Oral History

The memories of Mr. John Mayne who was a Hinckley Farmer

Interviewers: Mr. D. J. Wood (DW)

Interviewed: Mr John Mayne (JM)

Date of Interview: 8th March 1988

DW. Can we start with the Horse Fair?

JM. Well it was in Regent Street, they used to collect the'er on the 25th August, that's Horse Fair day. There used to be a pleasure fair an'al there did at on time. Before they built the Regent Theatre, that was all for the pleasure fair an' al. They called the Hoss Fair from Station Road down to George Street, that's where they used to congregate a lot of 'urn up towards Rugby Road to the Boot pub up Coventry Road.

DW. Tell me about the Boot Pub.

JM. Yes there were a Boot pub up Coventry Road just agin Trinity Lane on the right hand side, just at the end of a row of houses. They used to be parading them up Trinity Lane gallop up and down the' er for likely buyers. If you wanted to buy one, if you'd got a'nuff money that was the biggest problem. I was talking to a neighbour the other day, his granddad used to go down to buy two young hosses every Hoss Fair, yearlins just come off their mothers. They used to keep them on the farm next door here, break them in and sell them as five year olds at Lichfield market That was a bit of surplus money they used to get. I can remember 'urn doing a bit of falling out, the chaps coming out of the pubs fighting and doing with the Hinckley chaps.

DW. lt. was not only the Horse Fair and fun fair, holiday? but it was a day's.

JM. Oh yes, yes.... I know we used to make our own whips to go down to the fair, three or four of us along Church Walks it was a day out.

DW. Had they used to come from miles around to buy and sell horses?

JM. Oh yes, they came from all the villages around, and if they'd got owt to sell used to take it down there to sell it.

DW. It must have been a very old Horse Fair because it was mentioned in Shakespeare , about William losing his sack at Hinckley Fair?

JM. Oh yes it went back a good way. They used to be parading along the Regent Street there'd be a hundred hosses about, one sort or another that I remember, and that was when it was fading away just afor the war.

DW. Of course the horse was used a lot on the farms then?

JM. That was the only workers they'd got ain't they, and the farm labourers of course. Nowt better then driving & pair of hosses you know.

DW. Across the field ploughing?

JM. Didn't matter what you were doing. Very nice the old tractor, but the first ones were very cold to stand on to drive. They hadn't all this tackle on like they have today, radios, heating and a cab on, and that. When I was a lad at Hinckley I used to go down, when l was still at school, fetching hosses up every morning and every night, taking 'urn through the Gas Works yard.. Hundreds of times l've been through the'er. We used to have the ground at the back of the Gas Board. Hinckley Gas had their own hosses at one time you know, had their own stables. The stables were the'er on the land at the back Mr. Lee let me dad have the ground at the back. Me brother Albert used to cart coal from Hinckley Station to the Gas Works, two ton on a load. It used to be Hinckley Gas Works then when they got rid of the hoss power, they let it out on contract carting it so much a ton, Paynes of Coventry Road they'd got little tractors and the trucks. They took the contract over. l guess they could do it a bit quicker and perhaps a bit cheaper then what the hosses and carts did. They pushed the hosses and carts out, Paynes did, with them industrial tractors and a little bit of a truck. That got about four tons at a time on you know. Used to go to Hinckley Dye Works and Gas Works an'al. Paynes contracted to do the two lots.

DW. That must have made it a dying trade shoeing horses, a farrier's job?

JM. Here a lot coming back again, for these hunters and ponies. It's a good job again now farriering is How much is it for a set on a pony now?

Mrs. Mayne I don't know, but it cost Linda about eighty pounds last time.

JM. You ain't allowed to take a pony on the road without a shoe on you know. You've got to have shoes on or they'll nab you.

DW. How long has that rule been in?

JM. Ever since l was a kid. On the farm they didn't have shoes on. We al'us had shoes on in Hinckley. We had three different blacksmiths in Hinckley we used for our hosses. One pony used to go down Zadock-Spences down Station Road it was 7/6 for his shoes. Another chap who used to work for us a Mr. Hawkins he took them down to Mr. Jack Rundle in Rugby Road to have his shod. I used to take the other big hosses up Stockwell Head to Mr. Blant. We done & lot of work for Hinckley Council on the roads 12/6 a day for a hoss and cart and a man.

DW. Can we move on now to how things have changed in the last few years on the farm?

JM. Well they've changed a lot since the war ain't they? Well I know we had our tractor in 1938 that's when we had our Ford. We'd got some old hosses they were getting as we had got to set up new onqs so won't stand for ever a hoss won't. So me brothers decided we were going to have a new tractor that was in 1938 September from Paynes of Hinckley garage and we had the tools to go wi'it plough and scarifle. That's when things started to change from the hosses everyone went on tractors. Then they diverted the tackle from the hosses and pulled it with the tractor; the binder and the mowing machine and all that That reminds me, one day when me dad had a piece of string on me arm just to steady me up. If I was going too fast he would give me a tug, or if it was missing time at the back. He didn't like the idea of shouting you wouldn't be able to hear him. Things have altered to make things easier, l wouldn't say better you've got more responsibility, wi' the tractors and that, and more expense, more pollution, you can't have it both ways.

DW. You haven't the manpower you used to have?JM. It's done away with the manpower you see. A lot of men would like to work on the land, but the money weren't there. l know a lot of men who started on the land but they went to other jobs cuss there was more money and shorter hours. The farmer didn't want to part with it that's how it al'us bin [laughing].

DW. The combine harvester made life a lot easier that it was before. When the machine came along, it threw it out in little bundles, and you had to stand them up to dry before you could thrash it?

JM. That was a nice job, if you've got a thistle in them they kept you on the move. Shocking them ar' there weren't many volunteers to go a shocking. Taking about six or seven rows at a time, ifs according if it was a good crop. If it was a good crop you would only take five, and follow the middle row and bring the two rows into the middle 'en six or eight sheaves in a shook. Sometimes you got the tops dry and you'd got the bottoms wet. Then you'd have to go and pull them all over and get the wind and sun to dry 'um. Mind you, we didn't mind a bit of green stuff in the bottom it was good stuff. The beasts used to like a bit of green stuff when it had been thrashed. That was another dirty job, the thrashing tackle coming and the dust ablowing started, and all your jobs to do at night when they'd gone.

DW. Did you hire the thrasher?

JM. The thrasher used to come round, 'War-Ag' had a big depot at Barwell. I think they had twenty odd thrashing sets at Barwell at one time 'War-Ag' did.

DW. What was 'War-Ag?

JM. War-Ag' War Agricultural Committee used to help the farming out.

DW. What about the Land Girls?

JM. Ar' used to have the Land-Girls, she (pointing to his wife) used to have to keep her eye on me laughter). Oh' ar the Land-Girls used to come round thrashing, weren't everybody that would have the thrashing you know. Then there were John Martin he had a thrashing set from Stoke Golding here. Cope ArneH he'd got a thrashing set come round here from Wolvey. Old Jack Price of Barwell he used to drive that, him and his son Tom. They were steam tackle they were. Used to have to get a permit for some coal when they were coming. You couldn't get coal unless you'd got a permit to go and get it for the thrashing tackle. He didn't leave much when he'd done thrashing, he used to fill his old bag up and take about all that was left. lie didn't leave you much for the fire. lt. was a full time job carrying water for 'urn, oh 'ar it's a lot easier now than what it were, it was a sweating job at one time. The old combine starts up now, goes in, it's different again 'ar different again.

Transcript by: Jean & David Wood.