Monday, 19 December 2011

People were tougher then . . .

At yesterday's car boot sale I picked up a little book called Exmoor Wanderings, by Eric R Delderfield. I have a couple of others by him too (The Raleigh Country and Just Wandering in Devon). They are all published in the 1950s, when I was a little tot. By golly, but life was different then. E R Delderfield was brother of the novelist R M Delderfield and their father was editor of the Exmoor Chronicle. HERE'S a link for you if you want to learn more.

Delderfield writes of one old boy, still living (at that time), who, when he felt rather ill and went off his food, kept himself going on beer instead. And not just a couple of pints but 30 PINTS A DAY FOR FOUR MONTHS!!! I can only assume it was home-brew, and on the weak side. Apparently "he was very ill before he got better".

Then there was the farmer, Bill Ridd of Challacombe, weighing in at 30 stones if he was a pound, who managed to sire 8 children, never left the district (he died at Brendon in 1916) and despite his bulk, was out managing his farm every day, riding on - not a Shire-proportioned cob - but an Exmoor pony which must have been delighted at its master's demise! I have always known that Exmoors are tough (and stout) ponies (for photos see HERE) capable of carrying a man all day, but carrying 30 stone takes some beating.

Then there was the weather. Imagine snow so deep that even 5 bar gates were buried beneath it - which was the case in the dreadful winter of 1915. The farmers were going out with feed for their stock, using a horse and cart, and walking over the TOP of the gates! 1947 was another bad winter across the country, and it was 10 weeks before the roads were all cleared of snow . . .


  1. I'm sure that would be small beer, made from the third brewing of the barley, so hardly any alcoholic content.

    One of the books I have re-read since being stuck at home is Cobbett's Cottage Economy. Lots of sound advice in there, though I disagree most strongly with his opinion of tea.

  2. I'm sure that people were tougher in those days though I'm not sure that many could live on 30 pints of beer for even one day let alone 4 months! Though it would have had quite a lot of nutrients in it I suppose. I haven't come across Eric Delderfield before, is he related to R.F.Delderfield?

  3. I've heard people say that beer is beneficial (or has been thought so), particularly Guinness. I wish I liked beer but just don't like the taste. I love stories of the past like this. I remember one by Donald Hall about an old fellow who ate the same thing every single day. Life is rich and full.

  4. Blue Shed - beer so thin you could probably read the newspaper through it, or else he'd have been dead in a fortnight!

    Rowan - they were brothers apparently. I'll put a link up.

    Nan - didn't the odious Mr Barrett of Wimpole Street force Porter (stout) on poor Elizabeth as it would build her up? Yuk!

  5. I think central heating has made us a bit soft. The farmer talks about the days when every farmer got chilblains as a matter of course. Don's quite know what to think about the thirty stone man. Conjures up all sorts of images I would rather not think about!

  6. Like Weaver , I was thinking about poor Mrs Ridd as well as the Exmoor pony!

    Wasn`t 1915 the year after a great volcanic eruption on the other side of the world, which caused the severe winter here?

  7. I don't know about Mr. B, but I do recall an old British tv show where the father called for 'more gruel.' Do you know that one?