Hello Finmere Transcript
Broadcast by the BBC. 13 June 1971. Duration 29½ minutes. © BBC. Interviewer John Simpson. Listen to Hello Finmere.
[Introduction by John Simpson]
JS: Well Bert, how long have you been here?
BH: 59 years
JS: You were born here?
BH: I was born here, yes
JS: In this pub?
BH: That’s right, yes.
JS: It’s not very often that you find a publican who was born in the pub he now looks after.
BH: Not very often. I dare say there is some about. I’ve never heard of them being in their own house all the while.
JS: It’s the first one I’ve come across.
JS: Have you seen may changes here in Finmere?
BH: Oh yes, quite a lot. Different things, you know. When the old horse and cart used to come up the village instead of motor cars now.
JS: Because you’re sitting here on the junction of the main road and the road going into the village and the traffic’s actually stopped at the moment but just a few moments ago it really was busy.
BH: That’s right. Yes, we get quite a lot, quite a lot of traffic through now. It’s quite a busy road. Even in the village itself there’s quite a lot of traffic up and down.
JS: I suppose this wasn’t so in days gone by?
BH: No, no. One car a day perhaps, something like that.
JS: What sort of trade do you do here? The locals or do you get many visitors in?
BH: Well, we rely more on passing trade, you know. That’s our business more or less.
JS: Does this mean you’re busier in the summer?
BH: In the summer, yes. Summer months, that’s there. Winter’s very quiet, you know. Just the, you only get your locals, more or less.
JS: When I came just now you were out on your garden. Does that mean you’re a keen gardener?
BH: Oh, I like doing the garden, yes. We got quite a bit. I grow my own potatoes and all that. I like to go and have a go at it. I used to keep a lot of pigs at one time.
JS: Did you? What sort of pigs?
BH: Sows and that, breeding, you know. About a dozen sows, keep them for breeding. Sell the little ones, eight or nine weeks old.
JS: Do you need much expertise to do this?
BH: Well, I was brought up with it. Father used to do it you see and I got to know how to go on with him, you see, because he used to do them before I did. And when they were eight or nine weeks old we used to take them to market, you see, and sell them at Banbury or Aylesbury.
JS: What do you feed your pigs on?
BH: Well, we used to have steamer boil up, boil the food up, which was the best I think. Better than a lot of this dry stuff today. The pigs used to do better, I think, than what they do now, you know.
JS: Of course, the idea of keeping pigs and taking them to market has disappeared these days, hasn’t it.
BH: Yes. You’ve go to go at it in a big way you see. Well, hundreds, thousands really.
JS: You said that you were born here, in the pub, and that you’ve lived in the pub all your life. Do you find pub work very hard?
BH: Well, no. I don’t mind it, take it on the whole. I think it’s a very good job you know. What I like best is when there’s plenty of people about, you know, so as you can, everybody comes in and when the suns a shining everybody seems happy. In the winter’s the worst part, dull nights, quiet, no-one around much. Time drags then more.
JS: But you much prefer the summer?
BH: Well the summer’s the best time. You get different holiday people in, from all parts of the country, coming in on the way to having their holidays and it makes an enjoyable time of it.
JS: I’ve always heard it said that if you are going to be a publican you have got to be able to stand and listen to other people talking.
BH: That is so, yes. You’ve got to listen to them and have all their aches and pains. Whether you’re in aches and pains yourself, you have to put up with that.
JS: But you don’t mind
BH: Well, no, no. Not if they’re happy, that’s it, you like to see everybody happy.
JS: Well now I’ve moved further down the village to the village school. And with me is Miss Bates who’s the headmistress. Miss Bates, what age range are the children at the school here?
OB: Five to eleven.
JS: It’s rather a nice building you are in.
OB: Yes. It’s eleven years old but it doesn’t really look it, does it?
JS: It certainly doesn’t.
OB: It’s kept very well. Lots of people think its still quite the latest thing.
JS: Whereabouts do the children come from?
OB: They come from the five surrounding villages, Mixbury and Newton Purcell, Cottisford and Juniper, and Finmere itself, of course.
JS: And how do the children get home?
OB: They travel by little mini-bus.
JS: The one thing that struck me when I walked in was the number of pets there are in this school.
OB. Oh, yes. We think its very good for the children to have an interest in animals. It gives them a sense of responsibility, sympathetic towards the animal world. We have guinea pigs that we’ve had ever since we opened the school. Not the same ones, of course, and gerbils and bantams.
