I had a fairly long break over the Christmas period and this year; it was important for me to get out as much as possible as I knew there were some pretty big changes coming when we returned to work. For over thirty one years I have worked the same shift pattern, that is a week of mornings 6a.m.-2p.m., and a week of nights 10p.m.-6a.m. and, my favourite, the afternoon shift 2p.m.-10p.m., but all that has changed and there is no longer an afternoon shift or, for that matter, any more eight hour shifts.
Due to mounting pressure from the majority of the workforce, the management have agreed to a trial period for a new shift system. I won’t bore you with the details but basically we now work either twelve hour days or twelve hour nights, with the odd three hour improvement meeting thrown in, offset by a block of four days off two weeks out of three.
I voted against the proposed changes, I was looking ahead and seeing nothing but upheaval, everything that I do regarding my dogs revolves around the old three shift system, it has worked well for a very long time, refined and tweaked over the years until within reason I know exactly what I will be doing dogwise at any given time.
I suppose there will always be changes to your life which will have an impact on the way you do things; having six grandchildren for example certainly does, and the advancing years will see more changes I am sure but this new shift system is the biggest change to my routine for years. Before the ban I used to finish the morning shift at two in the afternoon, get home and go out for a course, the same for getting up off the night shift, go for a course, and if I was on afternoons, either ferreting in the morning before work or lamping that night after getting home at ten, quite often when I was younger, both in the same day.
The new system started on my return to work in January and as expected I am not impressed with it, if I’m on twelve hour days by the time I get home, see to the dogs and have my tea it’s not long before I am giving the dogs a final spin and getting off to bed as I am up at quarter to five to do it all again. If I’m on twelve hour nights it’s the same sort of thing, in bed all day and by the time I have seen to the dogs and had my tea it’s five thirty and I’m off to work to do another twelve hours.
I have to get in the dog work during my four days off be it ferreting, lamping or whatever, and as both of my four day-off blocks start after a night shift half of the first day off is spent in bed, wasted. I suppose if there is any improvement or benefit because of the new system it would be that if I am ferreting on my days off, that I am no longer clock watching as I did previously when I knew I would be starting work at 2p.m. This is a small consolation to me.
At some point in the new shift pattern I work Wednesday, Thursday and Friday doing twelve hour days then Saturday morning from 6a.m. until 12am followed by Sunday off then straight back onto twelve hour nights on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before finally getting four days off, and believe me, I am ready for my time away from the mill. On Thursday afternoon I get up early at about twelve o’clock and get out straight away with the dogs, just a bit of mouching about hoping to kick something up and then hopefully on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday get some ferreting done.
I say hopefully, as I have to catch up with the jobs I haven’t done while I’ve been at work and then the weather must also be taken into account as my days of ferreting in the pouring rain are well and truly over! (Yes I’m getting soft in my old age) Been there, done that, don’t want to anymore! So as you may have worked out I’m not a happy bunny at the moment and there is also the added down side that when I’m at work ’er indoors is having to do a lot more dog walking plus all the other stuff that goes towards keeping your dogs happy, and not forgetting seeing to the ferrets needs as well, plus her own part-time job. You won’t be surprised to hear that she’s not exactly rolling about laughing either.
I do appreciate everything the wife does to help out, and I suppose I don’t let her know this very often, but if I ever do express my thanks I get an exasperated “are you taking the p***?” type of look and a little snort of indignation! Don’t know why I bother!
As I said before, the new system is on a trial basis and I am seriously hoping that something goes wrong with it and we revert to the old eight hour, three shift system.
At any given time the management and union can have more talks and pull the plug on the whole thing if it is deemed not to be working and I can foresee problems with holiday and sickness cover where people who have just worked a whole bunch of twelve hours will not want to work these types of cover and machines will shut and this scenario would definitely sound the death knell for the new system. Fingers crossed.
So what have I been doing on my current (as I write) four days off, well not a lot of dog work as it has been a bout of (very nearly) never ending torrential rain. I will have to keep my fingers crossed for better weather next time!
For sure, I am not doing as much dog work since going back after the Christmas break and this is not going to change, in a way I’m quite glad that there aren’t a lot of rabbits about as this would really do my head in, especially when I am stuck at work on the night shift and it’s blowing a gale outside. I bought a new battery at the start of the new season and it’s had nowhere near as much use to date as it should have done and on the few occasions I have been out lamping, the rabbits have been very thin on the ground and I suffer a little pang of guilt every time the dogs pick up. I should be leaving them alone really, which sounds a stupid thing to say at the end of January, but they need to be given a chance to get the numbers back up to a decent level. Personally, I don’t think they will get back to the levels of twenty-five years or more ago when I could go out and see twenty or thirty rabbits in one field. In those days I could put that number in the bag during a night’s sport, now I am lucky to see that number in all the fields of that same farm. I suppose I have been guilty of taking too many rabbits from this farm over the years but when the numbers were high you just went for it, never expecting that one day the numbers would dwindle down to what they are now and, anyway, you were there to do a service for the farmer and the more rabbits you caught the happier he was and in this way you kept your permission. It’s not just this one farm where the numbers are low, it’s the same story everywhere I have permission and when out and about walking I have noticed that where there have been plenty of rabbits in the past there are now very few or even none; very depressing if you like rabbiting as much as I do, hopefully things will pick up somehow, but I don’t see how they will.
