MANY readers will remember Fred Long ­— in his time he farmed at Westover, Park Place Farm and Hillis.

Jovial and always ready for a chat, Colin Fairweather and I recorded a long interview with Fred in 1984, talking about his farming years.

He was born at White House Farm, near Porchfield in 1914, and his first school was Lock’s Green at Porchfield

“I was six ­— there was about 50 kids there, mostly farming children, and two women teachers, typical old schoolmarms,” said Fred.

“Seemed to me they had a grudge against nippers because a lot of ‘em, see, it was just after the war and they’d a lost their boyfriends, and that, in the war.

“Anyway, I soldiered on at school until I was 14 and then I left and started on the farm, at Park Place, on the Newport to Calbourne road.

“I learnt all the skills by the time I was 20.

“I could plough, sow, thatch, look after sheep.

“By the time you was 20 you’d a learnt the lot and really speaking, none of it’s any use now.”

Fred was working for his father, who gave him his orders everyday.

What did he have to do?

“You had to do anything what you was told to do ­— oh yeah.

“When you had your orders in the morning, you’d a thought some days he was going away for a week. You wouldn’t see him no more for a week.

“At Park Place Farm we used to keep about 20 cows there ­— all milkers ­— sties of pigs at various stages of fattening, sheep and the corn.

“As a kid I used to catch moles in traps.

“You had to because that was your pocket money ­— what you got for the skins.

“You’d skin ‘em and tack ‘em out on a board till they got dry and me and me brother used to send ‘em to a bloke in London and you had a nice little postal order come back.

“We had lots of farm pests ­— stoats, weasels, rats and foxes.

“They say about all this protection of birds and one thing and another, but they days there was no birds protected and the keepers used to shoot the hawks and jackdaws and jays.

“As a countryman you gets this bad name for destroying this, but a real countryman knows just the way to sort of balance it.

“Like jay shooting.

“The estate gamekeepers used to say to us young chaps, ‘there’s a lot of jays in our copse. Can you help us one night?’

“That was just what we wanted. We used to get hold of a young jay, tie him on a string, let him fly up through the trees and pull the string and make him shout, and when the old ones come round to see what was going on, shoot ‘em all.

“You’d get branded as barbarians or summat now, wouldn’t you?

“Haymaking was hard work for the horses but you never had no trouble to get haymakers they days.

“Soon as the grasscutters started rattling, there was about four blokes looking over the gate, asking for a job.

“Times were tough. You can’t compare ‘em today.

“All through the 20s there was chaps about who’d come out of the army in 1919 and they hadn’t hit a stroke of work since and it wasn’t because they wouldn’t work ­— it was because there was none for ‘em.

“Sunday evenings we used to get a bit of time off ­— walked to Newport sometimes, walked round, window shopping. Eyed the fillies up and down.”

Was there a strong bond between the community in those days?

“Yeah. Like, say, harvest time.

“Perhaps you finished harvest and somebody next to you still had some out.

“Well, if it was only one day, you went and helped them get it in so everybody finished without getting any wet but I think today, they’d be more likely to laugh at you if you got some corn out there getting wet.

“There ain’t the sort of camaraderie between farmers as what there was in my young days.

“You was all the peasant farmer sort of type. You never had nobody coming out of offices, and one thing and another, and businessmen trying to farm.

“You was all like meself and the wife’s people. You was born and bred to it ­— generations of you.

Were they better off than townspeople?

“Well, in some respects yeah, but you can’t compare those days with today.

“No use to try and make a comparison. I don’t think you’d see kids bring two chunks of bread wrapped up in a bit of newspaper, like I saw when I went to school.

“We moved to Westover Farm in 1933.

“It wasn’t very prosperous when we went there, in fact, it was pretty rundown, but we made a go of it.

“My only regret was that me dad never bought it when it came up for sale.

“It went for £6,000 in 1956, and we’d a been there and made the farm.

“I’d a done 23 years there and I reckon I’d thrown me life away.

“That was my lifetime thrown away. All me best years. We never stayed to reap the benefit of it.”