Autobiography of Ted Morris (written about 1970)
son of William and Phoebe Morris of Darby's Common, Doddenham
and great-uncle to Richard Ankerson

I was born on July 4th 1894 in an ancient stone cottage on the east side of the Ankerdine Hills, it had been the home of my father, (William and Phoebe Morris) my grandfather (John and Susan Morris) and of my great grandfather. At birth my chances to survive were very slim, so the Rector came and baptized me in case I Ieft this world at short notice, but by the grace of Almighty God, I am here today to write this book at the age of seventy-six years. At the age of one year I was covered with boils, so I was taken to Worcester Infirmary where I remained for one month, then I was returned home, at eighteen months I scaled only eleven pounds at the weigh in. My legs were so deformed, that the doctor tried to persuade my father to let him break both my legs and reset them, but my father objected to that being done. At two years old I could not walk, and I can remember it to this day because I had to sit in a tiny chair, with splints on my legs, bound with bandages to pull my legs in to shape, and believe me, I used to scream at the very sight of that chair. This had to be carried out each day. My God father was Edwin Nicholas a shoe maker by trade, he used to come and see me every week, one day he said to my father 'Don't you ever let the Doctor break that boy's legs. I will make him a special pair of boots that will enable him to walk' and I owe him a debt of gratitude to this day because I was able to walk in a short space of time.


On looking back to when I was three years old, I can so well remember, an aged lady living on Ankerdine Hill, her name was Hadley, and she had a little grand-child living with her, she was the same age as myself. Her Granny used to bring her down to see me two or three times each week. One morning she asked her Granny if she would bring her down, but she said "Not today I am to busy, I will take you tomorrow" but this was never to be, because in the afternoon the child was missing, her Granny went on the hill to look for her, she found her sat down singing to her self, she had struck a box of matches and the grass had set fire and and she was burnt beyond feeling, she sang herself to sleep, never to wake up again, because she died the same night. That dreadful tragedy has always lingered in my mind, and in my heart, if only she had been down to see me she may have been here today and what lingered in the mind of her dear old Granny God only knows, how and where she had the matches from remains a mystery to this day.


I did not start school until I was six years old because I was so delicate. I had two miles to walk, but for all that, I made six years perfect attendance and received a silver medal which I still  have in my possession, my elder brother made eight years and was never once late, he received a silver watch and the Rector gave him a silver chain to go with it, because he was the first lad to achieve that award, and I expect he was the last one too.

 

Our parents were very strict in our home, and always exercised discipline, each night before going to bed, we had to kneel at our mother's knee. and say our prayers, then she would have a kiss and say "Good night God Bless, and sleep well". I often wonder how many are brought up in that way today, very few I fear.

When I was thirteen years old the school teacher wanted me to sit for an exam to go to Worcester Grammar School but in those days it was only the wealthy people who could afford to send their children to high schools, so I did not go.


