Volunteer Marjorie Iveson has recorded the early memories of her husband Glynn who left school aged fifteen to be a farm worker, progressing from mucking out cow byres to helping milk a sizeable dairy herd before ending up running his own farm.
Glynn was born in Carlton-in-Coverdale where his father was also a farm worker. In this audio clip he recalls as a lad helping out with farm chores while his uncle Charlie Reeves hand-milked.
Glynn’s first proper job after leaving school was further up Coverdale on a small farm in Braidley working for Mr & Mrs Spence.
In the summer, the Spence’s cows were grazed on a shared pasture and one of Glynn’s jobs was to separate them out and bring them back to the farm to be milked each day:
“…at that place, Braidley was peculiar because it had what y’call a ‘bence’ which is free land, common land and one, two, three or four farms in the village had dairy cows and it was my job in summertime, it was to go on a morning onto that bence, and everybody’s cows were mixed up together up on the bence and so it was your job t’bring them in [laughs] …the common land reached from the river t’the moor, so y’had a big area t’go look for animals on a morning. Sometimes it was foggy and y’didn’t know where you were at or where the cows were at. You might walk t’the top thinking they’d be there and there they are, down by the river…two or three of us went out on a morning looking for them and bringing them in. The cows, they separated themselves off as they came though the village… in our particular place, where we milked though the village and on another quarter of a mile on the road, but the cows shed themselves off and it wasn’t a problem.”
Glynn Iveson (75), formerly of Lyndhurst Farm, Carlton-in-Coverdale
At lambing time, Mr Spence left the teenager to milk the cows on his own. Although the farm had no electricity supply, there was a milking machine powered by a petrol-driven engine as Glynn describes in the following audio clip:
Glynn remembers electricity arriving in his home village:
“When electricity came into the dale, 1952/3 something about there, I can remember very well, if y’walked up the village of Carlton, you heard the different notes of milking machine engines from about eight different farms at milking time…and now you can walk up the village and you don’t hear one, because there is nobody milking in the village now.”
“I have a little story that there was one gentleman when the electricity started, he would milk a cow, and then he’d switch the engine off while he stripped and got the last little bit out of the cow and then he’d start the engine up and milk another cow, and this went on [laughing], he thought he was saving electricity by doing that, but actually I think it was false economy.”
Glynn spent around six to eight months there before starting his next job, helping his brother on an arable farm near Northallerton. When his brother moved on, Glynn was then left to find another position. Hunting though the jobs columns of the Darlington & Stockton Times he found a suitable place with a Mr Ewbank of Temple Farm, Swinithwaite. It was always a risk moving onto a new farm because the lads employed lived in with the family and things could go wrong if you didn’t get on with them.
“I don’t know that it’s done at all now, but in those days you went and lived in with the, with the farmer and his wife, and [laughs], thinking back again, you’ve got t’know or word of mouth told you it was a good farm or as they used t’say ‘good grub spot’ or not [laughs] and so you’d got this reputation…so when you saw somebody advertising there you’d say ‘yeah, I don’t think so because I’ve heard stories about them’ you know, and so y’didn’t get involved there. I was very fortunate, I was accepted everywhere I went as part of the family, and I enjoyed it. It was a big wrench at fifteen when I left school and straight out t’go and live with somebody else, but that’s how it was.”
Temple Farm turned out to be a step up, with a progressive farmer who milked on a much larger scale to what Glynn had previously been used to. Original farm buildings had been adapted and knocked through:
“…there were two of us milking, with two units each, but this was at a time when buildings were adapted, y’didn’t do new builds in just in them days, you adapted your old ones, and they were fortunate enough t‘have some very very good buildings on the Thornbury Estate…we had I think, if my memory serves me right, up to about thirty cows all in a row in adapted buildings, they’d broken through so you could go right through…it was in two levels, the cow level and the building level and then there was a lower yard which you could park the muck spreader in the bottom of that.”
Feeding the cows was also carefully monitored and managed as Glynn describes in this audio clip. Having two men milking made the job quicker but Glynn found that cleaning all the equipment out afterwards was quite time consuming. Having a round hay-baler was also very innovative as was being able to feed cows hay from the loft though trapdoors set above each pen, making the job much safer.
The final farm that Glynn talks about working on was in Leyburn. As a young man, the attraction of being able to get into town on an evening was obvious. Milking at Maythorne Farm for Mr Ford was again a progression because eventually they had a purpose-built cow byre put up and a pipeline installed in the parlour which carried the milk straight to the tank rather than having the lug it about in buckets.
“Now there, we were still in old buildings milking, with milking, with units, but whilst I was there we built a big double-sided cow byre. That was really progress. You had twenty cows up either side and a pipeline…which was something different altogether. The milk was just carried straight away, y’didn’t have t’empty buckets or anything, and, it’s just like the same pipeline in your parlours today but this was, the pipeline was at the cows not the cows come to the pipeline as it were, which made life great, greatly easier. And it was during that time, I remember, one of m’more memorable moment when, ‘cos with being living near Leyburn, the Express Dairy was just across from the farm, you could see it from the farm, but y’had t’go round and through Leyburn and down t’the Dairy. We used t’take the milk down in Mr Ford’s Morris 1000 van and I remember one Sunday morning I managed to get the first hundred gallons of milk produced at Maythorne…It was a great adventure driving down to Leyburn with the Morris 1000 van, ‘cos it was just wandering all over with a hundred gallons of milk in the back, ten cans, y’had a job t’keep it in a straight line [laughing].”
As a postscript to the interview, Marjorie sent us the following information to round off Glynn’s story in dairying:
“When Glynn was 21 years old he went to drive for his uncle in his haulage business because it paid better wages and offered a more exciting lifestyle. In 1967 he married me, but continued long distance driving, eventually buying his own lorry and starting his own business. This was a fairly common scenario for men from farming backgrounds, when the farm could[n’t] provide a living
for all the sons, but their contracts were mainly with the various quarries.
When my father was forced to curtail his dairy farming business, through bad health, in the late seventies and there was nobody else to take over the farm, the decision was made for Glynn to take over the business and give up his own business. Having trained as a teacher I was in a position to return to teaching so that I could provide day to day income because the farm needed major investment in buildings and machinery. Dairying on this farm ceased in the late
nineties and some of the dairy stock were used as suckler cows. Tourism (B&B, Bunk Barn and caravan site ) eventually provided the main source of income and the land is now let for summer grazing for dairy heifers from a bigger dairy unit.”