The Merry Ploughman

Deepest darkest Suffolk, and a bric-a-brac market! Despite the eye-watering prices, there are still treasures to be found. Two postcards catch my eye.

The first is this ploughman, stooped from years of hard graft leaning into that plough. This is no pastoral idyll. It’s foggy, the mud looks muddy and our merry ploughboy seems to be working in a dank corner of a field at the bottom of the hill. I hope for his sake that the gate onto the path home, with its roaring fire and perpetually scalding teapot, is just ahead of him, somewhere amongst the trees on the right – and not all the way back up that hill. Poor old sod. We grumble about our modern sedentary office bound lifestyles, but we have no idea. This was the reality for most in the golden age – a hard slog from dawn until dusk.

It’s a wonderful picture, maybe a century old, showing a life that might as well be light years away, but is (almost) within living memory. Just after the outbreak of war in 1939, my Grandma turned up for work on her first day as a Land Girl – it would have been on or about her sixteenth birthday. Still a child! She had cycled the 8 miles out of Ipswich and, upon arrival, was presented with a field, a plough and pair of horses. Stuff that for a game of soldiers. She got straight back on her bike and pedalled home again. She spent the rest of the war driving cranes in a factory.


The second picture is a real find – a small boy on a bullock. Sometimes, the pictures speak for themselves. And sometimes, if you are really lucky, they come with the full story, carefully spelled out in best handwriting on the reverse.

“Dear Mrs Breeze

I feel quite ashamed to write after such a long time, but this have been such a busy summer with me. I have reared just upon a 100 turkeys and they want such a lot of attention. Norman grow a big boy. Hilton is such a chatterbox always talking. Thought you would like to see him on the Bullock. He is a real boy.

Trusting you are all well.

Yours sincerely
F Forster”


Hilton Forster and Norman Breeze! Proper names, if you ask me. A quick look at an online family tree site (the bit I can see before I hit the paywall) tells me that there was a Hilton Spanton Forster born in 1907 in St Faith’s, Norfolk, and a Norman Breeze born in the same place the year before. It must be them. And the “this have been such a busy summer” is pure Norfolk. The mention of turkeys does nothing to dispel that theory.

I am tempted to dig deeper into the lives of Hilton and Norman, not to mention Mrs Breeze and F Forster – and this may be a project for another day. But for now I am content to leave young Hilton on the back of his Bullock, with a life of idyllic summers before him –  and hopefully not too many days stuck behind a plough in dank foggy Norfolk fields.


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