When I left school my first situation was at Knightwick Post Office, (this was where I was born, Philip Holland in 1949) as a telegram boy for Mr & Mrs Riddell, (Post Master and shopkeeper) my hours were from 8.00 a.m. until 8.00 p.m. because telegrams could come through between those times, my wage was 3/- a week. I can remember one winter's night when Mr Riddell (James R. Riddell) called me, and said "Don't go home yet the bell is ringing in the Post Office"; he said it was a telegram, "Get the lantern" he said, and he put about one inch of candle on it, and he gave me two matches, he said "You have to go to the Old Fox and Hounds at Lulsley it's only about two miles, don't waste that candle, if the moon shines put it out, and don't waste those matches and look sharp back", this was at 7.55 p.m. and it was snowing fast. I got back at 9.15 p.m. He said "You found your way there", I said "Yes", "You may go home now,and don't be late in the morning", I had a mile to walk home. He had two daughters and a son, (Mary Elizabeth, Gwendolene and David Albert Riddell) being the only boy in the family he was always spoilt. I can remember one afternoon when we were having tea Mr Riddell came in from delivering the letters and said to his son, "Have you been to work", and he said "No, and I am not going to work", then they argued and started to fight so I got up from the table and went out in to the garden, when things had cooled down Mrs Riddell called me back in and said how sorry she was, I said "I am sorry too, but I am not used to this kind of life in our home, so I am afraid I will have to give you a week's notice", when my week was up, I collected my 3/- and went home, and told my mother I had left, and why I had left. My father said "What are you going to do now". I said "I think Mr Bishop wants a waggoners boy", so I went to see him. He looked at me and said, "Are you the chap they stand on the wall to hear the clock strike", I said "I don't think so", "Well he said perhaps you will do for a make shift, but you don't look a mucher to me". He said "I will give you three bob a week, but that is more than I can afford, you come in the morning and mind you are here by six o'clock". He had two farms three miles apart and I had to carry three quarter bottles of cider from the one farm to the other for the waggoner, one morning when I entered the stable at 6 o'clock he said "Come on where have you been with that drop of scrumpy I am thirsty, pour out". I said "How can you drink that cold stuff so early as this in a morning", he said "My lad don't you know, that bread is the staff of life but cider is life itself", I said "Then you will live for ever more". our pay day was on Sunday above all days, once a month, he always paid the men that worked on the estate first, then the waggoners and cowmen then I heard him shout "Come on in muggings", and I shall never forget that first pay day, on his table he had 144 pennies, he looked over the top of his spectacles and in a rough voice he said "This is a hell of a stack of money to pay a bit of a boy like you, hold your cap here" and he put it in and said "You will be a millionaire before I am out of debt", that was 12/- for a months work. I suffered that for three years at the same wage. I was now seventeen years of age, so I thought I would try the old man for a rise, when I asked him he said "Yes I was thinking about giving you an Irishman's rise", I said, "How much will that be", he said "One shilling less than you are having now", so I gave him one month's notice, when my notice expired I called for my 12/- and went home, my father said "What are you going to do now". I said "I am going to church this morning", while I was in church I prayed to Almighty God to help me and I was confident my prayers would be answered. When I went out after the service I heard someone calling after me, it was Mr Walker's son, he said, "Come back here my father wishes to speak to you". His father being a magistrate I said "I have done nothing wrong", he said, "I did not say you had", so I went back, his father said to me "You have left Mr Bishop I here", "Yes Sir" I said, "And why have you left" he said, "Well Sir" I said "the wage he paid me was not enough", "How much did he pay you" he said, "3/- a week Sir", He said "You are one of Bill's sons", I said "Yes Sir I am", "Well" he said "your brother is a waggoner at Horsham for me", Then he said "You come and work for me if you like, I will give you 8/- a week, a quart of cider each day and 2d a hour overtime", it was at this very moment I knew that God had heard my prayers in church and I never forgotten it. When I got home my father said "What sort of a church service did I have", I said "A very good one and I have another situation to go to tomorrow morning at 6 o'clock".


So I started to work for Mr Walker at Horsham on July 17th 1910. in September hop picking commenced and the bailiff Mr Nellist, asked me if I would to the booking in the hopyard, he said "If so I will give you 10/- a week", so I said "I will do my best", there was a heavy crop of hops and we had five weeks picking, of course it was all done by hand, at seven bushels to the shilling, when we had finished Mr Walker was at the farm to pay the pickers at 9.00 a.m. the next morning. He always had two police men there, one to see each picker into the house and the other to see them out. After he had paid them all he asked the bailiff "Who did the booking in the hopyard", he said "Ted Morris'', he said "Fetch him in, I want to see him'' so I went in, and he said "Did you do this book young fellow'' , "Yes Sir'' I said. "Well'' he said "in all the years I have been hop growing I have never had it kept so neat and clean". On his table before him he had three basins, one had coppers in, one silver and the other had sovereigns in, he put his hand in and gave me two sovereigns and said "Well done my lad, I give credit where credit is due''. I thanked him, and went out singing to myself, "For he's a jolly good fellow''. In the November, the horses were kept in at night and the bailiff said if you will clean out from these twelve horses by 7.00 a.m. each morning you can still have 10/- a week so I agreed to do it, my brother used to leave home at 4.00 a.m. and I followed on at 5.00 a.m. and we never left the stables until 8.00 p.m. all the winter months but we were happy at our job. In March 1912 my brother (Archibold Morris) emigrated to Canada, he asked Mr Walker, if he would give him a character to take with him, he said "I will give you an excellent one, but I will give you a better one to stop here''. Then he asked me if I would take my brother's job on as waggoner, at 15/- a week and I said "No thank you Sir, now he is going I will not feel content here''. Then he went and saw my  father, and asked him if he would try to persuade me to go to Ankerdine farm and look after his Hereford herd. My father said "You had better go'' so I went. 


