'Annie O.The Mill was born Ann Blenkinsop on Wednesday, 10th April, 1878 in Castle Carrock.. Her father, Thomas, died when she was eighteen months old and her mother, Mary Jane, was left to bring up three children. She ran the village brew-house and within two years she was married to a certain William Wilkinson.
Within six years and with another three children the family moved to Walton. Mary Jane had inherited the tenancy of the Mill. William drove one cart laden high with furniture and children and Mary-Jane, heavily pregnant, drove the other as they moved house and home to Walton. Mary-Jane gave birth to her sixth son within two days of arriving in Walton. Three more children were to be added to the family in the next few years.
As so often in those days, the weight of responsibility for the family fell on the mother. .The affable miller,. we are told, .was well liked in the local community. He was apparently a gregarious character whose generosity to fellow drinkers knew no bounds on his way home from market in Carlisle. His horse stopped automatically at every pub on the route and then, undriven, brought him home, lying totally inebriated, in the back of the cart.. The children were all tee-totallers throughout their lives.
Annie, as the eldest daughter, shared the burdens of the household with her mother.
In later years she had vivid memories of scrubbing the stone flags in the kitchen on a daily basis, the weekly clothes wash, the liveliness of the school class-room, and of keeping her hands warm on a cold, frosty morning by carrying hot-stones, that had been warmed in the dying embers of last night.s fire.
The annual routine included pickling eggs, gathering and preserving fruit and vegetables, mushrooms were collected in September, but the occasion that made for most work was the visit of the pig-stickers. .The two men were always covered in blood and the stench from their clothing alerted the pig to their intent. One of the men had to fell the pig with a felling hammer while the other pushed a sharp pointed stick into the animal.s brain, twisting the stick as he did so. If they were not successful at their first attempt the pig would run squealing round the yard (.squealing like a stuck pig.) while Annie.s brothers chased it with sticks and helped the pig-stickers to finish their gruesome task.
Annie married Robert Irving on her 21st birthday in 1899. They went to live in Newcastle where Robert had employment as a joiner. When Annie was pregnant with her second child, Robert was diagnosed as having stomach cancer. He died, still in hospital when his daughter was four-months old. Annie carried his coffin back to Walton in a horse and cart together with her children and her few possessions.
Shortly after setting up home in Walton, Annie drew up a notice announcing .Jam for Sale. Orders taken for Bread and Fruit Loaves.. She was as resourceful and energetic as her mother had been, and over the years she built a thriving business and raised her family. Will was a great success in school and won a medical scholarship to Durham in 1922. Annie received a deputation from the local squire telling her in no uncertain terms that her family were getting above themselves. .He wants to remind you that you are a village shopkeeper and shopkeepers. sons do not rise above themselves to think they can become doctors.. The arrogant messenger was swept out of the shop. Will became a doctor.
It is over fifty years since Annie o.the Mill died. The stories she told to her children and that have been retold to her grandchildren were rich and vivid. The memories still retain their lustre after a hundred years and more.
Anne Dawes, Annie.s namesake and grand-daughter is fortunate indeed to have inherited such a rich oral history from her grandmother. As she allows the recollections to speak for themselves, you can almost hear the grandmother talking late in the evening of the days gone by.
Annie O.The Mill is not simply the memory of one person.s life. The detail with which it is recalled and the everyday facts of life stir recollections that everyone has inherited from their grandparents and great-grand parents. Anne Dawes has written a memoir rich in local history.' - Steve Matthews, Bookcase.