What Price Sheep Droppings

In late 1947 when food rationing was still in force, I fired for a driver called Arthur Moores who was a keen gardener. When ever we were on the 0435 Manchester Victoria to Hellifield he would come to work with a strong brown paper bag, some old newspapers and a piece of string. He would daily go into the field behind the turntable whilst I was turning the engine and collect sheep droppings which he said he placed in a sack inside a water butt beside his greenhouse, to feed and water his tomatoes.

As I said food rationing was still in force, and the industrious locals of Hellifield had a healthy sideline, black market meat, eggs and poultry, and if you knew who to see, you could get yourself a bit of something extra, always referred to as a lap up.

Monday.  We rang in to the South Cabin on arrival at Newton Heath after completing our turn of duty, and when walking  past the South Cabin (Foreman`s Office) Rubin Yates the foreman came out and commented on the lap up Arthur had under arm.  “I see they are still at it”.

Tuesday.  Same performance again, on passing the South Cabin, “doing well this week driver” “not bad foreman”.

Wednesday.  He (Rubin) was getting quite agitated now on seeing the parcel under Arthur’s arm suggested Arthur should be sharing his good fortune.  “You’re on that turn all week.’

Thursday.  Rubin was waiting outside his office and offered Arthur 2/6d for his lap up, which was refused, much to the disgust of Foreman Yates who said that he was being a little selfish.

Friday.  Mr Yates was waiting for us that morning and was not going to take no for an answer, having made up his mind he was going to share in Arthur’s good fortune.  “My final offer, five shillings, unseen” he said, whereupon Arthur turned to me and said “we can always get some more tomorrow, I think I will let him have it”. The deal was done and we set off up the shed yard. When we were out of sight of the office Arthur gave me 2/6d (the price of a night out in those days) and told me to keep my mouth shut about what had happened.

Saturday.  I was dreading what would happen when we arrived at the shed, but I need not have worried. Passing the foreman’s office Mr Yates was at the window. “Good morning driver” he said.  “Good morning foreman” Arthur replied and we walked on.

Some weeks later the inexperience of youth came into play when I saw Mr Yates in the shed yard and said “we are on Hellifield again next.…”  Before I could finish the sentence I got a hefty clout behind the ear for my trouble. It was his way of letting me know that my life would be unbearable if I told anyone what he had paid 5/0d for.

I was pleased a short time later when Mr Yates was promoted foreman at Grimethorpe and returned to his beloved Yorkshire, my youthful comment could have cost me dearly over the coming months.

Comments are closed.