Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting TANEWS to 80360, or email
Traditions of the horselads
Ron Creasey Last Of The Horselads, by William Castle, Old Pond, £19.95
Ron Creasey was one of the last farm horsemen to find work at a traditional hiring fair.
The year was 1946 and he was just 17. It spelled the beginning of a life working with heavy horses on farms in East Yorkshire.
More than 65 years later, not long before Ron’s death, author William Castle recorded a series of conversations with him. This rich stream of knowledge and anecdote has been turned into a book, Ron Creasey Last Of The Horselads.
Most of the lads had never been to the farm before, nor met the people they would be working with. Ron’s experience is typical: When we got there, maybe nine or ten o’clock at night, you’d never been before, so you knocked at the door. ‘Hello,come in.’ You’d met Foreman maybe when he hired you, but not always, cause sometimes Boss hired you. But you went there and first thing he did, ‘Well, I’ll just show you your horses.’ So he lit a lamp, took you into the stable and there was ten horses in a line and he’d say, ‘There’s Wag’s ’osses, and there’s Thod Lad’s ’osses, there look, and Fowth Lad’s ’osses, and when I tell you to fetch a ’oss out, I want that one, not that one or that one.’ The work of the summer moved between different jobs, depending on the weather and how forward the crops were. So the horselads might well be sent scruffling – hoeing with a horse or tractor – and haymaking in the afternoon.
The horselad in charge of the stable and other horselads was called a waggoner. Because of the importance of the waggoner, farmers would try to keep a good one from one year to the next, though as a rule most horselads moved every year.
Recalls Ron: ‘Some of them fellers, there was two or three brothers all hired together on the same place at different times. They’d be there maybe for a year and then they’d go their different ways, then go together again.’ Ron worked for the Caley family, his dedication and ability eventually earning him the role of waggoner. In common with most horsemen, Ron lived in, remained single and was paid only once at the end of each year.
He recalls the first combine harvester arriving on one farm, in 1948. ‘It came in packing cases from Canada, and they came from Burton Pidsea Plough Company to assemble it. Them was the Massey-Harris twenty-ones, twelve foot... and they had sails on.’ To become a horseman was not just about working with horses, it was about being part of a tradition stretching back for generations.