JS: There was also a dog wandering around when I first came in.
OB. Oh yes. That’s our own personal dog but she was brought up in school and a great pet with the children.
JS. I noticed that all the children were making a great fuss of her.
OB: Yes, yes.
JS: The other thing looking around the walls here, you’ve got all kinds of pictures and things, but just round behind us I noticed that there was something that looked rather like a census.
OB: Yes, Well, of course, following the census that we all had to do personally, we thought we would like to do a school census. The children themselves brought all the information in about their own families and their own villages and we’ve been able to discover the population. We’ve got a terrific lot of mathematical work out of it. You know, the number of males and females, and children under five, and children between five and fifteen. In fact, we now know that we’ve got fifty-four children to come in the next five years. So that’s an average of ten a year. So that’s helping our forecast for our school roll for the future.
JS: So the survey in fact is doing something useful.
OB: It’s doing something useful and the children are finding it very interesting.
JS: The one thing we haven’t mentioned, we did say that the school looked fairly new although it was eleven years old, what we haven’t mentioned is that its based almost like an open plan, isn’t it.
OB: Yes, yes. It has many corners and bays where the children go off to work at various projects. We never shut ourselves off into little partitioned places. We all work together as one family although its getting a rather large family now. We should have a family of about fifty but its now got to about sixty eight. So it’s a bit of a job to find enough corners to put them in nowadays.
JS: One of the other things I’ve noticed here in the school is the summer of musical instruments lying around. So presumably, the children make music for themselves.
OB: Yes. Every child in the school has had the opportunity to play one, two, three, four different instruments before they leave. They start quite young, some of them even at five, just according to how they take to it. We have violins, tenor recorders, descant recorders, treble recorders, even a little tiny one called a sopranino. And then we have all sorts of percussion instruments and glockenspiels. And at the moment, we’re working for our music festival, which is being held at Stoke Lyne this year. This is when several schools come together and we have a grand social occasion, and sing and play together.
JS: Have you been here in Finmere very long?
OB: Ever since school was built, eleven years ago.
JS: Where were you before that?
OB: I was in the south of the county, in a village called Stoke Roe, which is down near Henley-on-Thames. Eleven years ago, when I saw that there had been a new school built at Finmere, I thought I’d like to come back to my own part of the county. Finmere being not far from where I was born and I was fortunate enough to get the post. It was like coming back home to the part where I lived as a child.
JS: Well, now I’ve met Mrs Dorothy Carter, who’s the secretary and treasurer of the Finmere Village Hall Committee. Mrs Carter, I’ve been told during my visit this afternoon that there were some problems with the village hall over the last couple of years.
DC: Yes, this is correct. This lack of funds and they were going to close it down twelve months ago but we formed a new committee, of which I am now sec and treasurer. I was not on the committee before this, and we are doing very well at the moment.
JS: So presumably, you’re raising more funds?
DC: Yes, we have over two hundred pound in the bank at the present moment.
JS: How long has it taken to raise that much?
DC: Twelve months.
JS: Well you must have been busy. Now what sort of thing have you been doing over the past twelve months?
DC: Well, we did a sponsored walk and jumbles sales and a fete, run bingos and you know, lots of little things that help to [drowned out by JS]
JS: All the usual sort of activities. That’s a lot of money though. Where abouts did you go on your walk, for instance?
DC: Well, it was only a ten mile walk, so it was mostly children that did this for us but it raised over the forty pound mark
JS: Of course, Finmere is not a very big village, is it? So two hundred pounds is quite a substantial amount of money.
DC: Well it is, yes. Especially, in twelve months. We’re very pleased with it.
JS: So, now the village hall has been reprieved, what sort of things go on there?
DC: Well, the usual, you know, the bingos. At the moment, we’ve just started a play group which is very much like a youth club only with the younger section of the village, which includes all the children that like to come. And we do this on a Tuesday evening, go through from six to ten, and the children do.
JS: So they all get together, it’s almost an extension of school.
DC: Yes. But they more or less do what they want. You know, we get some free expression into it.
JS: Do you enjoy this?
DC: Yes, very much.
JS: What sort of role do you take in it?
DC: Well. just generally keep an eye open on them and helping them and organising the games with them, you know.
JS: The one thing that I didn’t say, I mentioned that it was an extension of school, what we didn’t say was that I’m actually talking to you here in the village school because you’re the village school caretaker.
