My Memories over the past 80 years, with some comparisons to today.
Johnson, September 1975
Note : This was originally published in booklet form.
n.b Spelling, grammar and punctuation are true to CRJ’s original – Ken Morse
“THROUGH ALL THE CHANGING SCENES OF LIFE”
In writing these memories, I do so, from the standpoint of one who was born, and has lived for the whole of his life in the little village of Yorkley Slade in the Forest of Dean.
As I am now nearing my ninetieth birthday, I have seen many changes that have taken place during my long life. I do not claim to be a good story writer, so shall state the facts as they appear to me.
There was a felling of oaks
near my home which gave the boys a rare time looking for birds’ nests in the ranks of cord-wood that were stacked in various places. The felling of a tree at that time was by the use of a cross-cut
saw, supplemented by iron wedges, a sledge and a gleaming axe.
The process was to cut away as much as possible at the base of the trunk, with the axe before inserting the saw. As the weight of the tree curtailed the space made by the saw, wedges were driven into the space to relieve the pressure. When the tree began to fall, shown by its vibration, the woodmen who had arranged their cut to cause the tree to fall in a certain direction would rush to safety before the final crash came.
When work started on a tree and the woodmen wielded their axes at its base, the boys delighted to gather up the ‘chips’ as they were scattered around and take them home for the fire.
In those days the bark was stripped from the tree whilst it was standing, but only the bole and main branches and not the thinner ones. The modern method is, I think, to strip them after the felling, this being done by electric saw.
In recent years large stretches of the forest have been denuded of oaks and large plantations of conifer have taken their place. As the hard long growing oak is not now in such demand as in past years, the Commission has found it more economical and profitable to supply the needs of industry. There are however large areas of the forest still growing our well loved oak trees.
Some areas of oak have been cleared to provide houses built by Local Authorities, one area being on Bailey Hill near my home, which in the early nineteen hundreds, as I well remember, was covered with oak trees, they were cut down and the present housing site took the place of the trees.
Whether the felling of so many oaks and the substitution of conifers with the apparent decline of the annual oak pest, I often wonder, for the pest is rarely seen today. It used to be that the ‘blight’ as we called it, invaded the oak trees in May and early June, devouring the new leaves, leaving the trees almost bare, until they put out new leaves in June. The attacks by this pest varied in severity from year to year, but in the worst years it was very unpleasant to walk through the forest during daylight. Caterpillars by their thousands, hung from the branches on long silken threads, even the boles of the trees were covered with a gossamer film. At night they would withdraw to the shelter of the branches. Another phenomenon occurred later in the year when droves of ‘bug beetles’ invaded the oak trees at dusk, coming in from the open land which lay to the south.We also called them caterpillars. They did not appear every year, and I have since learned that they usually appear every seventh year. As boys we used to stand with a ‘swatter’ in out hands to swipe them down as they came humming along. Not content with knocking them down, I am sorry to say that the element of cruelty in human nature asserted itself in us, for after capturing one, we would insert into its hind part a pin to which a piece of string was attached, the we would whirl it round and round to hear its wings humming.
Of the larger birds that
nested in trees, we could distinguish the black ones chiefly by their croak or call – the croak of the crow, the caw, caw of the rook and the ‘yak yak’ of the jackdaw. Of the large coloured ones, the
magpie, the jay and the green woodpecker were known by their harsh cries as well as by their colouring. The name by which the jay was known locally was ‘Joy’.
In addition to the large green woodpecker, a smaller variety visited just before the arrival of the cuckoo, and could be heard in March by its rapid boring into the bark of a tree, the tapping being so rapid that it sounded like the creaking of a branch of a tree. The green woodpecker’s drumming is much slower that that of the smaller one, and its taps could be heard quite distinctly.
Of our summer immigrants, the swift, swallow and house-martin seem to be less numerous now than in the past, and this also applies especially to the cuckoo, for until those last few years, its call could be constantly heard from the end of April until the middle of June, but today it is rarely to be heard, at least in this locality.. Of the smaller birds such as the house-sparrows, starlings, blackbirds and thrushes, the robins and finches, they appear to be as numerous as ever, but there are other birds seen only occasionally near water, such as the wagtail and the kingfisher. There are nightingales in the Forest, though I have never had the pleasure of hearing one sing.
