Freddie The Errand Boy: by Win Bourne

bike 001

Kindly illustrated by Jeanette Davies of St Mary Bourne


Although thirteen year old Freddie (Frederick John Randall) didn’t spend a lot of time with his older brothers, he was very proud to boast that Alfred, the eldest, had already enlisted in the Territorials and was in training to go to war, and that Albert and Ernest, who were a couple of years younger, were keen to sign up too.

Freddie knew that his Mum and Dad were worrying about Alfred joining the army and even more so if his younger brothers did too. They sincerely hoped that this war would not last long and that the boys would come home safely so that they could get back to their normal lives.

The farm labourers – including his Dad – were working extra hours in Alfred’s absence, for though the harvest might be finished, there was always plenty of work to be done on the farm. Each day more young men left the village to answer the call, so the workload for all those remaining became heavier.

Freddie – along with most boys of his age – had not attended school during the harvest. Because this was one of the busiest times in the farming calendar, everybody – women and able-bodied children – were expected to help.

Now back at school, he still had his chores to do. He worked as an errand boy at the grocer’s shop, in place of Ernest, who now worked on the farm with Dad and his brothers. Freddie delivered provisions all through the valley on the grocer’s bicycle with the huge basket at the front – to the big houses, to the vicarage, and to those customers who were unable to carry bulky items. Having been in St Mary Bourne all of his young life, he knew everybody – where they lived and now – what they ate.

Some of his school friends must have been envious of him with his lovely job and of the few coppers he earned.

As he cycled passed Mrs Medhurst’s bakery, he would take a long sniff to inhale the lovely smells emanating from the shop.

At this time of the year (early autumn) Freddie and his pals would pull their home-made trolleys up to Wakeswood and into the woods, or Baptist Hill to collect any burnable fallen branches and fir cones found in the hedgerows, to store for the winter for the fires at home.

Sometimes he would sit his sister Florrie on the trolley on the way there, and when they reached the top of the hill by the Spring Hill turning, she would get off and pick blackberries to take home for Mum to make jam, or maybe a pie for Sunday tea along with the apples from the tree in the garden. There were also hazel nuts to be collected before the squirrels found them all.

Coming back down the hill was quite a task, every branch had been carefully loaded and the bundles tied down, however the weight of it and the steepness of the road threatened to hurtle the trolley downhill without him. The boys would take it in turns to help one another to the bottom

With this task completed he and Florrie would return home to their daily jobs. They would collect the eggs from the chicken run, wash them and take them indoors and put them in the larder. Sometimes if there were plenty, Mum would put the eggs in a basket outside the back door for sale.

Freddie would chop up kindling wood, fill the log basket with dry logs and take it into the kitchen ready for the next day, while Florrie helped Mum in the kitchen.

Often as he returned to the shop, having completed his deliveries, there would be a huddle of wives and mothers outside discussing the latest news of the village – which son, brother or husband had enlisted – and wondering how the families would manage without them, not just the labour but the money they earned too.



Although we have no independent corroboration of Frederick doing his brother’s grocery run, it seems highly likely that this is in fact what happened. Their father worked on a farm according to the 1911 census and the harvest meant extra money for all who could help. With so many having left for the front, extra hands would have welcome, and (relatively) well paid. But Ernest would have been older and stronger than Frederick, hence their all moving up a step. Ed.


Florrie And The Country Crafts: by Win Bourne


Little Girl Knitting by Albert Anker via

All through September most households in the valley had been busy harvesting their own garden produce as it ripened. Wives had been busy bottling fruit, making jam and pickling vegetables. Larders were replete with Kilner jars labelled and stored, ready to supplement the winter diet. The husbands had pulled up the onions, wrapping them in skeins and hanging them out to dry on hooks on the wall. They had prepared sloes and damsons to start blooping away in the shed in large buckets ready to transfer to demijohns and converting hopefully, into wine. If they were lucky they might have obtained some barley and had a barrel of beer brewing.

Now, in October, the thoughts turned to winter and the next season’s events.

This was going to be the best Christmas ever. Mum had taught seven-year old Florrie Randall how to knit and, as she sat outside in the late afternoon sun next to her, she was deciding which colour wool she would choose next.  Mum, and some of her neighbours – perhaps Mrs Benham and Mrs Pearce – would gather their chairs together outside in their yards to catch the last of the sun of a late afternoon to knit and chatter, the evening meals already prepared for the men coming home from the farms and the stables later.

Early preparation was crucial for gifts to be complete for the Christmas morning. Ladies were knitting, crocheting and sewing as fast as their nimble fingers could work. Florrie concentrated hard on her next stitch – in with the needle, round the needle with the wool and pull the needle back and off with the wool- done it- another stitch complete. This would only take a few weeks at this pace she thought. Mum had told her that there was a little bit of love in every stitch, and she did love her sister.
Mum had allowed her to rummage through her wool bag for scraps of left-over yarn and taught her how to knit a square. Florrie had seven squares of various hues already in her collection and she would need twenty before she could reach the next stage of her present for her little sister Ada, who was two years younger. She was going to sew the squares together to make a little blanket for a dolly, which Dad had already been busy making in his shed, along with a crib. Mum was knitting tiny garments to fit the dolly.
Oh! This was going to be Ada’s very best Christmas, and if her brother Alfred was home from the Army and this silly war was finished it would be the very best Christmas for the whole family.

After the evening meal Mother, Ada Randall, was busy on yet another piece of handiwork. She had acquired a hessian sack from Eli Brown, the carrier. Goodness knows what it had originally contained, not coal or anything wet or smelly, that’s for sure. She had soaked it in soda then washed it in the copper and now, as it hung out to dry, it smelled lovely.

Ada had spent many evenings painstakingly cutting strips of material about an inch wide and four inches long, while the light held. She had searched through her rag bag (everybody had a rag bag – a collection of worn out shirts, their buttons removed and saved, blanket pieces, sheets, skirts and even trousers – any length of material too good to throw away, no matter how big or small) and selected the strongest and thickest pieces. Once the onerous task of cutting of hundreds of rectangles was done, she would then begin making a rag rug – for that was the goal. Ada’s first job was to hem all around the edge of the hessian to stop it from fraying, then, with her rug hook, she would pull each strip of cloth through the weave of the backing, line after line until the rug was complete, the more strips she pulled through the tighter the rug became, making it firmer as she went.

She knew just where the rug would be put, underneath that draughty back door where the wind whistled through in cold evenings. She had already made several rugs in a myriad of colours, which were a comfort to everybody in their bedrooms as they first put their foot on the floor in the morning, that lovely soft surface instead of the cold stone floor. The rugs didn’t match, they were never meant to.
This creation was not any particular person’s Christmas present, but with that horrid draught from under the door blocked, everybody would have a cosier winter.


A reminder of Florrie Randall’s immediate family: