Recollections of Thomas Archibald Murray

(As told to Elizabeth Shorrock)
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

Tommy was born on 27th October 1913 and lived at Sunnybank, the gamekeeper’s house in Clapham village, with his parents and two older brothers John George (Jacky) and William Alexander (Alex). His father George was head keeper for the James Anson Farrer estate, later owned by Sidney James Farrer. The Farrer estates stretched from Newby Head to the Trough of Bowland. Most of the people who lived in Clapham worked for the estate. The village had electricity and water supply provided by the Farrers.

The Murray family originally came from Morpeth in Northumberland where Tommy’s father and grandfather had also been gamekeepers. To earn extra money in his youth George, Tommy’s father, would go into boxing booths bare-knuckle fighting. He used to tell Tommy “If you are fighting, always look at their eyes - that’s the direction the punch will come from”. Tommy’s mother Hannah was a farmer’s daughter from Head House Farm, Farndale, North Yorkshire.

When Tommy started school at Clapham he was in the first class with ten or so other children taught by Nellie Capstick, the blacksmith’s daughter. The older children’s class had between twenty-five and thirty pupils, many coming from the surrounding area. Tommy recalled one boy, Maurice Woods, who walked from Newby Moor along dusty roads. One day Maurice was in trouble with the headmaster Edward Barrow, and was told to bend over. Then he received blows from a large hazel stick which was kept for disciplinary purposes and clouds of dust came from the unfortunate boy’s clothing.

At Christmas time a local farmer, Billy Metcalfe from Clapdale Farm, arrived at the school with a large bucket of apples and oranges. He would open the door and throw the fruit from the bucket onto the floor.

One very special occasion Tommy could remember in his childhood was seeing King George V in a Rolls Royce car coming through Clapham village. His father was a special constable and Tommy saw the bearded King saluting him as he passed. All roads had been blocked and as far as he could remember King George was on his way to see people called Bentinck who lived near Kirkby Lonsdale. He also remembered seeing the R101 airship pass just north of Clapham.

When Tommy left school at fourteen he went to work at Home Farm, Clapham, for Mr and Mrs MacEwen. He started at 6.30 am and often worked until 6.30 pm earning five shillings a week plus dinner and tea. He delivered milk to customers in the village. Another job he had to do which was considered an honour was to blow the organ at the church on Sundays for services at 10.30 am and 6.30 pm. The organ was played by Mrs MacEwen’s daughter. Tommy also put the hymn numbers up on the board. His employer wanted Tommy to learn to milk the cows in the morning so that Mrs MacEwen could have a lie-in. However, Tommy did not want to do that so after twelve months working for the MacEwens he left.

Three shops in Clapham

His next job was working at Brown and Metcalf’s shop opposite the Post Office in Clapham. At that time there were three shops in the village - the third being Maria Howson’s sweet shop. Tommy’s new job was paper boy at 10 shillings a week. He had to meet the 8.00 am train at Clapham station one and a half miles from the village, collect the newspapers, then carry them back to the shop balancing them on his bike - quite a heavy weight! After sorting them he would deliver round the village, then cycle to Austwick to deliver papers there. When Tommy had any spare time he could go to the Manor House in Clapham which had plenty of facilities for everyone - a library, card room, billiards and snooker tables. The Sunday School was also held there. Tommy used to climb through the Manor House windows to play billiards when he was aged 13. He joined the Clapham village cricket team, which he says were a good team, playing against other villages.

When he was 16 he got a job at Flasby Hall, Gargrave, as assistant to Mr Woolley, the head keeper. He recalled that one day Mr Woolley asked him to feed the ferrets, a job Tommy had done before when helping his father, but as he put his hand in to reach for the feeding dish the four ferrets grabbed his fingers and held on with their very sharp teeth. Tommy quickly put his hand in a nearby water trough and the ferrets let go. He had been at Flasby Hall about six months when he received some bad news. His brother who had been under-keeper for his father had become ill with polio. Seven people in the area were affected with the disease, four of whom died. Tommy therefore came home to take his brother’s place, their older brother having gone into farming for a living. After a while his brother recovered but was left with a lame leg. Four years after becoming ill he set up his own poultry farm in the village and did very well, so Tommy continued to help his father as under-keeper. He was kept very busy as sometimes they had to look after 120 hens sitting on pheasant’s eggs.