The biggest change in the pattern of bird life I have noticed in this locality is that, no longer do the large flocks of rooks and starlings swoop over the oak forest in May and June as they did when the oak pest prevailed. A case of cause and effect I would think.
As far as I can tell, there does not appear to be any great change in the number of animals one sees roaming the Forest today, either wild or domestic.
Old brer fox still prowls around looking for a tasty meal, but owing to the fact that very few people keep poultry theses days, we hear little of his depredations by raiding fowl houses during the night. The badger (old Brock) is with us still, but is usually seen only at night in the glare of a car’s headlights perhaps, or sometimes its dead body is seen lying by the roadside.
Of the smaller animals, the mole seems to be as numerous as ever, judging by the mounds of earth one sees around. The most noticeable change in animal life I have noticed in the forest is the absence of our dear little friend the red squirrel with its bright eyes and bushy tail. I understand its departure from our forest was due to the importation from America of the grey squirrel, or ‘tree rat’ as it is sometimes called, a very fierce species that drove the red one away.
The prickly hedgehog, as of old, is still to be sometimes found curled up in its winter sleep in an outside building.
Of the reptiles of the Forest, the two chief ones are the grass snake and adder. The grass snake which is harmless, is sometimes seen gliding away through the long grass when one is walking through the wood.
The adder is not so numerous as the grass snake, but its bite is poisonous and often lethal. It is recognizable by a zigzag mark on the back of its head. It is usually encountered on rough open moorland, but not often in the woods. One occasionally hears of a hare having been seen but I have not seen one. The destructive rabbit is chiefly seen in the farmer’s fields.
That destructive and disease carrying rodent – the rat – is still a trouble to all householders, but not, I think, to the extent it was in my early days. Much has been done in modern times to control it, yet the animal still thrives in old buildings and old drains. You can sometimes catch a glimpse of one as it flashes from one spot to another for safety.
The common mouse seems to be much less in evidence today than in times past. Is this due, I wonder, to the modern condition of our homes? In the old days there were cracks and crevices in abundance in peoples’ homes, but today this is not so, consequently there are fewer places for ‘mouse’ to make a home.
I think this also applies to the cricket too, for with the substitute of electric and gas heating in place of the open coal fire, the cricket has been robbed of its favourite home behind the fire grate, from where we used to hear its monotonous chirping.
Now that I have mentioned the cricket, I had better go on to mention the housefly.
During the summer flies were a continual nuisance in peoples’ homes as there were so many of them. They buzzed around apparently aimlessly, but when the table was laid for tea, they soon showed their partiality for the sugar basin and pot of jam. When darkness fell, they would seek the ceiling for their rest.
I thing the cause of there being so many flies in peoples’ homes in those days was due to folk having to walk in the forest so often, and when they did so, they were surrounded by a swarm of flies that followed them so tenaciously into their homes.
Today this nuisance has abated. Wasps also seem to be less numerous than in the past. So do butterflies.
Many changes have taken place in the social life of my village since my young days. As I see it, from the days when village life in our Forest was more or less isolated from the wider world, due to its geographical situation between the rivers Severn and Wye, and the lack of transport facilities, what social life the village had was produced in the village and centered in the home.
The coming of the bicycle, the motor car and the coach has transformed the life of Forest villages almost beyond recognition. If we add to these, the benefits derived from piped water in our homes, together with heating and lighting by modern methods, plus the lighting of our roads, we can realize at once the transformation that has taken place in our village life.
The increased facility for travel together with the increased prosperity of the general community has widened the outlook of Foresters generally, compared with that of his forbears. This is seen by contrasting the habits of villagers today with what they were a half century ago. In those early days, social life depended chiefly on what the village provided, such as local concerts in the village school, given by local talent. An occasional dance would also be held with a piano providing the music. Some dance devotees would sometimes attend a dance at Lydney or Blakeney, but this meant a tree mile walk each way on a dark winter’s night.
Highlights of the village were the annual Sunday School tea parties, the annual meetings of the local Friendly Societies, when they would parade through the village, led by their banners and the local Band, the members resplendent in their regalias. The Yorkley Club had its headquarters at the Nag’s Head Inn, and was affiliated to the ‘Odd Fellows Friendly Society’. Their regalias were very striking, a wide, light blue sash worn over the shoulder, and decorated with silvery emblems. After the parade, a supper was held at the Nag’s Head, meat and pudding being the chief fare. I remember on one occasion seeing a whole sheep being roasted on a spit outside the Nag’s Head. I can still visualize the scene. An old man named Charlie Bullock, sat turning the handle of the spit as the fat from the roasting sheep dripped into a container beneath.