In May, when the cattle went out to grass, bar the Bulls, I went out into the fields to work. He had quite a few acres of strawberries on the farm and on the 15th of June picking commenced. Mr Walker said "I want you to weigh those strawberries, and book them in''; he said "I am going to give them 2d a basket of 12 lb. for picking", he said "There will be a number of pickers so don't get them mixed up''. The first to come to weigh in was a young girl about eighteen years of age. I asked her if she liked fruit picking she said "Yes I love it", then she told me she had been in service at Alfrick Rectory for the Rev Shepperd at £4 a year, and that the living was not very good either. I felt sorry for her because she we a wonderful worker and kept good time, From then on or friendship grew and I had the greatest respect for her, when the picking was over, she went to service again at the Noak, Martley for Mrs Nash at £5 a year and she had one half day every three months, she had to go to church each Sunday and I accompanied her to church and saw her safely in at night, I had three miles to walk home, but people walked for miles in those days. 


In August 1914 the first world war broke out, and I was one of the first to be called up for service. I went to Norton Barracks,  to Birkenhead, Manchester and to Bury Barracks in Lancashire. There I was enlisted into the Royal Lancashire Fusiliers and I found myself working for King George the fifth at 1/- a day. 


In Feb. 1915 I was discharged and sent home, as soon as Mr Walker heard that I come home he sent for me, he said "I am glad you are back, will you go to Easinghope farm as waggoner for me, I will give you 15/- a week'' so I said "Yes'' he said "If you would like to go and see your girl friend first, go by all means, as she will be as pleased to see you back as I am'', so I walked over to the Noak and Mrs Nash invited me in for tea and told me what a good trustworthy servant my girl was. I accepted it as a great compliment, from  then on we were bound together by love and respect for each other and thank God we always kept it that way. 


In October she said how nice it would be if we had a little home of our own, I said "My dear girl, if it is your wish it shall be carried out, but let us put first things first. I will go and see your father and mother and ask if they have any objections to us being married'', so I saw them both and they were very happy to think we had decided to get married. So we got our little home together at the top of Ankerdine Hill, then we had the banns published, Mr Walker being a churchwarden heard this and he came to me in the field and said "I want you to come down to Ankerdine House one night next week and bring your girl with you, I want to talk to you both". So we went on the Wednesday night, he said "Come in and take a seat each''. He said "My dear you are going to be married before long'', "Yes Sir'' she said, "Well'' he said "I have known you both for many years and I don't see why you should not be very happy, I wish you all the best of luck, long life and happiness together'', he said "I have a wedding present for you and don't drop it", it was a beautiful double burner lamp, he said "Good night and God bless you both'', we accepted this as a great honour paid to us by Mr Walker and we never forgot it. 


Then on that beautiful morning of October the 27th I walked to the little village church of St Mary's Knightwick and there I joined my bride and underneath the eyes of Almighty God we made of solemn vows and promises and were married by the Rev Floyde Radcliffe Vicar of Knightwick. (William Searle Floyde Radcliffe - Rector of Knightwick from 1902 to 1926 - died 1932, aged 61) He gave us his blessing and asked us to attend Holy Commotion on the following Sunday which we carried out. In those days there we no time for honey moons I had to be at work by 6 o'clock the next morning, but we had a beautiful day and everyone enjoyed themselves. 


In the spring of 1916 Mr Walker bought the famous Shire stallion, Bury Victory, a reserve champion at London and a first prize winner at the Peterbro, Huntington, and lsle of Ely shows. In March he asked me if I would travel him in the counties of Worcestershire & Herefordshire, he said "He we very valuable and I want a sober chap with him''. I said "l will do my best', he said "I will give you 16/- a week and a grooms fee of 2/6''. On March 25th he handed me a log book and a certificate from the Board of Agriculture and said "You will have 35 miles to walk each day so off you go with the best of luck and be most careful''. It was often mid-night when I reached home, when I had completed the season on  July 7th I handed him my book, he looked through it and said, "Well done my lad you have done very well, but I want you to do some work now, as you have only been walking about for the past 13 weeks''. 


