England 38

Listen to England 38, an 85-year-old man from Newbridge and Torrington, Devon, in southwest England. Click or tap the triangle-shaped play button to hear the subject.

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AGE: 85


PLACE OF BIRTH: Meath, Devon

GENDER: male


OCCUPATION: retired agricultural worker, volunteer

EDUCATION: schooling until age 14


The subject moved to Newbridge at age 8 (approximately 2.5 miles from Meath) and lived in various locations in Devon during World War II. However, he has spent his entire life fairly close to Torrington.


The text used in our recordings of scripted speech can be found by clicking here.







[Recording 38A:] I was born at a little village called Meath. It’s about ten miles outside of Torrington, and, uh, I first started school at Meath when I was 5 years old, but then when I was somewhere right about 8 [when], uh, my father changed his occupation and I moved to a place called Newbridge, which was only about two and a half miles further along now, but, uh, course then I had to go to another school, and then I went to motoring school, and then that’s where I finished up my school at the age of 14; you know, well then there wasn’t an awful lot of choice really of jobs. It was mainly agri- agriculture or working at the clay pits. There was two or three clay pits around the Northern clay company and or the Meath clay Company, so it was a choice of either us going to the clay pits or agriculture. So anyway, I went on agriculture. I remember starting off having to milk a, you know, a lot of cows really, and when you’ve never milked cows before, it can really be very trying on the wrists; I mean, uh, if you got to sit say under about twenty cows, I mean it’s quite an ordeal really, and, uh, not only milking the cows, I mean, uh, you milk the cows first thing in the morning and then again in late afternoon, an,d but the other part of the day, I mean you was out doing a lot of other manual work, which was quite a, you know, a strain on a boy of 14 really, and, well, me wages were a pound a week, seven days a week, and, uh, well then when the war broke out, I had to change jobs again. I was working for a Lord Clinton… Clinton and, of course, I had to register with my age group, which was the twenty two yea- twenty-two year olds, so, uh, the bailiff for Lord Clinton, he didn’t want to get rid of me because or he didn’t want to lose me because I was in the dairy running a real big dairy there but underpaid [unclear], you know and, uh, and then I ended up one day I had a letter from the government, and I thought, well, this is me call-up papers then, but anyway, when I open the envelope there was some forms inside to fill out, and, u,h they was it was a government thing, and they wanted experienced agriculture workers to start up agricultural units all over the country now because the German U-boats were putting down our merchant ships and we were losing so much food that they wanted to start up a agricultural units and grow our own food. So anyway, I filled it in and thought, well, I expect I should have to go anyway, but within a matter of about a week I had a reply back saying I was to report to Oakhampton and start up an agricultural unit there. So anyway, I went to Oakhampton, and I was put out over an area which was bordering Dartmoor, and, well, we sort of built up a unit and gradually had Land Army girls and different, uh, workers that was unfit for the army come out, and, of course, our job was to sort of supervise them and train them, you know, what to do and that; well after a while that sort of job didn’t really suit me too well, you know, so so, you know there was loads of tractor work you see ploughing [unclear] all the time, so I got on the tractors, and in those days I mean we hadn’t got a lot of tractors but, er, most of the tractors came across from America, and, uh, I got more or less full-time tractor driving then and I plowed out, well, I always say I plowed half of Devon because I plowed areas that had never been plowed before. I plowed, um, like Bedford Moor, Roper Moor, Harlequin Moor, Kings Moor and Rose Vive [spellings not certain] uh, and the biggest moor I’ve plowed, which I know I was the first one ever to plow in living memory, that was Haverly Moor, and it took me seven months to plow it; it’s uh so big, ye,a it took me seven month to plow that one.

[Recording 38B:] We went on tilling all this land for about three years after the war was over because we were still short of food stuff, you see, and, uh, it was about nineteen forty-eight when we, uh, grassed it out over all the ground that we had taken over, and, well, after I got sort of made redundant from the government – that was nineteen forty eight – I went for a short spell with a gardener at an old peoples’ home and, uh, because you couldn’t pick and choose and there weren’t an awful lot of jobs to choose from, but, anyway, I stayed there for about four and a half years and actually I, I did make the garden show a profit, which was, was quite uh you know pleased about that because when you did make the garden show a profit I mean, uh, that’s better than being on the loser, isn’t it? But anyway then there was a job being advertised at an AI center as a stockman; of course I had worked in agriculture before for Lord Clinton and that and I knew all about stock and that, so I went and I saw the manager like and he knew me and he said when can you start, so I said well I got to give a week’s notice where I’m trying [unclear] I just can’t start like that, so he said well fair enough, he said when your notice is up he said you can just start, so I stayed there for twenty-six years until I retired, yea when I retired I mean I always had to be busy, you know, doing something, and when I retired I just couldn’t, you know, walk the streets and stand on the street corners; I felt I had to be doing something so I took up doing voluntary work for the Titan [sic] commons conservators because, uh, Titan is very lucky really; they’ve got three hundred and sixty-five acres of common land and over twenty miles of footpath, and, uh, this is all, um, kept you know the paths and that neat and tidy and and that all they, uh, well why wouldn’t why wouldn’t you catch [unclear] really not so much, why wouldn’t you work here; they’re very short of volunteers who will work, but anyway I decided I’d take it on on a full-time thing, you know, and I used to put in about, say, four or five hours every day, yea, and, uh, I’ve been doing that now for more than twenty years, and of course why would I lay down on the commons to work [unclear]; I mean you see so many things in the way of wildlife, and, uh, well things that’s happening that is sort of inspiring me into writing a poem about it, and that’s where I get a lot of my ideas about writing poems, you know, and, mmm, I did one you know and, eh, quite hard [unclear] on the English Jerusalem built on the side of a hill for this beautiful garden of Eden better known as Castle Hill, eh, three hundred and sixty-five acres with over twenty miles of foot path; where better to spend a summer’s evening just walk talk and have a good laugh as one looks down into the valley some hundreds of feet down below, where there is only a soft breeze blowing and the Torridge [spelling?] courage is flowing so slow a heron stands knee deep in water and takes looks all round and about and gets down to more serious business like catching a tasty fat trout; a hawk hovers high way up in the sky with deep concentration and a magnetic eye on young baby rabbits that are playing nearby with just no idea that one could soon die. Then up soars a lark; it burst into song; a reminder that summer won’t be too long; wild flowers all around too numerous to name: violets, fox gloves, and loads of plantain; slowly the sun sinks way down into the west, it’s another day over so back home and rest.

TRANSCRIBED BY: Summer Mulford






His dialect is quite strong, and the “goat,” “bath,” “trap,” “bath” and “mouth” lexical sets all demonstrate it very well. You will hear some glottalization of “t,” some r-coloration, and frequent dropped “h”s. His stories of his early life are very evocative of Devon’s agricultural nature. This subject is also a very keen poet and recites one of his works commemorating his twenty years of volunteer conservancy of the Torrington Commons. That work can be heard on recording 38B while the subject’s main unscripted speech comprises recording 38A.



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