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Voices of the Lake District
Voices of the Lake District
Jane Renouf & Rob David
"Voices of the Lake District" is the unique and fascinating result of many conversations and interviews with local people in the Lakeland community, recalling life in the area over the past century.
Compiled by Ambleside Oral History Group, vivid memories are recounted, including childhood and schooldays, work and play, sport and leisure, as well as the war years. Illustrated with over 50 archive pictures, many previously unpublished, this volume also demonstrates the humour, courage and indomitable spirit of the local population - from the farmers, shop-keepers, shepherds and quarrymen to those who lived above and below stairs in the grand houses - and paints a revealing picture of life in this uniquely beautiful setting. Anyone who knows the Lakes, as a resident or a visitor, will be amused and entertained, surprised and moved by these stories, which capture the changes that have taken place in the area through the eyes of its residents.
235mm x 165mm paperback
Black & white photographs
The past is like a complex jigsaw of millions and millions of pieces that will never be completed. Each individual piece has its intricate and fascinating detail and the more pieces you are able to put together the more you begin to see the bigger picture.
The Ambleside Oral History Group have been collecting pieces for their jigsaw for forty years or so and have recorded over four hundred interviews that go back to the last decades of Queen Victoria’s reign.
A hundred years ago the aristocracy provided the bright colours. Margaret Greenup, who was born in 1895, remembered, as a little girl, watching the wealthy folk: “We used to go down there onto the road to watch Lord Lonsdale and all his yellow perils – as we called them – come through. It was lovely at Grasmere Sports to watch all the lunches laid out, you know, all beautiful lunches, roasted pheasants and that.”
Such luxury ended in 1914. Laura Richardson, as the daughter of a wealthy Newcastle family, remembered how, in the years before she was six, they used to reserve a railway carriage to migrate with their full household to the Lake District every year: “The First World War killed all that elaborate moving from one place to another with the silver egg stands . . . and a good thing it was too. I can eat my egg out of a china cup.”
The wealthy seemed to lead separate lives. Beatrix Potter, that sensitive communicator to all children, was not always so sympathetic. Willow Taylor and his friends found that she had something of the Mr MacGregor in her make-up: “Beatrix Potter couldn’t bear to see the local children playing in the village. In fact, when we saw her in her car leaving with her chauffeur, we used to raise a cheer and say, ‘Hooray, she’s gone’.”
Life was far harder for the majority of the people. Cecil Otway, who recalled everyday scenes with vivid detail, provides some of the darker shades: “They had eight or ten kiddies . . .They were sleeping head to toe, or else on the floor. You’d see them with their washing hanging out – Carr’s flour bags, the white ones from Carr’s of Carlisle . . . well all those people used to get them from the grocer. When the flour bag was empty, you washed them, and they made good pillow cases.”
He also tells us about boyish pleasures which, fortunately, perhaps, are not with us today: “If you got a rat tail and took it to the council office you would get 3d for it, so if you saw a rat you’d cut off its tail.” That same Cecil Otway is shown in a photograph, at the age of ninety, still sticking to his last, hammering the hob-nails into a pair of boots he is making in his Ambleside workshop. He was very lucky to have survived so long. “At Horrax’s bobbin mill, I got a post driven right through my tummy off a circular saw. I lived in hospital for about six years.”
Even for the poor, life did have its pleasures. Joan Newby remembered the exquisite stickiness of freshly made toffee: “You lost your first teeth on Mammy Dugdale’s glaggum.” It was a dubious pleasure. Tom Nicholson was asked to lie down on the kitchen table, cotton wool was placed over his mouth and he was told to count. “When I woke up, I wondered what my mouth was bleeding for, but I had every tooth taken out.”
Jane Renouf and Rob David have pieced together just a few of the many parts of the huge picture that is to be found in Ambleside’s archive, now online at www.aohg.org.uk.
The picture is ever-growing, and this well-crafted book is just a tantalising part of the immense jigsaw of our shared past.
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