DC: This is right, yes.
JS: How long have you been working here?
DC: Since it opened, eleven years.
JS: It strikes me its would be rather an easy place to look after because its nice open plan and plenty of freedom to move around.
DC: Well it is. There’s not a lot of odd corners that you can, you know, get stuck in. It’s quite pleasant really.
JS: How long have you been here in Finmere?
DC: Eighteen years.
JS: And where you before.
DC: Bicester. Well, we came through from Whitney. I originate from Whitney but my husband and I, we were running agricultural camps in Bicester and the surrounding areas.
JS: Agricultural camps? Now tell me a little bit more about this. What’s that?
DC: Well, they were, we had DPs to start with, the Displaced Persons and then the lend a hand on the land camps, where they used to come down for holidays and work on the land.
JS: Were they very difficult to run?
DC: No, no. It’s very interesting.
JS: How many people would you be looking after, roughly?
DC: Well, it varied from 170, I suppose, to about 250. It varied on the camp that you were at. But we had the same [?] at one camp, you know, it was very interesting indeed.
JS: What sort of job would you be doing though. Would you be looking after their welfare?
DC: Yes, well what you call a matron, a sort of hostel matron.
JS: Rather a big family then.
DC: [Laughs] Well, I wouldn’t want a family like it myself, I don’t think.
JS: What do you think of Finmere, do you like it here?
DC: Yes, as I’ve got used to it now. It was a bit out in the wilds when we first came here, you know, but we got used to it.
JS: The people that live here, are they very friendly?
DC: Yes, very nice.
JS: Well, now I’ve moved a little further along the village and I’ve called in to meet Mrs Carmichael who lives at the Stone House, here in Finmere. Mrs Carmichael, when I knocked on your door just now, I was greeting by a dog and, to my eye, it was rather a strange dog in as much as I have never seen one like that before. What exactly was it?
MC: Oh, it’s a Pointer. Some of them call them English pointers but that’s wrong. It’s the old pointer and his function is to go out and find birds for you, and point them. And he literally does, he stands with his nose and his tail out in a straight line, where he knows perfectly well where the bird is, although you may not be able to see it.
JS: How long have you been keeping pointers?
MC: Oh, about twelve years. We were given our first dog as a puppy, really as a pet, and he did well at dog shows and we went on with him and he finished up a full champion, and he died last year but I have another one whom I’m trying to train for field trials. He’s been to one already and he didn’t do so awfully well there but none of the other dogs did either, so, not in his class anyway.
JS: How do you train a dog, for this sort of thing?
MC: Well, he’s got to learn to range, that is to go backwards and forwards across the ground and you do that with a whistle, and you learn to turn him. He should turn to the sound of the whistle. And when he gets the scent of the bird, he then stops dead and points towards it. You may not be able to see the bird but he knows its there alright. And then you have to get up to him, quietly, so as not to frighten the bird, and you tell him to go in, and he’ll go forward. And after a bit the bird can’t stand it any longer, and it shoots up into the air and at that your dog should drop. Fall flat on the ground, and that gives the gun his shot.
JS: It is very difficult to train a dog.
MC: Well, it depends on the dog. My present dog is extremely obedient and very anxious to please but he’s very enthusiastic and, I’m sorry to say, that on occasion when the birds got up he’s rather risen with it, if you know what I mean.
JS: Sort of gone up in the air and after it.
MC: Ah, yes, and they will chase the bird too. They’ll follow the bird along the ground until she’s too far way but that, of course, is not allowed. And one thing they mustn’t do is go after hare. That’s one of the forbidden things but of course they do. I’ve seen field trial champions disappear into the blue after a hare.
JS: Much to the disgust of their owners, I’m sure.
MC: Oh yes, horror all round but nobody really minds.
JS: Why do you think it is that there aren’t many pointers round this part of the country?
MC: Well, I suppose because people prefer Labradors and so on. There are plenty of them up north, a whole lot up in Yorkshire, and in Scotland, of course, and down in Surrey, and in Cornwall. But it so happens, round here, there don’t appear to be many. I haven’t seen one in this particular district, apart from my own.
JS: I certainly can’t say I have ever seen one before.
JS: How long have you been living here in Finmere.
MC: Oh, nearly ten years, and we had a house in Hertfordshire before that and it was a bit big so we came and bought this one instead.