Changing the subject now. On 30th September “Slash the Odds” produced a very nice litter of eleven pups sired by my Whippet “Strike Action”. Eight bitches and three dogs; brindle and whites and black and whites; all very healthy.
Unfortunately, one of the pups had become stuck during birthing and the bitch had to have an emergency caesarian section, leaving Duncan and his wife the unenviable task of hand rearing the large brood. We had a ride up to view the pups and all the hard work put in had certainly paid off as they were in excellent condition and very boisterous when we saw them, and Duncan had no problems selling them at all.
Just recently Ted has had a rest from work through no fault of his own, I have (unfortunately) got a neighbour who has a Jack Russell, it’s not one of the puny little efforts you sometimes see but a brick ****house of a dog, very strong, and (unfortunately again) an absolute psycho! It is never allowed out of the house but on occasion it has escaped and runs around dementedly looking for something to get it’s teeth stuck into. A few years ago it escaped and had a right go at Judd, who made very short work of letting it know who really could fight but Ted wasn’t as lucky and when it escaped from the house again it got a proper grip of the whippet right at the top of his leg where it meets the shoulder and what a job I had to get it off, in fact, thinking about it now I didn’t get it off, I had to let Bob go and once again the terrier was put firmly in it’s place but not before it had made a mess of my whippet. It was a good month before I could run him again, which pissed me off badly. The lady owner of the JR came over all apologetic but couldn’t stop herself from mentioning that her dog had a big hole in its head where Bob had bitten it; I think she gathered from my reply that I wasn’t very sympathetic!
I do like a good read and recently a mate of mine leant me a little book entitled Memories of Old Kendal by Jack O’Connor, published in 1961. One of the chapters concerned the “Characters” of Fellside which was a district of the town which was largely demolished and rebuilt many years ago. It made for good reading and I will share with you now the stories, in the authors own words, concerning three of the more notable occupants of this old section of Kendal.
Had the life history of Thompson Webb (Webby) been written, the history of Fellside might have had an even wider field of notoriety than it has. My earliest conversation with Webby was on an occasion when returning home one Sunday evening. “does ta see that beck mi lad,” he said, “Would ta believe that I’ve ligged in it wi just mi mouth an’ nostrils oot oft’ watter for nearly ninety minutes, and Harry Mann, the beck watcher, tryin’ ta finnd ma.”
On one occasion he made his way to the house of a well known Kendal businessman, the late Mr. F.B. Pollitt, to ask for assistance in paying a fine incurred for poaching fish. “Now Webby, what is it this time?”
“Well it’s like this, Sir. I’ve been fined 5/- for poaching fish.”
“And do you want me to pay it for you?”
“Well that’s what it amonts to”
“Well, we will have to see what can be done.” And handing Webby the 5/- his benefactor remarked “And where were you caught poaching?”
“Doon on t’Waste, Sir.” And that was Frank Pollitt’s fishing!
Another gentleman once accosted Webby and asked him if he could get him a few nice ferns the next time he happened to be around Whitbarrow Scar. In quite short time a nice consignment of ferns was brought. A finer sample had not been seen about the neighbourhood. One evening a neighbour, happening to sup with our friend, noticed the display of his fine ferns, and remarked “Aren’t they a grand lot; do you know, somebody took every one of mine out of the front garden one night last week. I wish I knew where they were.”
Just another and then I must leave our old friend.
On one occasion, Webby, Jim Fisher and Biggy Wells were making their way over Stramongate Bridge on some errand of mercy, when who should they run up against but a Gamekeeper whom they thought might know them. They made as though to pass him unnoticed, but it was too late to disperse. As they were about to pass, the Gamekeeper motioned to Webby to come to him.
“Just pop in to the Castle Inn with your mates and tell the Landlord to fill you each a pint pot and I will be back in a few minutes.” On his return he found our three friends awaiting him. “Well, what is it, spit it oot what’s on thi mind?” And after filling our friends up again, this is the request he made: “You may not know it, chaps, but I’ve got a month’s notice and I want you chaps to come around as often as you can within the next three weeks and comb yon spot of ours out a bit.” That it was combed alright I am sure, for Webby could enjoy himself on an estate without being invited.
