DATA BASE REF: A/F 1016
HAROLD ROBERT (BOB) LAW and JOAN MARY LAW nee BARRATT
Bob and Joan live in a Milton house, 9 Walton Road Marholm, both having lived in the village as children.
John Fanny John ????
Law Gathercoal Lilley Lilley
William Henry Florence May Charles Alfred Edith May
Law Lilley Barratt Owen
Harold Robert(Bob) Joan Mary Law
Law nee Barratt
b. 24 mar 1920 Newborough b. 28 Jun 1928 at Barnwell
Bob was the 4th of six children viz: Joan was the 1st of four children viz:
1.Eddie 1. Joan
2.Jock (William Gilbert) 2.Charlie Barratt (also lives in Marholm-next door)
3.Daisy 3.Betty – now at Kettering
4.Bob 4.Dorothy (Dolly) now at Comberton
6.Frances(now at Dogsthorpe)
Bob’s parents moved from Newborough to Marholm in 1928 to take on The Fruit Farm at Marholm (the house is now known as Forester’s Lodge). It was called The Fruit Farm after the big orchard at the side. Bob’s father shared the tenancy of the Fruit Farm in partnership with a Mr Stacey. Both families lived in two parts of the house. Mostly the farm was arable, wheat, beet, with no animals other than horses for working. His father let some of the fields as “joistry”, when other farmers used Fruit Farm for grazing their animals. Their horses were used for ploughing and draught, lifting beet. After one year the Laws moved to Gatehouse Farm, down Woodcroft Road, by the railway crossing.. It was a bigger arable farm of about 200+ acres. They had three horses named Bonny, Daisy, and Prince. They were rum horses; Dad bought Prince off Old Man Jarvis, and Prince would rear up like a circus horse even with a cart-load on. Bob had to do all sorts off jobs before going to school each day. When Bob was 14, in about 1934, his father moved to Werrington to run Ham Farm, which belonged to Meadows the Fruiterers. Mrs Meadows then owned the farm, a powerful woman with a big voice. Bob’s farther stayed there until the middle of the war, when the farm was taken off him by the WARAG (Wartime Ministry of Agriculture) as he would not farm the way the WARG wanted. Bob’s Dad had very much a mind of his own, and he then went to work in the Ordnance Factory in Sage’s Lane.
Back to Marholm:
Bob had been friendly with Roy Darby since their school-days together and in 1937 he went to work for the Darby’s at Marholm, still living at Werrington for a while, until he moved into Marholm Farmhouse and lived as a member of the family. Eleanor Darby then ran the farm,
Joan’s father, Charles Barratt, lived at Barnwell, then Wigsthorpe (farming), but they decided that they needed more room for their children, and moved to Poplar Farmhouse, when he started work for the Waterworths of Manor Farm Marholm. The family shared Poplar Farmhouse before the war with the Fieldings, Mr Fielding being the cowman for the Waterworths. Poplar Farmhouse then had part electric, and only cold running water. Then Joan’s family moved to where Mrs Gale used to live, Tripp’s Cottage, just beyond Milton Thatch; it was also a Milton house let to the Waterworths. The family then moved to Waterend Cottage, Woodcroft Road Marholm, which was then two houses. There were two other thatched cottages, at right angles to Waterend Cottages, which were burnt down during the war. Other families living there were the Starsmores and Alison and Charlie Bailey. Joan’s family moved to one of the new houses, 8 Walton Road Marholm in 1950. Joan started work at Walton Drapers Shop.
Bob and Joan:
After their marriage Bob and Joan moved to 9 Walton Road Marholm, one of a pair of houses built by Milton to replace the cottages at Waterend which burnt down. They have now lived there for 54 years. Bob worked for the Darbys doing everything from lorry-driving, tractors, combines to chimney sweep. He does not recall disliking anything, apart from milking the cows which he did at first, for that was seven days a week, and he was a young man. He was happy enough, never grumbled, it was hard work, for example picking up sacks in season until 9 or 10 pm.