It has been said that some member on these occasions, would take with them a large clean handkerchief which they would spread on their knees, the surreptitiously slide a piece of meat on the handerchief to take home for their wives.
The Viney Hill Club was that of the Good Shepherd, but as boys we called it the ‘Red Handkerchief’. This club also had its annual Feast Day Parade.
For many years a Forest of Dean Eisteddfod was held annually at either Cinderford or Lydney, which created great interest throughout the Forest. Choral singing was at its highest, for most towns and villages had choirs, mixed voices, male voices or juvenile, most of them taking part in the competitions.
There were also competitions for solo voices and quartet parties as well as literary competitions. People attending this event from outlying districts made the journey chiefly by horse and brake, paying their own fares.
In contrast to the social life of the early nineteen hundreds, Foresters are better educated, earn higher wages and have easier means of travel. Most people today own a car which gives them quick and easy access to neighbouring towns and villages as well as to the large cities. In consequence of those changes the communal life of our Forest Villages is not as closely knit as it was.
There have been remarkable changes in the homes of our Forest people. In past years it was dictated to a great extent by the condition and circumstances of their environment. As I have already mentioned, due to the lack of easy transport and modern amenities in the home, villages were to a large extent self-contained and home life closely knit.
Most of the men worked in, or at, the surrounding collieries, working 8 hours a day and 6 days a week when work was available, and at very low wages. When trade was good, men often worked an extra quarter shift per day, which sometimes meant that they did not see daylight from one weekend to the next. On the other hand when trade was slack, they sometimes walked to their work only to be sent home again, there being no work for them that day. Later a system was arranged by which the pit ‘hooter’ was sounded the evening before, warning the workmen there would be no work for them the following day.
Owing to the stringency of the times in those days, it was a rare occurrence for a new house to be built, and only then by the self-denial and thrift of those who wished to have a home of their own. At that time, local Authorities had not started to build houses for renting.
Owing to the people’s limited financial resources, houses were built as cheaply as possible, and often in almost inaccessible places on a very cheap site. This aspect of house building in the Forest in past years has not been recognized by town critics who complain of the haphazard way in which Forest houses were built and sited.
The houses were usually built of stone obtained from local quarries and consisted of three up and three down, the ground floor often paved with stone flags. In addition to the house, an outside building was erected for storage, another one as a pig sty, a third for poultry and finally the little house at the bottom of the garden, called in those days ‘the privy’ or ‘petty’. This little house was usually covered in ivy.
The pig sty was usually built of stone too and was in two parts, one part open to the sky where the pig fed from a trough, the other part having a roof where the pig slept cosily on dried bracken gathered from the forest.
The pig was usually bought when it was eight weeks old and when growing to maturity was fed from the ‘swill-tub’, a large container into which scraps from the table were thrown, together with potato parings and boiled potatoes too small for household use. To this concoction were added sharps or barley meal which gave it more substance. This was added each time the pig was fed. There is a saying that a ‘person’ condemned to death has the choice of anything he wished for his last breakfast. Be that as it may, piggy was treated especially well during the last months of its life, for it was fed mostly on barley meal, to fatten it for the killing, which usually took place in November.
Most people kept a pig,
which when killed had its inner organs extracted and then divided into two halves, the halves being salted in an outhouse, and finally hung in the kitchen to dry. It provided many a tasty meal for
the family through the winter months. At the time of the killing too, the family fared well by making full use of the offal, for black puddings were made from the pig’s blood, its bowels were
thoroughly cleaned and cooked, and were known as ‘chitterlings’ and considered a delicacy. The heart, liver and kidneys also provided food for the family, as did the feet, known as the ‘trotters’. It
has been said that no part of a pig is wasted, which is probably true.
Like having a pig, the keeping of poultry was almost a necessity in the past hard times, for the pig, poultry and a well cultivated garden did much to alleviate the financial strain to which the people at that time were subjected.
