John & Pauline Fortey

Fortey_John & PaulineJohn & Pauline Fortey have both recorded their memories of life in the Witleys, and links to their recordings are below these written memories kindly provided by John, whose sister Judy Henshaw still lives in Great Witley.

I lived at Great Witley Post Office, from the age of 7, in 1944 to 1973 to when we moved to Cornwall. At the Post Office there was the telephone exchange which covered the villages of Great Witley and Abberley. I think the number of telephones were just about 100.  The family employed two operators, who also helped in the shop.  As children we were allowed to sit in the exchange room.  Being wartime there was a monitor phone. Audrey, who must have been about 18 years old, was, quite a girl, and if any users were rude or snobbish she would take her revenge. We would listen in on the monitor, Audrey would also listen in and gradually pull out the plug breaking the connection. She would then gradually push it back in and so on. We really did have some fun. The exchange was automated in 1949/50.

When in the Abberley and Witley Scouts, with my friends, John Taylor, Brian Rea and others, we were taught many woodcraft skills. We all carried sheath knives, ex-army clasp knives. One task was for the Scouts to build the Coronation beacon on top of Abberley Hill, about 100 yards from the trig point. Some of us camped on the site. We borrowed a Ferguson tractor, we knew how to drive it, and use pulleys and ropes. The owner of the ground said we could cut down any hawthorn trees and we split a flagpole which had fallen down a few years before. Using 3 and 6 pound axes we felled the trees (even now I can fell a tree to within 10 yards of where it should fall), in all 22 tons of wood, 40 gallons of old engine oil and 45 old tyres went into the beacon. The weather had been dry and hot until Coronation Day but on that day it poured down with rain all day. The beacon was lit in the evening. It roared away and we were all very pleased about the rain. The weights were worked out by Phil King, our Scoutmaster, also a farmer, hence the tractor. We were about 15 years old at the time.

In the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s most of the villagers had been brought up in the village or nearby and it was normal to catch rabbits for own use. About a third of the houses had a shotgun kept behind the door. Rabbits did do quite a lot of harm in the cornfields and there were a lot of them. We, often went out shooting rabbits and pigeons, not game, we knew we could not get away with that as we had a sergeant and two constables in the village who knew us very well. John and myself both had .22 rifles as well as 12 gauge guns. This was quite normal, and, no one would use them as a weapon. You never ever pointed a gun at anyone even knowing it was not loaded. You never ever fired a rifle, .22, without ground behind, if fired into the air it could travel for 2 miles. There were occasional accidents.

The Young Farmers Club was very strong and I was a member from when I returned from National Service, aged 20, until I  was at the upper age limit of 26.  We were a very robust club. It was educational in rural ways and, very social. Every dance had to have a bar. When we went out on a farm visit we always stopped at a pub where all members from 16 upward were included, but woe betide any youngster who made a fool of themselves. The older ones took that responsibility quite seriously. In one instance, when I was the chairman, we had arranged a local dance, and the local landlord had let us down for the bar. The Police Sergeant phoned me, I had to find another landlord, we then went to the police station, where the Sergeant brought a magistrate, we held court in the car park, it took us about 5 minutes, we had our licence and bar!

Johns recording: Fortey_John_20140923_1_2_A (11 mins 11 secs)

Start Topic Period
00.12 Playing at Walsgrove Farm, John Taylor, Colin Pyatt and David Jones 1950s
00.52 The Walsgrove Dairy Cattle and milking time 1950s
02.00 Public footpaths in Great Witley. Respect for the countryside 1950s
02.38 Fishing in the village Inkpot Pool and Dr Goodwins pool 1950s
03.40 Swimming at the Washing Pool 1950s
04.14 Blowing the organ at the Parish Church 1950s
05.10 Mr Taylors home grown tobacco 1950s
05.50 The Hundred House Dances 1950/60s
06.05 Licencing requirements for Young Farmers dances 1950/60s
07.30 The Queens Coronation Celebrations and construction of a beacon bonfire on Abberley Hill June 1953 1953

Paulines recording: Fortey_Pauline_20140923_1_2_A (6 mins 14 secs)

Start Topic Period
00.11 Village carol singers 1960s
01.17 Family planning problems 1960s
02.00 A new rector arrives 1960s
02.43 Financial irregularities at the Parish Church. National media interest in the scandal 1960s
03.42 Christmas Midnight Mass and the Bishop of Worcester 1960s
04.10 Post Office life in the 1960s 1960s
05.15 The shop becomes self service and mice in the slimming rolls 1960s

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