Jones, Eric (b.1908)
Eric Jones was born in 1908 and farmed in North Petherton near Bridgwater. He sold cattle, sheep, poultry and eggs at Bridgwater market, as well as cultivating and harvesting peas on the rich farmland around North Petherton. Eric remembered the ploughing competitions held in May by local farmers in the 1930s. The landowner would supply beer or cider to acknowledge his gratitude for the free ploughing carried out by the competitors.
Mr Jones & Mrs Jones, Pratts Farm. North Petherton, 1980. Mr Jones & Mrs Jones, Pratts Farm. North Petherton, 1980.
Sound File
Listen to Eric Jones - 1.68MB Duration 3:39 min.

MJ: Once that was done, they had to pick only the ones that were full, well-matured peas, all the flats, that’s what was not mature, had to stay on the hellum to ripen at a later date.  The women used to pick the peas in what was called ‘pootches’, this is similar to something that they made of linen, which my late mother used to make, and um they tied this pootch around their waist and they had to bend their backs to pick the peas, and put them into the pootch.


[Coughs] There would be as many probably in the early days as forty pickers in the field.  They would be looked after with a ‘ganger’ who, when he walks up and down the row to see they weren’t treading on peas, putting in flat ones which they should not put in, and they were very strict in those days, and then, when he saw perhaps that one picker had her pootch nearly full, he would then say right “Bottoms up”! And that would mean every woman or man there would have to untie their pootch and the ganger would come along with willow baskets, um which would hold around about a bushel, that’s what they were sold in those days, a bushel.  The ganger used to then take them back to the scale and weigh them and the pickers went on in the normal way, filling up their pootches again.


We used to hold hoeing competitions where of an evening round about 15th-20th May you would get, we had as many as eighty-four one evening at Pratts Farm, and these people used to come and compete, one against the other. They had a hundred yards to hoe, to single - that would be fifty yards down and fifty yards back so that meant you had two rows.  Then you missed the next row because a competitor might tread on your plants, which you didn’t want.  Every other row you had two rows for the competitor to hoe.


The farmer, in whose field the roots were being grown, usually was looked upon to supply a barrel of beer free of cost, because, of course, he had so many roots hoed for nothing.  There was no entrance fee.  The prize was usually £3-£5, first prize, and it was an evening out where Jack met Harry, which he hadn’t seen perhaps, since the last twelve month.  Unfortunately, of course, that’s now gone, I think the television has taken all this competition away, and we are still running the ploughing match.

Copyright Information
Copyright. This recording was made by Ann Heeley in April 1980. Photograph ©Ann Heeley. For access to full interview please contact the Somerset Heritage Centre.