Most people kept about a dozen hens with a cockerel in charge of his harem. The fowl houses were often constructed of old galvanized sheets, and erected where the birds had access to the open forest.
In springtime it was delightful to see the mother hens with their fluffy broods scratching away to find dainties for them, and at other times sheltering them under their wings, from which could be seen several pairs of bright eyes peeping out from the safety of mother’s care. When nature demanded it a hen would go quietly to the fowlhouse, deposit her egg and proclaim it to the world at large, the cockerel running to her side to escort her proudly back to the family.
Other birds kept for domestic use, were geese and ducks. Only a few people kept these and they were kept mainly for table use, a goose often replacing the cockerel for the Christmas dinner.
Only once have I seen a goose’s egg being eaten that was at the colliery where a workman had brought one for his dinner. In the spring you sometimes saw a small gaggle of geese with a few yellow goslings (galls we called them) behind them, the old ones hissing and stretching their necks in defence of their young ones.
A broody hen was usually set on duck eggs to hatch them. This plan worked quite well for a time, but when the hen with her unnatural offspring was turned out onto the countryside, her troubles began. The ducklings by their eagerness for their natural food would wander away from their anxious mother who showed her concern by her agitation. This was especially so when they came to a pool of water for the ducklings would be swimming happily on it, whilst the mother would be running agitatedly round the pool in her desire to get them back, as she thought to safety.
Some folk kept wild birds in cages, these would be of the larger kind generally – magpies, jays and jackdaws, which were taught to talk, but not always successfully. Of the smaller varieties, it was the thrush or blackbird usually, though a canary was sometimes purchased to swell the chorus. My parents at one time kept a thrush in a fairly large cage which in the early summer mornings would awaken us all with its beautiful singing. Another time they kept a jay in a large cage outside the house (an organ case in fact). I remember the bird would call ‘mother’ imitating us boys, and also imitate my mother by calling ‘coop, coop,coop’ as my mother did when calling the fowls to feed them.
Of animals, the horse was in general use, some villagers who could afford to do so possessed a pony and trap, whilst on the farms they were in general use for ploughing, reaping and many other ways, as machines for these purposes had not been invented then. Much of farm work had to be done by hand. After a field of grass had been cut, it was turned for drying with a hand pike. It was loaded onto an open wagon by the same method, then taken to a barn and stored, pikes being used again.
A few of our village folk kept a donkey for light hauling purposes, but it is rarely seen today. How I miss it, for I was often awakened in the morning by its braying – He ha He haw – from its stable, or perhaps from under the oak trees where it had been tethered for the night. I regarded the donkey as a patient, docile animal, for I often saw it as it came through the village with a bag of coal on its back after making a long journey to the pit-head to get it.
Sometimes it would be seen
pulling a small cart containing manure, coal or some other material behind it. I can also visualise the old ‘moke’ sometimes tethered under the trees watching the passers-by with solemn eye. Despite
its general docility however, Neddy possessed a streak of stubbornness in its make-up, for who hasn’t when at Weston-super-Mare watched the donkey rides on the sands, and noticed how reluctantly they
made the forward journey but when returning, they lost no time in getting back to their starting point.
I don’t if farmers kept as many cows in my young days as they do today, but I do know that people went to the farms to buy milk, often skimmed, and sometimes got butter made at the farms. As there were no ‘separators’ in those days, cream was obtained by skimming it off the milk after it had been standing for a period. Surplus milk was disposed of by sending it to market in large churns.
Sheep then, as now, were always to be seen roaming the countryside and at times were rounded up by the owner, locally known as the ‘ship badger’.
At one time it was customary for the owner to hang a bell around the neck of the leader of the flock, so that when the seep were grazing in apart of the forest where they couldn’t be seen, the tinkling bell located them to the owner. The sheep badger was a familiar sight, stalking around the countryside with a long stick in his hand and his dog at his heels.
Cats were found in most homes as pets, and to restrict the activity of mice. Not so many dogs roamed about as they do now.
IN THE HOME
Foresters led a simple life, though a hard one in my very young days. Despite the fact that they had few comforts compared with those of today, they went about their duties in a calm unruffled manner which gave the village a sense of peaceful serenity, which we seem to have sadly lost today. There were very few newspapers circulating in our villages in the very early days of which I am writing, so that consequently not much was known of the doings of the wider world.
