealing stopped as we careered on - now on three wheels!


Ahead, the Birdwood Arms drinkers piled out of the pub as a tyred wheel from 
nowhere thumped into the side of the bar wall, bounced off and landed in a 
tree. Then, out of the darkness, the Lanchester loomed as Ronnie managed to 
bring it to a wobbling screeching stop. With the willing drinker’s help we 
eased the stricken vehicle off the road. Luckily, as everyone in the pub 
seemed to know Ronnie, the Last Rounds bell had sounded, so thirsty Ronnie 
and me set off to Huntley Police Station and he knocked up the Sergeant who 
lent him an oil lamp to position by the car until morning. Next day Brother 
Joe, having diagnosed a broken half shaft, towed the amazingly undamaged car 
to Stud Farm. It wasn’t long before Ronnie had the Lanchester back on the 
road fully taxed and insured. For some considerable time after that we kept 
to our Austin 7. A lucky number perhaps.