Mr Nuttall from Settle asked for permission to shoot rabbits on the Farrer estate so Tommy and his father George had to accompany him. Aiming with his 12 bore gun towards the rabbit holes, Mr Nuttall fired and a pellet hit a glass bottle sending fragments of glass into Tommy’s cheek. Next time he came shooting, the pellets ricocheted off rocks and Tommy found twelve pellet marks on his leggings. Another day Mr Nuttall was carrying his gun fully cocked under his arm when he bent down to help with some ferrets. The gun went off, missing Tommy’s toe by only 3 inches.

To improve his social life Tommy started attending dancing lessons given by Claude Barton, the agent for the Farrer estate. The cost was half-a-crown for six lessons and when he was considered good enough he took part in competitions.

With a loan from his father Tommy purchased a new motor bike from Billie Lovett’s garage at a cost of 48 - 15 - 0. It was a 250 Ariel - the first one to come into the area. He had now started courting his future wife Gladys Douglas. She had attended the same school and he remembers her with golden curly hair. She lived with her family on the Green but they later moved next door to the Murrays. Her father was the head forester. She started work as family cook-general for the Baron family, owners of a woollen mill in Kendal, and Tommy would go to visit her on his motor bike. One dark night, returning from visiting Gladys, he was coming off Newby Moor into Clapham quite fast. He suddenly came upon three horses in the road and with no time to stop he went towards the head of one horse which luckily reared up and he sped through. When he arrived home his brother remarked “Why did you open your throttle up coming into Clapham?” Tommy sat down shaking with fright at the thought of what could have been, and explained what had happened.

Gamekeeper at Gearstones

After a while Tommy left home and got a job as gamekeeper at Gearstones, Ribblehead. At first he stayed in digs on a farm, then he went to live on his own at a house called Winshaw. The head keeper was a Mr Carrick. Certain areas of the moor had to be fenced off to allow the heather, vital for grouse, to grow after being well grazed by sheep. One of these areas was near Blea Moor cottages by the railway and Tommy had to be there in dry weather in case a spark from a steam engine ignited the growth. While he was waiting for a train to pass he would practise throwing stones over the viaduct and says he managed it just once.

In 1936 Tommy and Gladys married and lived at Winshaw. The following winter was a bad one with plenty of snow. Tommy remembers digging a 14 foot tunnel outside his back door. Twelve months later he went to work on the Malham Tarn Estate which covered Darnbrook and Fountains Fell. Tommy and his wife lived at Silloth Cottage near the Tarn and he enjoyed his time working there. He remembers one occasion when his father came for the day and they went out fly-fishing together in a small boat on the Tarn. When they were out in the middle the wind suddenly changed to the east and they found themselves struggling to get back, stuck over the deepest part of the water. They slowly managed to row back to the west boathouse.

One day the under-keeper at Penyghent House asked Tommy if he would mind taking his terrier dog with him when he went out doing his job. Tommy did not mind, but Tommy’s dog did! The two dogs started fighting and the only way he could stop them was by knocking them both out with a metal stick.

In 1939 war was looming and some evacuees arrived from Bradford. First came three boys to stay with the Murrays, then at the weekend the parents arrived - minus rations. Gladys mended their clothes and fed them well but they only stayed about two weeks. Because of the war Tommy was informed that his services were no longer required on the Estate, so to make some money he started catching rabbits for Frank Coates at Middle House on Malham Moor. He was paid threepence for two rabbits. He set 350 snares and one night caught 105 rabbits. He had to get all the dead rabbits from above Darnbrook to Middle House which was extremely difficult. However, he gutted them all, strung them on a rope and carried them to Middle House. This venture finished when the farmer didn’t want to pay any more and rabbits were not as plentiful.

Next the Murrays moved to Settle, living for a while with Billy Coates. Tommy was offered the chance to buy a new house at 3 Ingfield Estate for 600 but could not afford it - he just lived there for three weeks paying rent.