In the early days of this century our villages had no electricity or street lighting. To go around your premises after dark, or even farther afield, lanterns were used, some of which contained oil with wick, but if a lantern was not available, a jam jar was substituted containing a piece of candle. The jam jar was a poor substitute, for if the night was windy the wayfarer was often left in the dark.
In the home, the living room was lit by an oil lamp which stood on the table, but to go to other rooms, or to bed, a candle had to be used.
Water for general purposes was caught from the roofs of the houses in ‘butts’ or perhaps a reservoir, but in long dry spells water had to be carried, usually in buckets from open wells that had been sunk in common land. One old woman I knew, carried her bucket of water on her head, her hands resting on her hips, and though the bucket was full to the brim, not a drop was spilt. For most people a ‘yoke’ was used for carrying water. The yoke was made of wood, fitted around the shoulder at the back of the neck and had a chain hanging on each side to which the buckets were attached. People who hadn’t a yoke improvised what was known as a ‘square’. This was done by nailing four pieces of wood together about 3 feet long to form the ‘square’. The ‘square’ was used by standing inside it then lifting the buckets firmly against the strips, thus relieving the pressure on the arms.
Water for drinking was kept in earthenware containers; it also had to be carried, except for those who had a well on their premises. These latter people were generous and permitted friends to have water from their wells.
In spells of very long dry weather, when water was low in nearby wells people had to go long distances to get water, often to a spring in the depth of the forest.
Before World Ware 1, and for some time afterwards, the homes of Foresters were plainly built and comfortably furnished. It was shortly after the war that changes began to take place, the changes increasing as the years passed. This was due to several causes, one important one being the prosperity of the people. Another one, I think, was due to the greater knowledge and use of electricity.
Before the coming of this greater prosperity peoples homes usually consisted of a living room, the parlour and another room perhaps best described as the scullery at ground floor level.
The ground floors were often of stone flags. In the living room there would be a large open fire-grate made of iron work with an oven on each side kept well polished with black-lead. A hook would be hanging over the fire from which pots would be hung when needed. A high fender would be in front of the fire, and the hearth decorated with a strip of freestone inside the fender. A mat would be on the floor in front of the fire, beside which stood one or two arm-chairs.
In the centre of the room would be a fair sized table where the family had their meals. All the windows had white calico blinds which were raised or lowered by a cord attached to a pulley. Lace curtains were usually hung behind the blinds. There were pictures on the walls of the living room, the parlour and the bedrooms.
In the three bedrooms above, texts from the Bible were often seen, and the ‘Lord’s Prayer’ inscribed in colours was very popular. Bedsteads were high and of iron, and the best ones had brass knobs at the top and bottom of the bedstead connected by a brass rail. Valances were used which hung from the bed to the floor, and in some cases they were hung from the ceiling to the floor beside the heads of the sleepers.
The parlour contained a low fire grate, a sofa, a couple of easy chairs, one or two ordinary chairs and perhaps an organ or piano, and in a corner of the room a ‘whatnot’ containing bric-brac, much of which had been brought as souvenirs from the seaside.
The scullery was used for doing the weekly wash. This was done by the use of tub and dolly, the clothes being pounded laboriously with the dolly, then scrubbed with the hands, put through the mangle (wringer) then hung outside on a clothes line to dry. The scullery was used for other purposes also, for storage of garden tools and potatoes, and in many homes a cask of cider and home-brewed wine.
I mentioned earlier that gardens were well tended and the housewife worked very hard. In addition to her care of the live-stock and doing the daily chores, she would augment the winter’s food supply by pickling onions, walnuts and cabbage, as well as making a large quantity of jam.
I have already mentioned that the life of the village was centred in the home, sometimes the men found relation at the ‘local’, their usual refreshment being a pint of beer, at one time served in ware mugs, but when required, by a few of the old ‘soakers’ the beer was served in a ‘quart’. The atmosphere was very friendly as they chatted among themselves on everyday affairs.
Church and chapel services were well attended on Sunday evenings, after which, followed a walk and talk with friends of the week’s doings. In some homes where there was an organ or piano, the family would gather round in the parlour. One of them would play hymns from the A&M book and favourites from ‘Sankeys’ collection, the others joining in lusty singing.
