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Mr and Mrs Joe Gard lived at Trixies Cottages, Drayford, they had eleven children, and this set of memories is of one of these children, namely Albert Gard.

On June 20th 1920 the news went around the village of Drayford, near Witheridge, that Joe and Mary Gard had yet another boy. Already they had five children before I was born, roughly two years between each child. There were three boys and two girls (another two boys and three girls were to follow). I am told I was a sickly child and often not expected to live. I am now 72 years of age and very strong and active.

My father was a quarryman employing several men at times to help him. He also repaired the roads for several miles around and kept the water tables flowing, all on contract to South Molton Rural District Council. He worked three quarries, and also took on work for local farmers, and was a chimney sweep, a very important job where practically all the farms and cottages were thatched with wheat reed. Most of the same dwellings were of cob walls, (clay dug locally with straw trodden into it). Most of the dwellings had been some hundreds of years earlier.

Drayford was a very pretty little place nestled between the hills in a valley through which the Little Dart River flowed, and where the Adworthy Brook joined it the river and brook were alive with trout, eels, and in the spawning season, Salmon. There was a bridge joining the village from one side, and the 'little arches' joining the other. Both streams were a place of delight to the children and friend to all for washing water, and the gardens and farms in summer. We boys would snare trout in the summer, and the men would snare salmon (a very profitable pastime) in the winter. There were ten houses in close proximity, and the Mill a short distance away. It was a working village; Mr Tanner, Mr William Way, and his son Fred worked on farms. Mr Chudley and Mr Fred Stoneman were smallholders, and also took on various other works for a livelihood. Mr Lewis was a castrator of farm animals. Mr John Leach was a quarryman as was my father. Mr Sanders a trapper, sheep shearer, and other odd jobs, Mr Venner a thatcher, and Mr Dick Stoneman the miller and postman. Every house enjoyed a vegetable garden, carefully planned and with lots of competition as to who produced the best crop; also, except the Mill, every house had apple trees and orchard with both cooking and eating apples. We boys knew all the early eating apples trees!

There were a lot of children about, and we enjoyed a Drayford game called "kickstones", in which a "catcher" would be selected, an old tin placed inside a square marked by our hobnailed boots; whilst he counted to a hundred in fives we all ran and hid away. There were scores of places to hide. When seen, the name of the child would be called by the catcher and the location he or she had been seen, and one, two, three, called with his foot on the tin. If the catcher strayed from the tin to get a vantage point to see someone else, a child could sneak out and kick the tin well away from the square, and all those caught already could run off and hide again whilst the catcher replaced the tin. We played football along with the young men of the village in "Smyth's Mead" until Mr Smyth was seen riding his horse towards us at a gallop, at which time we ran to safe havens known to us, with much excitement. When we were assured the farmer had gone on about his business we returned to play the game. Looking back, I think he enjoyed chasing with a lot of loud shouting and cracking the whip, as much as we did running away. He would often try to surprise us.

Everyone worked hard, and in each household the children were given little tasks to do daily, and as we grew older the responsibilities grew. We knew everyone's business, helped each other, and had our differences. The postman from Worlington Post Office cycled to a small wooden hut on the grass verge just beyond Thelbridge Cross, about two miles away, to meet the mail van from Crediton each weekday morning at 6am. Then he delivered the mail to each house in the village just before 7am, the charge being one and a half pence for a letter, and a penny for a postcard. The same postman would take mail to the same hut to meet the mail van at 7pm each weekday evening. Upon approaching Drayford, still cycling, he would pull a whistle from the mailbag to blow a few notes to say that he would be in the Square to collect letters which must be already stamped. He was like a clock at 6.15pm, and if we missed him he would never stop walking up Ave Hill, no matter how breathless you may be, to take your letter. He would take it whilst walking, and with much grumbling.