Work as a quarryman

Ted Arthurs offered him a job at Dry Rigg Quarry breaking and filling, and he later moved to Horton Quarry. It was at Horton on 24th April 1940 while working with a hammer that a piece of metal flew off hitting him in the eye. He spent six weeks in Leeds Infirmary and unfortunately lost the sight in his eye. By this time they had moved to Stainforth where they moved three times in two years, living on the Green. Coming home from work one day Tommy was told by Gladys that she had sold his motor bike for 25 shillings. He was rather shocked but admitted that it was getting past its best. When Tommy was working at Craven Quarry he was filling the Hoffmann kiln with 50 gallon drums of acetone for the Ministry of Supply which he thought was something to do with aeroplanes.

Tommy was called up into the Army spending six weeks training at Earls Mill, Oldham, during which time he was paid 8 shillings a week. He found people in that area so friendly and kind - when he went to the local fish and chip shop he didn’t have to pay. After training he went to Wellington in Somerset in the Pioneer Corps guarding an ammunition dump. Because of his earlier eye injury he was not able to do many other jobs. Gladys was still living in Stainforth with baby daughter Pam, receiving a small Army allowance. One night Tommy was doing his job guarding at Marshalls Camp, Plymouth, on the edge of Dartmoor, when a bomb exploded nearby. He was thrown across the room, the windows were blown in and he considered himself lucky to be alive. Three weeks later an Army colleague said to him “What’s up, Tommy - why aren’t you answering my questions?” Tommy could not hear him! He was sent to Tavistock for tests and it was found that the bomb explosion had damaged his hearing. As a result of this he was demobbed at Taunton and came home to Stainforth.

During that winter he did lots of snow-cutting around Stainforth, working for the Council at one shilling an hour. He remembers one day they had dug the snow out to Rainscar Farm so the foreman suggested going to the farm and asking the owners if they would brew the gang’s tea. Tommy says “This sounded a good idea but we changed our minds when we tasted it - it was so weak they must have kept some of the tea-leaves for themselves.” While attending a dance in Clapham Village Hall he heard the attempted German bombing of a train near Eldroth after an attempt on an urban area - he collected some shrapnel two days later.

He becomes a postman

Tommy’s friends Percy Chafer and Edmund Hutchinson kept pestering him to become a postman like them, so rather reluctantly he thought he would give it a go. First he went to Skipton for an exam then started delivering alongside Wilf Woolerton learning the Stackhouse, Little Stainforth and Giggleswick rounds. He had to cycle from his home in Stainforth to Settle Post Office for a 5.30 am start. His wage before stoppages was 4 - 8 - 0. The first job of the day was to meet the train at Settle station with a basket cart to collect all the mail for delivery. All the mail had to be ready and sorted by 7.00 am. For the first six months Tommy wore his own clothes, but then he received a Post Office uniform which included waterproof leggings and a long double cape with hood. For six months he did the different delivery rounds but was then told to do just one round; because of having sight in only one eye he was not allowed to ride a bike while working for the Post Office. After his delivery round he had a nine o’clock breakfast then stamped letters, collected from boxes and changed the date stamp. At 10.15 am he met another train with the basket cart, then delivered parcels round Duke Street, Settle. He then sorted the mail for his second delivery which took him over the river bridge to Stackhouse, Giggleswick School, Catterall Hall, round by Four Lane Ends and back up Station Road to Settle.

To earn some more money, when he had finished his day with the Post Office in the summertime he helped with the hay-making for Mittons and Wallbanks. He was paid one shilling an hour. When he asked for an increase to one and threepence they would not pay so he went to help at Tottie Howarth’s.

In 1958 Tommy and Gladys moved to Settle, first living at Mill Close, then moving to Marshfield Road where they bought their own house. They had two daughters, Pam and Jean. Pam was born at the home of her maternal grandparents in Clapham. Jean was born at Stainforth. Tommy worked for the Post Office for 32 years, retiring in 1977 aged 64. On reflection he thought it was the best job he’d had.

1931 Sunny Bank
1932 Ariel
1938 Mr Coates, Harry Coates, John Usher Head Keeper with beer bottles and gas machine

1931 Sunny Bank

1932 Ariel

1938 Mr Coates, Harry Coates, John Usher Head Keeper with beer bottles and gas machine