How changed is the life of our village today, for instead of the placid, contented life that pervaded it then, it has been replaced by a condition of hustle and bustle, and general restlessness it seems to me. No longer the self-contained life of the village now, for since the advent of the bicycle, the motor car and the motor coach, people have taken advantage of these and often leave their villages to get their entertainment farther afield. No longer do they sit in the ‘local’ leisurely drinking their pint of ale, for it is now usually a half pint, or a ‘short’ one before jumping into their cars and off elsewhere.
On the other hand, many people are living very active lives by travelling to their business or their work by car or coach, and on returning home will be usefully engaged in promoting the welfare of the community of the village in which they live, and often of projects of wider interest by attending committee meetings.
In these modern days, there is no need for a lantern to go out at night for village streets are lighted by electricity and cars have powerful headlights. No longer does the housewife have to hang her Sunday joint and the butter in the bucket well in very hot weather to keep it from putrifying, for the refrigerator does that work for her.
No longer either, the long
hard day at the wash-tub, pounding and scrubbing the soiled clothes each week, for it now done by the electric washing machine. If the weather is not suitable to hang it outside to dry, it is dried
indoors by the spin or tumble dryer. Furthermore, there is no need to fill the table lamp with oil for all the rooms now have electric light, and it only needs to press a switch to flood a room with
light. Another valuable modern amenity is piped water, which can be used for all purposes. The water can be heated by a tank behind an open fire or otherwise by an electric immersion heater in a
storage tank. This amenity has made it possible for most people to provide themselves with a bathroom and indoor W.C. The bathroom dispenses with the need to bath in front of the kitchen fire in a
zinc bath, and the W.C. dispenses with the ‘little house’ at the bottom of the garden.
No longer does the housewife have to get on her knees with a bucket of water and scrub the floors, for carpets are the norm in modern days, and these are cleaned with electric cleaners. I should of course mention that gas is also used for fuel and for heating, but altogether it is electricity that has played such a large part, together with increased earning, to raise the standard of living of ordinary folk. Although I would not care to go back to the life of my youth I have many pleasant memories of them for although I am repeating what I have already written I feel that the village has lost the calm and serene life which then existed. I sometimes get a feeling of nostalgia when I remember that as a schoolboy, I came home on a winter’s evening to tea of well-buttered toast, then afterwards sat and read my ‘chatterbox’ by the glow of a well-trimmed lamp in front of a blazing fire.
RELIGION, RADIO AND TELEVISION
There are three subjects which I have but briefly mentioned, religion, radio and television.
As I remember them, church and chapel services were better attended in the early nineteen hundreds than they are today. On looking book, I think the faith of people at that time was a very simple one, accepting the main truths of the Christian faith without question. He keeping of Sunday as a day of rest was generally observed by all, even if they did not attend a place of worship.
There was no working in the garden on Sundays, and playing games was frowned upon. In fact, it was the old Mosaic command of ‘Thou shalt not’ being carried out to the extreme. I know one young man whose father would not allow him to shave on Sundays. In another case a man who attended church regularly with his family would not allow his daughters (he was a widower) to wash the dishes on Sundays, they had t do it on Mondays. I also knew of a young girl who was afraid to pick up a dry stick in the forest on Sundays.
Nonconformists had built many chapels in the Forest before the Church of England started building in the Forest proper. Most of those in existence were on its outskirts.
Worship in the chapels was of a simple kind, the minister or lay preacher conducting the whole service, the congregation taking no active part except for the singing of hymns, which was done wholeheartedly. Other than the hymns the services consisted of extempore prayer, readings from the Bible and the sermon.
Religion in those days I think reflected the attitude of people to life generally, a contentment with the daily vicissitudes of life as they befell them, but with vague aspiration of something better in the future.
How different it is today, for although people do not attend church services as they did in the past, I believe that those who are attending do so, by realizing that it is a duty and a privilege to worship their Creator.
All thinking people recognize the great amount of wickedness in our country today and throughout the whole world and they are giving it much thought; this being so, especially among the young who are studying Christianity and its doctrine and the apparent failure of the church. This is a good sign, for it is better I think, than accepting the teaching of the church and Bible blindly for if the teaching of Jesus as revealed in the New Testament and proclaimed by His church are true, it will stand the test of criticism as it has done for nearly 2000 years. During these years, history tells us that the church has had many periods of ineptitude, sometimes torn by dissension and sometimes due to the sloth or poverty of its clergy.
