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Life On The Farm At Ten: In Midlothian

by Leslie Weddell

Contributed by 
Leslie Weddell
People in story: 
Leslie Weddell
Location of story: 
Dodridge Farm Midlothian
Article ID: 
A2327177
Contributed on: 
21 February 2004

I remember growing up on Dodridge Farm, about four miles from Pathead in Midlothian. Wonderful clean fresh air, and nothing but fields of growing grain and the few animals the Farm Owner had.
He was quite a decent guy actually, and liked kids. My brother Cyril and I used to play with the farmer’s daughter and the other kids belonging to the six farm workers who lived in wee 'bothies', of which one was ours.
The great black monster of a stove I can see right now. It was the fireplace in the living room actually, and had an oven on one side and a griddle thing for cooking on the other side. It also heated the water, and my borther and I had to go for the coal and wood many times, outside in the shed on the side of the house.
And the toilet was in the garden! Bleedin freezing in winter!!!!! It had a proper loo and a very long chain handle that used to clank like hell when you pulled it. When the water froze up in the tank in the winter Dad used to take a bucket of hot water and pour it in the top, but I remember mum used to shout at him “Be, careful –don’t burst the pipes”!

We had six Italian POW's on the Farm. They really where just farm boys who had been called up to serve in the Italian Army.
When they arrived at our Farm all the Adults were suspicious of them of course, but it soon transpired that they knew about farming, and they really worked hard with enthusiasm.
Within a month they could speak a few words of English and invited everyone around to their house for a meal. Now that was the first time we had ever eaten Italian food, but it was delicious! Everyone from the Farmer to us kids was invited, and they played an accordian and sang songs to us too. At the end of the War they had to go home of course, but there was not a dry eye on the farm, for everyone loved those Italian Boys.
All the animals that were slaughtered for meat got taken away on a regular basis by the ‘government lorries’ as we called them, to some central distribution centre.
It was almost two years before we saw a banana. I remember it was a big event when we heard the old van chugging up the hill towards us once a week, The Owner had practically nothing much in there! But now and again he would give us kids a little home made toffee his wife had prepared.
But the day the bananas came was something special! The Man looked out at us kids with a big smile on his face, for we always beat the grown-ups to the side of his van when he lifted up the cover and propped the hook in place.
The strange smells of accumulator battery acid and a mixture of god-knows-what would come floating through the hatch. “Hey, you kids ever seen one of these?”

We gawped at this yellow thing in silence I guess, until one of us asked, “Hey Mister, wae’s that thing?”
Mind you he was not giving them away, for I recall my dad asking mother how much four of them had cost. I don’t remember the price, but dad’s reaction was not good, for he stormed off out with my Uncle George, got on their bikes and went off to Pathead to the nearest pub!

Like you, we played hide and seek, and a farm is a wonderful place to hide! We went off nature hunting in summer, looking for anything that moved. Butterflies and snails, worms, spiders, rabbits and hares. Rats and field mice, birds and bees and wasps. You name it- we went looking for them. Unfortunately there was no water near to us -else we probably would have been fishing and swimming too. At that age we where oblivious to the horrors of war that was ravenging Europe.
We picked raspberries, blackberries, gooseberries, and crab apples, raided the Farmer’s apples and pears, and ate his carrots and the occasional ‘nip’.
When it was harvest time it was a wonderful smell of newly cut corn, barley and wheat. And those brilliant colours-I’ll never forget them. And the stubble that hurt your feet if you tried to run around with no shoes on! Most of the time us kids did, but not in a stubble field.
And following the thresher was great too, every kid had a long stick and as soon as a rabbit or hare emerged, we went after it like greased lightening! Rats too, we didn’t care.
Sometimes we would catch a rabbit and come marching in one of our mum’s back doors, all the kids in a gang. All doors opened for anyone in the daytime to walk in, for we all where good neighbours.
You would get a welcome smile from the lucky mum, usually the mother of the kid that actually caught the rabbit, and she would be wiping her hands on the ‘pinny’ all mums wore in those days, and saying to you all , “Right in there you lot and wash your hands! Then you can come sit down and have a jam scone!” or words to that effect.

