Securing our history for the future

David Gwilliam

On Thursday 19 January 2017 David Gwilliam of Edington, visited the History group to talk on his farming experiences in Bawdrip.

He entertained one of the largest groups we have had to series of entertaining and often highly comic stories which sent ripples of merriment round the room. The evening began with a display of old photographs showing scenes and characters in the village. This provoked lively discussion. We heard about Bawdrip’s qualified blind basket maker Oliver Stone who, we learned, had also been part of the bell ringers’ group and rang the tenor bell in the belfry. Amazing especially when we considered how difficult of access to the belfry is even to even the most agile of visitors!

Stella Gwilliams photo 06

David started by outlining his training in about 1950 at the Somerset Farm Institute, as it then was, in Cannington, and he worked for Ted Owens, NFU County Chairman who was an early advocate of silage making in the county. Later, he was under cowman at the Stawell fruit farm and told us the tale of how he was promoted to cowman after the cowman mistakenly thought he had won the pools and failed to turn up for work.

He then started raising pigs, but he needed to be fully employed on a farm to gain exemption from National Service. So, he arrived to work at Kings Farm down Eastside Lane in Bawdrip and to work for Cecil Pain. This he described as a real throwback to earlier times and his arrival there was certainly a shock to his system. In no uncertain manner he was told that the work started early, and he had to arrive at 6.30 am. This he duly did and arrived to find silence. After a long wait the house keeper came down the stairs to put the kettle on the hob. Another long wait ensued and then the pet family pig arrived to investigate – this was a huge beast. He was then sent out to harness the horse but in the

dark could find no sign of the animal. Eventually met Stan Braddock and the other cowman machine milking the fifteen or so cows with just two buckets and one spare pail.

The horse he was told was in the field and all he had to do was call him and open the gate. He did so and the horse rushed past him and clattered up Eastside lane towards the railway station. Off be went to find it without success. Down hearted he returned to be told the horse always did that and that it would then trot calmly back to its stable and so it proved.

Another exciting and comic story was how he helped Mr Pain to deliver a calf to the local market in a terrifying journey because the old car had a deteriorating windscreen which had a milky opaqueness so that he could not see the road. The farmer leapt up and down to see where he was going, and David certainly had a white-knuckle ride. Mr Pain was keen on measuring the milk in the chums on the sloping milk stage outside the farm, making sure that the content markings were on the downside. He spent a lot of time grumbling about the creamery at Bason Bridge! This took us on to hygiene and milking bails – say no more!

He told epic stories of selling goldfish. He bought them very cheap but sold them high and it was always the expensive ones which sold although he had paid the same price for them. ‘Gold in them char Goldfish!’ A cautionary tale for modern shoppers as we all feel that more expensive models must always be better. David turned to local personalities focussing on Fred Vernon whom he characterised as a ‘professional drunk’. Stories about his trilby hat, two parrots on his bed head and contretemps at Stawell Village hall then followed to finish the evening! A great talk – you look at photos of solemn people and wonder what their lives were like, but David Gwilliam lifted a corner of the veil and the history of the time came alive.

Report by Jim Earnshaw photo from Stella Gwilliam