Today, however, the clergy are well trained, and are working conscientiously and as I have already noted, there is on the part of the young a desire to learn more of what effect Jesus and His earthly life and teaching has on the world of today. Despite this however, the vast mass of our people are apathetic to religion generally, probably due to their new prosperity and higher standard of living which has given them a higher value of material things than of the spiritual.
I now turn to the Radio and Television. These two innovations have undoubtedly made a big impact on the life of the community.
In one respect at least, I think this is regrettable for it gives too much power to the British Broadcasting Corporation, for no matter how impartial the directors try to be, they are bound to show bias on certain matters, and so the millions who look and listen every day are thereby influenced by it.
There are many people who are obsessed by this form of media that they have it ‘tuned in’ on every possible occasion. This, I believe to be a bad thing, for it tends to stifle the conversation of the family, and sometimes from doing useful work.
Radio came some years before television. It was at first called the ‘Wireless’ and its technique was the use of what was called the ‘CATSWHISKER’ being connected to a piece of metal called the ‘crystal’.
Peopled were enthralled by the wonder of this new invention. To sit in your home and hear ‘Big Ben’ chiming in the hour by measured strokes from the Houses of Parliament gave us a thrill not easily forgotten. It wasn’t an easy option to ‘listen in’ in those early days, for it required perfect silence, for if someone turned a newspaper it caused annoyance to the listener. The wonder of hearing speech and music over the air from long distances soon wore off, and now with its improved technique the radio is a necessity.
The Television set, or as it is often termed, the TV, or the ‘telly’ is in most homes.
If it is used intelligently and with discretion the visual aids depicted on its screen can be of great benefit to those who use it. It is also used in our schools I understand. In the BBC charter I think it says the Corporation should cultivate the cultural attainments of the community. This is often done, but I think there is too much emphasis on the dramatic, sensational and violence of life shown on the screen. Is this necessary? Would it not be better for the accounts of war and strife in the world to be given us in words, rather than seeing on the screen pictures of the actual fighting and firing of guns sent from the scene of strife by correspondents? I feel that by having violence constantly brought before them, in this way it tends to give people (especially the young) a false conception of what life is and should be.
_ _ _
In these pages I have tried to record the many changes over the years as I remember them. I may have omitted some, others I have briefly sketched, whilst others I have given in more detail, but I have been unable to refrain from making an occasional comment.
These changes include the pattern of the countryside, the social life of the community, life in the homes of the people and the general environment. Some of these changes began soon after World War I, and gained momentum as the years passed.
One of the most important changes is the more equable distribution of the nation’s wealth,
brought about by legislation of successive governments. This has resulted in a much higher standard of living for the community generally. This new era of material prosperity has given to people the
means to possess amenities for their homes and other general benefits, made possible by the advance of scientific and technical knowledge.
Whilst I wholeheartedly welcome the new standard of life, it seems to me that we have lost the calm serenity which pervaded our village in my youth, and it has been replaced by a general restlessness, and dare I say it, a spirit of envy and greed. I do not think however, these defects are so marked in our villages as they are in cities and towns.
However, there’s an old saying which says “Much wants more”, which seems to be proven by the conduct if present day society. My view is that if we could “Stand and stare”, i.e stop and think, we should be much happier for it.
In my school-boy days and early youth, I remember our Forest woodland being of well-grown oak trees, interspersed with beech and chestnut, with here and there a silver birch and an isolated fir tree. Conifer plantations were unknown to us, and the felling of oaks was rare. I think it was the policy of Government office of Woods and Forests, as the Forestry Commission was known at that time to ‘thin out’ the oaks every seven years to allow greater space for the remaining ones to grow more fully. The deputy surveyor in the early nineteen hundreds was Sir James Campbell, who resided at Whitemead Park, Parkend, the affairs if the Forest being administered from there. Since those days, we know of course, that the duties of the old government department of Woods and Forests have been taken over by the Forestry Commission.
The Commission is sometimes criticized nowadays for its administration of the affairs of the Forest, but my view is, that it is doing an excellent job by the dual objectives of growing timber economically for the country’s needs, and also by its endeavours to make the Forest attractive for potential tourists.
Archive retrieval by Stephen Morse, recreated for the rest of us by Ken Morse, May 2010