Beef dripping sandwiches where great! I can still taste them now. Christmas was fantastic for we all went from one house to another and then end up at the Farmer’s Mansion for a 'wee dram' - well the adults anyway - we kids got lemonade of course, and CAKE! Yes that was a bit of a luxury too in those days, and we would all end up having Jimmy Shand or the likes on the radio and everyone having a reel on that shinny polished dining room floor.
I had a dog named ‘Jed’ and I loved that mongrel, he used to follow me everywhere –even to the bog! He would sit outside the door and wait, sometimes making little growling noises, or just barking.
When we came out of school Jed would be there, having run from home across the fields to meet all us kids from the farm.
Winter time was REALLY Fairyland when we had two feet of snow everywhere, for as you will recall, in those days we had proper winter weather.
Now School was about 5 miles away if you went by road, for the route went in a loop if you like, from the farm to get to the school. But us kids went across the fields, and that way it was only about 2 and a half miles. We didn’t mind, for we all went together and had a good natter and mucked about on the way!
In winter we would still go the same way across the fields, and all our mums used to make us wear our wellies! The snow could be up to 3 or 4 foot deep so you had to tread carefully, for you could not see the ditches, only the hedges. But I guess we all knew that route like the back of our hands, and always made it to school, but not always on time. But in bad weather we got let off for being late.

I remember one day us kids playing in a field and looking up, we saw a plane with smoke trailing from it coming earthwards, unknown to us of course, the RAF was up there in force knocking Dorniers out of the sky -on their way to bomb eith Edinburgh Leith or Glasgow docks-and we watched in silence as the plane rapidly came down and crashed not far from our farm.
We all raced home to get our bikes, and off we went to try find it. Our Parents where all out in the fields harvesting, so they where not available to interfere!
We eventually found a field in which the German bomber had crashed, and we could not get any closer, for in the half an hour it had taken us to find it, the local policeman and home guard had arrived first.
"You kids stay right there!" shouted the coppper. As you will appreciate, in those days the local Policeman was 'God' to us! AND we noticed he still had his bike clips on his trousers!
What we saw was a burning wreck giving off an acrid smell, and no signs of life. We found out later that all the crew had been killed.

Farm folks go to bed early and get up early, and so us kids did too. In bed by 8.30pm every night, except in summer holidays, and then we could stay up as long as the eyelids could stay open –sometimes to 10pm!
As we got older of course we got to stay up and listen to the radio with mum and dad, or join in the conversations, which mostly centred around the war, and what was going to be planted in the ‘far field’ or whatever the next day.
I got to help my dad with the plough, and he had two whopping Clydesdale Horses pulling it, and those creatures where of the gentlest in nature. They loved sugar lumps, and I can feel the soft hair of their lips as they gently took it out of your hand.
We had a couple of old Fordson tractors, but they kept breaking down and getting spare parts for them was almost impossible during wartime. So the horses got used, and I used to love standing on the side of the rig as dad handled the reins.
I must have been about eleven when my dad died. He was taken into the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh and died a week or so later from lung cancer, so I have been told.

But those memories of Dodridge Farm are precious to me. I can still see the fields and the array of colours in the four seasons, the trees and the stillness of the whole Farm on a warm summer’s Sunday morning when all the work was finished, and coming back from church.
The steam rising off the cattle in the sheds in winter, the taste of their treacle cake –all us kids used to nibble it when allowed- and chasing chickens around in circles with them cackling away.

Happy days!

I recall one of the last times I saw my mum, for I was on leave from the Royal Marines Band, and I took her to Edinburgh and gave her the ‘royal tour’ on the open air bus and a decent meal, followed by a trip to the pictures. We had to leave shortly after going in there because she was having difficulty breathing with all the smoke.

Anyway, I got her home and she was OK for the last couple days of my leave. Then I had to go back to Deal, in Kent to the Royal Marines Barracks block–the one the IRA blew up about a decade later.
I had a couple of more leaves up in Scotland before I was sent to Singapore, and honestly I cannot recall the last time I saw my mum.

It was during my stay in Singapore that she was admitted to an old folks home at Lasswade, near Bonnyrigg, and she died of Pneumonia.
She was 82. Lovely old gal, and looked after me and brought me up right, so I will always be grateful to her for that.

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Life On The Farm At Ten

Posted on: 25 February 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Leslie

I very much enjoyed reading your story, full of detail and well-observed incidents.

Kind regards,

Peter

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