In July 1917 my mother received a letter from the War Office to say my brother had been killed in action. In August she received another letter saying my other brother had been killed in action and that my younger brother (Harvey) had been severely wounded, and was brought to Malta. This was a great blow for her and for my father. I did my best to keep them cheerful. 


On June 23rd 1918 our first child was born, a son this gave them and us a new hope for a while, but on May 13th 1921 my sister (Myra Morris) died with cancer at the age of 37 years, that was another nail in my mother's coffin. 


0n May 6th 1934 of second son was born, and my wife was in bed for nine weeks, but we never gave up hope, we always put or faith in God.

 

 

In 1942, my brother (Harvey) who had been wounded died at the age of 46 years and left a wife and young family. 


My mother (Phoebe Morris) died at the age of 78 years but my father (William Morris) lived to be 96. I used to shave him each week. In 1946 my old bailiff went blind and I shaved him until his death and several more who were also blind. 


When Mr Walker died I went to his funeral to pay my last respects to the man I had worked for 37 years. I am sorry to say his sons or grandsons will never do as he done. 


I remember him taking me to Docklow to fetch some cattle to Knightwick when we arrived at the farm he said to the bailiff, "Have you planted the Mangold seed'', he said "No, the drill is no good'', he said "What is wrong with it?'', he said "Well it is as old as Adam'' then he said, "My good chap, I have got one at Horsham that belonged to Adams father, and we are still using it". I heard him tell some farmers in Bromyard Market "That bit as I have forgotten would be useful to you people at times''. He was a very witty man and a good farmer, whatever people said about him I always respected him and no one has come to take his place as yet. 


After his death I left and went to the Ivy House Farm Broadwas, as waggoner for Mr Pugh, I was with him for 12 years, then I we ill for six months so there seemed to be no chance for me to go back and he wanted the cottage for another man, so we moved to Hallow Green in 1959. 


When I look back on my life I have seen good times and times not so good. I can remember the Boer War in the reign of Queen Victoria, her death, the coronation of King Edward the seventh, his death, the coronation of King George fifth, his death, the abdication of Edward the eight, the coronation of King George the sixth, his death and the coronation of our present Queen Elizabeth the second. 


I remember hauling coal from Pensax pits at 15/- a ton at the pit head and now it is that much per cwt. I have cut the corn by hand at 10/- per acre, and my wife tied it up behind me and stook it, when we had cut half an acre and stook it we had done a good day's work. I have mowed grass at 6/- per acre and I have thresher corn on the barn floor by hand with a threshel. I expect the generation of today would not know what a threshel was if they saw one and I am sure they would not know how to use one (A threshel is a flail an agricultural tool used for threshing, to separate grains from their husks, see below).


My father always told us "that hard work never anyone, only those who did not like it"; he used to tell us "always go out to meet your work, never let it come to meet you or you will always be behind". 


When we were first married, my wife's wage was 10d a day on the farm from 8.00 a.m. until 5.00 p.m. we had to pick the cherries at 1/6 a side that was 60 lb. but if you tell the young generation that they say we had no-brains in those days. 


In 1968 my wife began to waste away, her memory failed her and she lost all interest, I did my best for her in every way, I kept her as long as ever I could, she was always a honest wife and a loving mother, but in the end I had to let her go into hospital. I visited her three times each week, and at the last week three times each day; then on Feb. 17th 1969 she died and on Feb. 20th I laid to rest the girl I first met in the strawberry field at Ankerdine Farm on June 15th 1912.


We had 53 years of happy married life together. I go to her grave every day. Silently I stand and pray:


"Oh God in heaven, all love divine

Look down upon this soul of mine

Confirm me, that I may be

One day with her, nearer my God to thee"

 

A flail is an agricultural tool used for threshing, to separate grains from their husks. It is usually made from two or more sticks attached by a short chain or leather thong (A thunk is the leather that holds the sticks together and it is often called two sticks and a thong); one stick is held and swung, causing the other to strike a pile of grain, loosening the husks.

The precise dimensions and shape of a flail would have been developed by generations of farmers to suit the particular grain they were harvesting.
Flails have generally fallen into disuse in many nations because of the availability of technologies such as combine harvesters that require much less manual labour.

 


 

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