Tradesmen came through the village. A baker every day, even so lot's of women still baked their own bread, and I remember clearly to this day the pungent smell of bread and yeastcake. The butcher came three times a week. Every household would "fat" two pigs per year to kill and put in the "salter", keeping two pigs at a time because each one would try to eat more than the other and as a result they would grow quickly, often as much as 340 pounds or more in weight. The butcher would by the other pig which paid the cost of rearing the two. The shop bacon of today cannot compare to that of those days. We ate bread and bacon fat with a little salt and pepper for a meal, or it could be beef dripping. We all kept hens and ducks. We sold eggs to the dealer and dressed chicken and ducks. Rabbits were in good supply, and with a piece of fat bacon in a crock hung on a crook up the chimney over an open fire with potatoes and onion was delicious. Home made was the norm. Hams preserved and hung up the chimney, home-made hogs-pudding, apple tart, apple dumpling, apple pastry, apple-in-and-out (which was a steamed pudding with slices of apple in it), meat pasties, potato pastry, potato cake, gooseberry tart, blackberry tart, rhubarb tart, blackcurrant tart, suet pudding and a little jam either cold or hot, pea soup flavoured with a little meat, and a lot of tasty cheese which I remember in huge lumps and smelling delicious.

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The villagers all declared their food was "plain but healthy". Most households cooked at night when the men folk returned from work and children were expected to be in their own homes for this, and the family would sit around the table in order of age, the baby being near both parents: a wonderful time of the day. Sunday too was special because it was always baked dinner. This was cooked in an oven in the wall, heated by a faggott of wood to a certain heat which the women judged by their nose! The oven was a very spacious place used twice each week. The baked dish was large, with a joint of meat, lots of bread crumbs, onion slices, parsley or sage at the bottom, lots of potatoes and the joint on top, then topped up with boiling water which was a very tasty indeed. After this the oven would be filled with large cakes, pies, pasties etc, enough to last out the remainder of the week. Greens or swedes would be cooked over the open fire. To pass through Drayford when a meal was being served was a tantalising experience. No one could whistle at that time!

The women worked hard keeping their families fit. Long lines of washing hanging out to dry on Monday, feeding the poultry and animals too. The house would be scrubbed through on Saturday, the table scrubbed almost white, socks to darn each week, patches to clothing, fires to make and ashes to clear daily. each house had stacks of faggotts prepared in summer, with long trees called "poles" to be cut for the fireplace (with cross cut saws) placed on a wood-horse, father at one end of the saw and a boy at the other end. There was always time for children to play because there was a rhythm about life. Winter evenings, table games; summer, outdoor games.

Most of the villagers owed allegiance to the Church of England a quarter of a mile away, or the Methodist Chapel three quarters of a mile away. Mother sent us to the Chapel for Sunday School and services. I can never remember the time when I did not look forward to going to Chapel. We all had Sunday clothes and had to be carefully inspected before leaving home for the Chapel. Father gave each of us a halfpenny for the "collection". We loved singing the "Sankey" hymns, and both young and older folk could be heard singing these outdoors loudly (like the birds) or whistling them as they worked. The Stoneman boys were particularly good at whistling. We took our schooling at Worlington Council School, about 60 children of all ages with two elderly teachers. Reading , writing and arithmetic was the main part of our education. The teachers were dedicated and both Christians by commitment. we were taught at home to say our prayers at bedtime each night, at school Scripture was taught with real meaning at the first session after assembly. I loved it. The memory portions we had to learn I have experienced to be key guides to living. The Ten Commandments was amongst them, and I am convinced there would not be half the indiscipline and vandalism today if every child had to learn these gems from the Bible. We left school at fourteen years of age, and for our family we went to work on a farm, living there, and the girls went as servants to gentleman's houses where they lived. We were poor but happy.

When I was the oldest child at home, those older had left home to earn their living, something happened that has influenced my whole life. There was an Evangelistic Mission at the Chapel, it was winter, I was 12 years of age and went out of curiosity. A visiting Deaconess from Northumberland was the preacher, and she talked about Jesus in such a way I wanted to live with him forever. She urged folk to invite Jesus into their hearts to take charge of their lives. I simply closed my eyes and said "Lord Jesus come into my heart". He did! All over the years he has been my Saviour, on the farm, in the factory, six years of war in the Royal Tank Regiment, and as Minister, Missionary and Counsellor he has been my friend. One day soon I shall meet him face to face - it will be wonderful to be forever with the Lord.

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Last Edited 03/07/2006    Copyright © 2000-2006 Witheridge

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