JS: This house looks fairly old, do you know much about its history?
MC: Yes, it’s 1638. It has it outside on a plate on the wall and it belonged to the Lepper family. And in, I think it was 1885 or 1880 something, it had a thatched roof in those days and was not quite so tall as it is now. And, they took the roof off and built on another storey and tiled it. So now we have a fine range of attics.
JS: Why did you decide to come to Finmere?
MC: That was pure chance. We had been looking a house, we’d been all over the place. We thought we would go and settle in Essex where we have friends. And then one day, it was pouring with rain and we had intended to go to the Hertfordshire point-to-point, and my husband said, well a house has just come in. Would you like to go and look at it? So we thought, yes. If it looked nice in the rain, we’d probably like it in the sunshine and we came to Finmere and that was it.
JS: You liked it in the rain. Do you like it in the sunshine?
MC: Very much indeed. It’s a very nice house. I love it.
JS: Now what sort of things do you like about the village?
MC: I like the village because its quiet, so far. And there’s country around. And you don’t, you’re not sort of, we do , we’re getting more traffic now. The only thing I don’t like about the village, which I suppose applies to nearly everywhere in England, is this awful litter. It’s getting worse. I think a lot of it is thrown out by passing cars and lorries. But it doesn’t seem to be any body’s business to stop it. I can’t think why we have an anti-litter law, they don’t seem to apply it.
JS: Mr Alf Lepper lives at Tile House Farm here in Finmere and I’ve called in to meet him. Mr Lepper, I believe that you family, in fact, is one of the oldest here in Finmere.
AL: Yes, I would think so. We have been here about 150 years.
JS: Have you always lived just here?
AL: I have, yes, but my parents lived round the village, little farther round when they started. And over the road. We’ve had three different houses here.
JS: I suppose during your lifetime, the village must have changed quite a bit. Yes, it has really, in so far that we have now got very few original village families but, well, we’ve got a lot of council houses built, where the residents are imported, which, well, they don’t fit into village life.
JS: I suppose, looking back, years ago all the people here used to work on the land.
AL: Yes, they all worked on the land in those days, nearly everyone. Now they go to the paint factory at Westbury, mainly Arncott, that’s a munitions place, and Buckingham.
JS: Very few people work here in the village?
AL: I wouldn’t think there are above six farm labourers in the village at the present time. Not at the moment.
JS: And looking back to the old days, did there use to be any celebrations here in the village?
AL: Yes. We used to have a good do on October the, the first Sunday, Finmere Feast, the first Sunday after the 11th of October, when there was a fair used to call and we had all sorts of celebrations like the greasy pole and the leg of mutton on the top. I can’t remember this, well vaguely, just vaguely remember it. Actually, at the pub now, when they dig the garden they still dig up coins. They still dig up some of the old coins that were lost during the fair. They have done. Quite recently that’s happened.
JS: You were telling me just now about a barn which, in fact, adjoins your own house here. It doesn’t stand these days I believe.
AL: No, it doesn’t stand. I can just remember the old shed. A man name of Horwood used to walk a mile, quite a mile, he lived at Widmore farm and he used to walk here night and day to thrash the corn from the villagers allotments. And, I’ve heard my father say that he used to thrash his corn with a flail and he’d stack it all away, and everyone had their own corn. He was absolutely blind and there was never a piece mixed up. Never any corn mixed up whatsoever. He’d put the straw in one place and the corn in another, and everyone had their own.
AL: I can just remember the shed but I can’t remember the man.
JS: We’re talking about farming, we’re talking about people thrashing. Of course, you’re a farmer yourself, what sort of farm have you got?
AL: Well, a mixed farm. I do a bit of beef, sheep, pigs and arable, mainly arable. And that is the big change in village acreage today. It’s nearly all gone arable. There’s some now going back to grass but its mainly arable now. We were forced into it you see, during the War.
JS: One thing that has been puzzling me all the afternoon is how did Finmere get its name?
AL: Well that I wouldn’t know how its derived but originally it was known as Fennmor, F E double-N M O R, and then it took on the name of Fenmere to Finmere, which is its present name.
JS: I believe that in years gone by this, in fact used to be quite boggy round here, moor land almost.
AL: Well, I would have supposed it was. We had a tremendous lot of fields with furze in, wild fields, until they were reclaimed, so I suppose it really was.
JS: We were talking a few moments ago about celebrations that were going on in the village years ago, are there any sort of celebrations that are held here these days?
