Malhamdale Local History Group
Free range poultry units at Skellands farm, Scosthrop.
The Wartime Memories of
Frank spent most of the war years still at school at Ermysteds but towards the end of the war his call up came and he recalls his father jumped in the car and went straight off to Leeds to get his exemption in order for him to work on the farm, Skellands and later Stoneybers as well. Not that he didn’t work on the farm while he was still at school – he was responsible for milking before he caught the 8 o’clock bus to Skipton every day!
The farm was basically a poultry farm with some milking cows, but like all farms in the Dale they had to grow some crops during the war. They grew oats, kale and roots. The field in front of Skellands had a crop of white carrots at the bottom and swedes at the top. The carrots were cooked by steaming in a large container and then fed to the poultry. Potatoes were chopped and mixed with mash also for the poultry and whole maize had to be boiled to soften it sufficiently for use. The steam was produced by a boiler fed with coal, which was very poor quality during the war. As with most Dales’ farms, the tractor work was done by War Ag.
The farm was already well established as a poultry farm long before the war, specialising in producing day old chicks and growing pullets. The farm had some of the most modern incubating equipment and brooder houses with free range breeding pens. Prior to the outbreak of war, the chick sexers used by the farm were two Japanese who were part of a team of six who lived and worked in the area. Mr Sharp, senior, used to collect the men and bring them to Skellands where they worked at a rapid rate with a 100% success rate. When war was declared the Japanese were imprisoned and the job was taken over by two Australians, but the Japanese were missed for their speed and efficiency. The poultry were sold as day old chicks or as laying pullets and were boxed and transported by motor or rail depending on the destination.
Eggs not required for hatching were sent to the packing station where they were processed and used for the catering trade. One lady who bought these processed eggs found out that they were supplied from Skellands and started to come for them direct to the farm, swapping them for sugar. Another lady came on a Sunday and swapped eggs for fat, also on ration. Such ‘arrangements’ went on all over the country although it was always a risk.
At this time the milking was done by hand and the bottles were also filled by hand. Frank’s sister Margery had this job which Frank said she could do faster than a machine. The bottles then had a cardboard cap pressed on and were delivered to schools in the district. There were two rounds, one covering the Skipton schools, Embsay and out as far as Cononley and the second round covering Settle schools and out as far as Kirkby Lonsdale. Later the farm also bottled the milk from other farms as well. When the dirty bottles were returned they were soaked in caustic soda solution then washed and steam sterilised ready for the next day.
As the war progressed prisoners of war were used as labour on the farm, three Italians who lived in, and Germans who travelled from the camp at Skipton daily. Land girls also did some of the work and Frank remembers that they dug and laid the foundations for the garage at Skellands. Frank's wife Mac was also a Land Girl and lived for some time at the Settle hostel having worked first in the East Riding at Pollington. She remembers working on drain laying at Wigglesworth. Eventually she was sent to the Sharp’s farm but this was after the war when she ended up marrying one of the boss’s sons! She had been an office worker before going on the land so it was a huge change for her.
The farm kept four pigs which were slaughtered on the farm by the local pig killer. A license had to be obtained from the food office at Settle in order to slaughter a pig and it was always a temptation to slaughter two on one license or even more if the weather was bad and there was no traffic moving up the Dale! Joints of meat were shared around when there was a pig killing so that you could expect joints in return when it was their turn to kill their pig.
Frank’s father was an ARP warden along with Norman Bolland and Mr Proctor was the head warden. In the event of a phone message of an alert coming to the Sharp’s, someone was sent as a runner to alert Norman Bolland and the wardens had to gather in the village hall at Kirkby in case they were needed to put out fires or do other duties, although Airton had a fire service of sorts. It consisted of a pump on a trailer and it was kept at the blacksmiths in the village. Arthur Parker had a petrol allowance in case the pump was needed and to take it to the river to test it regularly.
The Dale was lucky in that it was spared the horrors of bombing although Frank remembers one incendiary bomb dropping on one of the Miresfield pastures and some dropping on Darnbrooke Fell early in the war. Mr Clay, later to become Colonel Clay, reputedly collected an unexploded bomb from there and took it in the boot of his car to be dealt with at Settle!
For entertainment there were whist drives and dances, six penny hops at the old school at Scosthrop. There were also the drama classes and plays staged by Mrs Mason.
Read the Wartime memories of other Malhamdale residents:
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