My Dad, George Midgley was medium height and medium build and there the mediocrity ended. He was jovial, energetic and self reliant. A man of many accomplishments. Someone once said of him, "Give old George Midgley a ball of 'Massey Harris' (Baler twine) and a handful of horseshoe nails and he will fix anything". He was born on the 29th of November 1872 in Sheriff Hutton in a farming family -the youngest of thirteen children; a boy, five girls, a boy, five girls and than another boy - all born within 20 years!
Dad went to an Academy in York for his schooling and he had a beautiful copperplate handwriting. I don’t know what else he was trained for at school, he was quite a good scholar I believe, but he was expelled for cheeking the headmaster. And so he came to work on the farm.
He had a bit of a rough start at that because he didn't really want to farm -he wanted to be a missionary. He used to go to the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel at Stamford Bridge regularly and he would occasionally do a preaching turn. Father and the oldest boys went to chapel, Mother and the girls went to Church at Buttercrambe. But both of them were buried in Stamford Bridge Churchyard
His father had worked his way up from a farm labourer as a boy to a Farm Bailiff by the time George was born. Soon afterwards he got the tenancy of the Home Farm at Sheriff Hutton and when George was in his teens he moved to take over Birks Farm at Buttercrambe. George was still a young man when Granddad Midgley died and in his will he had left £40.00 apiece to five of his daughters and £250.00 to Aunt Carrie because she had stayed at home and looked after him. This meant that father had to find it out of the farm; Oswald remembers a deal with some horses, but it really left him very short of capital for a few years so he set off as a farmer under very strained circumstances.
He was always involved with the community. He had the post of Overseer of the Poor for the parish of Buttercrambe, whatever that entailed, and he used to keep the election register. He had to send out the returns for the Electoral Roll and if they didn’t send them back, he had to go and round them up to see where they were. He was the organiser or secretary of the Derwent Valley Farmers Club and also the Young Farmers Club which he set up. It involved all sorts of social occasions for them and judging cattle and things like that.
When the Duke of Kent came in June 1939 to visit the Young Farmers, Dad was regarded as one of the notaries of the village and so he was chosen to greet the Duke. The whole family turned out to support him, as well as the village. It was a big thing was a visit from Royalty in those days. Three years later the Duke of Kent was killed. He crashed in an aeroplane in Scotland during the war.
Dad was always very interested in farming and such like and he had quite a modern outlook. They had all sorts of judging competitions in this that and the other, including Ploughing matches and Hedge Cutting Competitions. Twice he was invited to go to Northern Ireland to demonstrate the craft of Hedge Cutting and Laying - often in front of quite large crowds. His letters and postcards home were full of his excitement about his reception there;
We had a very large photo in the paper last week. I expect we shall be photoed at Limavady. There is a big entry for ploughing and they expect 8000 people. I am sending our programme for this week.
The programme listed 11 demonstrations between 14th and 26th February 1938 at Garvagh, Limavady, Aghadowey, Desertmartin, Bellaghy, Claudy, Limavady and Dungiven, Coleraine, Castlerock, Londonderry and Macosquin. each lasted from 11am until 4pm. He had an excellent reception;
“Well up to now I am having a very enjoyable holiday. It is a very nice part for scenery. I went with a young Irish lad on Sunday to see Lough Neagh and Antrim. I expect this is the largest fresh water lough in the world. I can see it and the Mourne Mountains when I am hedging. The hedge I started on is 500 yards. I have a lot of lookers on as well as helpers. I had a speech day last Friday, 38 students from Agricultural College Antrim, some of them are coming to work and on Dec 8th it advertised in papers for people to come and see expert Hedge Cutter giving demonstrations and instructions. There is miles of hedge ripe for felling. This chap where I am (Mr Cunningham), when I started, I don't think he liked it much. he got me started on the Sat with two blokes. I have got one going nicely with an axe. When he saw a length finished he was delighted and he went in his car and fetched some pals and Ho what daft questions they ask. Of course I have been photoed a dozen times.”
In another letter he said;
“We had two days at Limavady and the crowds was far more bigger than anybody expected, there was nearest 50 thousand of anything. Men could hardly plough for them and I just stood and talked and answered questions as I have to do every day. we expect a big day tomorrow, Wed, we are at the Mayor of Coleraines. he came for me on Sunday to go and choose a hedge for to cut. I have been taken to 4 posh places to advise them how to cut priviot hedges where they have gardeners. One place a M.P., one a Doctor, two J.P.'s and now the Mayor, so you can see we are among them. They have already asked if we can come in Autumn and about a supply of tools for Young Farmers”
It was all a great adventure;
Well, you say about me speaking English. You set your wireless on for Athlone and if you can get it, you will know what I have to put up with. It is just like it. I have heard a lot about pigs and poultry in Ireland living in the house, this is not so as I have not seen a pig anywhere yet and only one farm with poultry. This farm where I am has only 3 geese, no ducks or poultry but they have an Aberdeen bull and a lot of black cattle.
During the First World War, Dad was a Special Constable together with the Gamekeeper, Mr Bailey. They used to go round together to check if anything was happening and if anything had been dropped to report it. It was a strange thing, but if you heard the Pheasants squealing and squawking at night you knew there were Zeppelins about; they didn’t like them and neither did I. One day I was at home, outside in the yard when I saw a Zeppelin come over the farm. I had never seen anything like it before; it was a big airship going steadily through the sky, very slowly. I felt a bit queasy when I saw it. They didn’t drop any bombs that time though I think they did once when they came over somewhere near York.
There were a lot of young men killed from Stamford in the First World War but it didn’t really affect anyone that I knew; like my brothers and my Dad, they were mostly farmers and in a Reserved Occupation. They were needed at home to grow the food. The flu outbreak in 1919 was a bad do too but it seemed to mostly miss us at Stamford Bridge.
Mother and Dad were happy together. He used to tease her a bit and she used to try to straighten him up a bit. I think she thought she could straighten him up when they got married but it doesn’t work does it. He was up to all sorts of tricks and she would start telling him off and he would go, “Chippety, chippety, chippety, chippety..” ‘till she laughed. His idea was ‘a soft answer turneth away wrath’. They hardly ever had a row. But if she got really mad with him sometimes she used to swear and he would say, “Oh, stop off Mother, don’t swear. It spoils the shape of your mouth!”