AL: Yes, apart from village functions, fetes, etc. The main one is in the middle of August when we have a big horse show run for the paraplegics at Stoke Mandeville.
JS: How did this start?
AL: Well, this started as a charity in the first instance, a benefit actually, for a girl that broke her back racing. A local girl, and then it was taken over and they ran it in future years for the paraplegics. I should think its been going about ten years. Something like this.
JS: It attracts a good crowd each year?
AL : Oh yes. Absolutely full. The main attraction is the donkey derby, when the jockeys race these donkeys around the ring and have a prize for it, a bottle of champagne or something. But its an awful laugh.
JS: Well, you’ve spent most your life, or in fact all your life here in Finmere, have you ever wanted to go anywhere else?
AL: No, I’ve been quite happy here. I went to school at Brighton. I had seven years at Brighton at school and came back here to work on the farm with my father. I’ve been here ever since.
JS: You’re quite happy?
AL: Yes. Quite happy.
JS: Well now I’ve called into the home of Mr George Barnes. Mr Barnes, I believe that you have been in the village quite a long time.
GB: Ever since 1926.
JS: What brought you to Finmere?
GB: Working in the village. Then I got married and my employer found me a house to live in, and I’ve been here ever since.
JS: One of the things that I know over the recent years, you’ve been looking after the Parish Council here in Finmere. What sort of things did you have to do as Clerk?
GB: Well, there wasn’t a lot doing but we started the Parish Council in 1954. I was a member of the Parish Council. Then we had a little difficulty in getting someone to take on the Clerk’s job and being as I was not doing anything at the time, I took it on just to occupy my mind and I carried on with it for seventeen years.
JS: So it was a temporary job that lasted seventeen years?
GB: Yes. I was on it in the first place and I was only going to do it for twelve months. But anyway that’s how it ended up. Seventeen year.
JS: Did you ever regret it?
GB: No, no. No, well, a matter of fact, I should still have carried on but what with rheumatism and that I couldn’t get to the meetings. So I was forced to give it, but I’ve only given it up now two years, two years since I gave it up.
JS: What sort of changes have you seen here in the village?
GB: Well, the biggest change were building the council houses and that and, I don’t if there is much other.
JS: Of course, there is the new school right opposite your house.
GB: Oh yes, the new school. The school, that’s supposed to be the first one of its type built in the country.
JS: I’ve already been over there to talk to Miss Bates earlier this afternoon. I must say, I was very impressed with it. It’s very smart.
GB: Yes. Well, there’s a lot of visitors. they come, even bus loads come, to have a look over it from all over the country.
JS: One of the other things that always takes place in villages is sport. Is there any sort of sport that goes on here in Finmere?
GB: Oh yes. We have got a sports club that’s been running since 1947. I was secretary of that for, funnily enough, seventeen years, the same as Clerk to the parish council. And the cricket done very well winning the cup seven years running. Football, we wasn’t quite so good but we have won one or two competitions.
JS: How many people would there be here in the village.
GB: If I remember rightly, its about 280. There may be one or two more, or one or two less, but somewhere round about that.
JS: Now it strikes me that the county boundary must be somewhere around here. Where abouts is it exactly.
GB: Yes, well this village is right on the boundary of Bucks and Oxfordshire.
JS: Finmere itself being in Oxfordshire?
JS: Whereabouts did the boundary run?
GB: From Newton Purcell up here to Finmere, it’s the main road, the main Oxford road. And then it goes off as bridleway, what was an old Roman road, away towards the boundary, the river, of Bucks and Oxford again.
JS: Of course, you live fairly close to Finmere House. It’s only just down the road from you. Do you know anything of its history?
GB: Well, its supposed to have been the home at some time of one of Henry VIII’s wives, Jane Seymour. The room that she was supposed to occupy, I was doing a little job for the owner then, in the room. It was a bright hot day. I got my jacket off and all at once it came over cold and I had to put my jacket on. And I passed a remark about it to Mrs Symes-Thompson, the owner, and she laughed and said probably it was Jane Seymour’s ghost.
JS: Is it renowned for being haunted?
GB: Well, they do say it was haunted, but Mrs Symes-Thompson told me she’d never seen nor heard anything, and she’d live there for a good many year.
JS: Do you believe in ghosts?
GB: No, that I don’t. No.
Our thanks to the BBC for permission to publish this transcript.