Aircraft Crash at Marholm and the War:
In 1943 (Bob thinks) he was working in the field opposite Mucklands Wood with Mr Starsmore. It was a foggy morning, when all of a sudden there was a whooshing noise. He looked up and saw that an aeroplane was going to crash; it hit a tree in Bellum Wood. Mr Starsmore had the horses, so Bob said he would go. He ran to the site, putting a hanky over his mouth because of the strong petrol fumes. Charlie Bailey was working in the next field, but was a bit nervous. Bob saw a man moaning, cursing away and calling for help. The plane had stopped near the road, but the engine was in the wood. One man hanging out of the plane was clearly already dead.. the other man, wounded, was still strapped into what remained of the cockpit. He was in a terrible mess, but called for me to release him before the whole thing blew up.. Some signallers, based in the nissen huts at Marholm, arrived on the scene and helped me as I was getting him out. An ambulance arrived. We put the dead man in it, and then the live man in another ambulance; he was still conscious. Bob received a letter from the Group Captain at Wittering thanking him for his assistance. Bob never met the man again, although the airman at one stage wanted to get in touch. The plane was a Milesmaster training aircraft. (Comment by WB – it sounds to me as though really Bob should have received some award; had it been peacetime he most certainly would have done.)
Men from the Royal Signals were based at the Rectory at Marholm during the war. They built nissen huts in the grounds. After the war, these huts were empty, and because of the shortage of housing people from Castor were moved into them. peter and Olga Hutchinson also lived in one, as did the Starsmores and Smiths from Castor. There were also nissen huts in Milton Park. There were a lot of foreigners around with the RecCross and son; some special forces at Milton, dropped behind the lines. Italian POWs worked on the farms. They were brought from their camps in vans; they wore army clothes, tunics and trousers. The Italians were good workers. There were German POWs as well. They were not bad really; some of them liked living here. A lot of land girls came here, like Betty Andrews (still here in Marholm at Marholm Farm living with the Darbys). When we wanted extra labour, such as threshing, we would get extra landgirls from Barnack
Village Life and Work:
There was little money, and it did not go far. At Harvest, in the 1930s, they would load the cart and wagons with sheaves of corn, stack them in the stack-yard, thatch the stack, and wait for the threshing machine (owned by the Gibbons of Castor) to come. Th machine had a big drum which threshed the corn, chucking the straw out at the back. The corn would run down a channel into sacks (18 stone bags) which then had to be piled up and loaded, usually stacked two high (“that’s done my back”– Bob). Barley sacks weighed 16 stone, wheat 18 stone and beans 19 stone. They would take the corn on a Saturday morning to sell it at the Corn Exchange in Peterborough. They all shot (mostly rabbits and pheasants), but Bob did a lot of ferreting with Roy DarbyRoy was a big gentle man. (Roy shot himself with Bob’s gun, Bob found him at the back of the farm near the spring, from where they pumped water. In those days evreybody knew evreybody, now people come and go and you don’t know who they are.
Bob was in Marholm Church Choir (no robes for the choir) from the age of 8 to 14, run by Mr Johnnie Crowson who lived in Church Walk Marholm. He and his wife used to clean the church, boiling the water at home and bringing it to the church. In those days the Old Parsonage was two houses, the Crowsons living in one part, the Stapletons living in another. Jimmy Turner was the parson, a doddery sort of man; they had a lot of different ones during the war. They used to scrump from the walnut tree behind the Rectory, and the parson would chase them off. The morning service was at 11am, and Evensong was at 6pm. Children in the choir were given a farthing every time they went to church, double the money if they went behind to pump the organ. The organist was Miss Dennis, and then Miss Firtle. The church was much as it is now, but colder. They had Holy Communion once a month at 8am. There were about a dozen people in the choir. Bob always wore a suit on Sundays. Life was hard; it was a job to make ends meet when you first got married. But somehow it seems people were more content, less greedy, enough was just enough.
These notes were made by William Burke , while talking to Bob and Joan on 24th October 2002 .