“Joby” Pennington, whose name is still evergreen in this district, was born on High Fellside. He lost his Mother at the age of ten; she died of the dreaded cholera. He went out into the world as a farm servant at High House, Crook, then to Martindales at Holmescales, afterwards as a labourer on the railway being constructed between Lancaster and Carlisle. He married Hannah Troughton, daughter of the widow with whom he lodged and subsequently followed the occupation of quarryman, an outdoor exercise which contributed largely to his fine, robust physique.
Foulmart or polecat hunting was his favourite pastime, and otter hounds were used for the sport. In order to take full advantage of few precious hours he would betake himself on Saturday evening to some shepherd’s bield, there to spend the night. It was necessary for a successful hunt that he should be abroad with the dawn. Then he would turn out and cast off his dogs in the crags. Soon a drag would be hit and the pack, with Joby close behind would start on their career. Rocks and boulders were nothing in the course. In the break-neck chase Joby seemed to have a charmed life. Accidents seldom befell him but his favourite pastime was cut short in a sudden and unexpected way.
Hunting one Sunday morning it seemed as though a light flashed upon him and a new world opened up before him. Struck with penitence, he whipped off the pack and sadly retraced his steps, but the old instinct soon re-asserted itself. A new drag was hit and again the foumart hunter was following the baying hounds – but he was stopped midway. The run never ended; it was his last, for the vision again appeared as real to him as it was to Saul of Tarsus. So impressed was he with what he underwent that Sunday that an almost miraculous change came over his life. He returned home and told of his experience to his wife who was a Christian woman, and her prayers for Joby were answered. As a result of this visitation he was converted in a little chapel at Frosterby in the County of Durham at the age of 39, and there he worshipped with his wife until he came back to Kendal. He made his spiritual home in an upper room of an old cottage, recently demolished, at the top of Sepulchre Lane, near Allhallows Church, known to all and sundry as the “Old Mission”.
A specimen of the type of conversation will lend colour to the cause we have set out to portray. During a Chapel address, that old stalwart, the “Bishop of Whinfell” (Auld Willie Airey) made a remark to the effect that “some folk thout he (Joby) was a lile bit cracked,” upon which out called Joby “Crack a few meair, Lord, an’ send ’em alang ’ere, wi can do wi ’em.”
Such was Joby Pennington, apostle of the Fellside; droll, but unstinting in his charity. He died in May, 1897, beloved by all who knew him. The Memorial Mission was dedicated to him in 1899.
Mr William Ward (“Booaty”)
Was there ever a man more entitled to represent Fellside than “Booaty” Ward? Lover of the wide open spaces, his kind, genial face radiated the glow of life lived in the open. A sportsman, every inch of him. His voice, his cheery “How do,” accompanied to the raising of his pipe or walking stick, bring back refreshing memories. “Eighty four years lived and enjoyed” would about sum up the verdict of his life. He was never happier than when in the company of a good dog. Rose, his last faithful “lile tarrier”, received more attention in her last illness than has many a human, for out of his scanty wealth Rose received the best medical help she could get.
He was a keen follower of the Kendal and District Otter Hounds, and the very mention of the word “otters” would raise his height another six inches – and he was a big chap. He was an authority on Otterhounds and otter hunting. Many of his exploits have been recorded, and many handed down by those who were ever ready to listen to his encounters. To his credit he could always furnish proof of his exploits, and from far and near came interested spectators to view for themselves the most unbelievable results of combat. His biggest kill was in the year 1917. whilst walking one Sunday morning in the company of two nephews and his famous terrier, Nell, near Murley Moss, he encountered a very big otter. The fight which ensued was terrific; it lasted three hours. The otter weighed 35Ibs, but the honours, of course, went to Nell, a game ‘un, but no gamer than her owner.
Bobby Troughton founded the Kendal and District Otterhounds in 1897, and three hounds were kennelled at the Hyena Inn at Fellside. In the following year they had their first kill, near Mint Bridge.
About two years later, at Grasmere, “Bobby” and “Booaty” were discussing otters in the company of Mr Charlie Wilson, when, for a wager, a friend bet them that no dogs they possessed could fetch an otter out of Thirlmere. The challenge was readily accepted, and on the following morning the hunt was on. Before the day closed a fine dog otter of 31lbs was on the scales.
Taking his dogs for a walk along Burneside Road, Mr Ward one day noticed a sudden restlessness come over his charges. All suddenly gave mouth and set off at a gallop. Catching up with them near Eggholme he was astounded to see a gesticulating Russian, or Italian, and a big Polar Bear surrounded by his hounds. A record kill might have been registered that day but for the prompt action of his big walking stick which, for once, he used vigorously.
Characters indeed these three. I go round Eggholme every time I go to work but I’ve never seen a Polar Bear there!
Anyway. that’s it for now, take care.