Alnwick Probus Club, January meeting

Threshing in 1955.
Threshing in 1955.

Margaret Brown, of Wooler, opened the new year of Alnwick Probus Club with a talk entitled Sheep Tales and Spinning Yarns.

Much of her talk referred to photographs which can be found on the internet website of the same name.

The illustrations and the talk focused on the way that rural life in the Cheviots has changed beyond recognition in the period following the Second World War.

Two memorable pictures spoke louder than words, one showed a horse-drawn binder with a little grey Fergie tractor in the background, and the other featured a farmer in a horse-drawn trap alongside a young couple on a motorbike.

The thrust of the talk was the need to record as much as possible of the old way of life before it is lost from memory.

The meeting was reminded of sheep shearing days when a team of neighbours helped each other out, before the advent of Antipodean visitors with their electric machines, threshing days when the steam thresher turned up late at night and was fired up before dawn, and before the arrival of men from the surrounding farms to labour for their friend.

There were snaps of schools comprising fewer than 20 children, some of whom had a seven-mile round walk every day in all weathers.

The life described was often hard in harsh conditions, but it was one of regular contact between neighbours in remote farms. This again contrasts with modern times where machinery makes for an easier life, but it is coupled with a massive reduction in man power resulting in a lonely solitary day for those who remain to work the land and tend the livestock.

Margaret is passionate about her subject and her audience had all lived through the changes she described.

There were times in her talk when the audience contributed almost as much as the speaker, recognising many people featured in the photographs and commenting on almost forgotten tasks.

Margaret Brown will be a hard act to follow.

Next month’s speaker will describe the evolution of blues music so a complete contrast will be made.