Or How I started work on 13 May 1907 at the age of 13.
By George Henry Young, my grandfather, in his own words.
To start with blowing my own trumpet I was considered to be a bright boy being in standard 6 (the top of that school) at 12 1/2 years.
My parents were very poor and there were 7 of us, 3 above and 3 below me, to live on my father’s wages of 11/6. We had enough to eat of a sort, swedes and mashed potatoes and pork dripping on bread with an odd rabbit I pinched out of the game-keepers’ snares.
Then bad luck struck us, my eldest brother blew his hand off with a gun, my sister went in service at Goodnestone, Kent, my second brother joined the East Kents (the Buffs) in Canterbury.
That left 4 of us to live on my father’s 11/6 with a disabled brother. My father decided it was time I helped the budget so he applied for me to leave school. It was agreed I could if I passed a special exam.
One day I was home to dinner a boy came with a letter. I was to go to a big house facing the village green and a gent would be there to examine me. Off I went.
The maid let me in and took me to a big room with silver candlesticks, stags heads, fox brushes and hunting crops all around the room and a leopard skin rug with the head still on showing its teeth in front of the fire grate.
There was Canon Hitchins who was to put me through it. To start I had to spell 3 words; mechanical, physical and pneumonia. Canon Hitchins said: “I thought I had tricked you on the last one.” I said: “I thought so too but I guessed right/” Next 3 mental sums, one was how many 1 1/2 pence in a Pound. Next 3 other sums he had written down, a few lines out of a book for handwriting and I had to read a page from a book about the earth-worm. He gave me a letter to take to the master and said I could tell my father I had passed. The owner of the house let me out, gave me a shilling and said I was a credit to my people.
On the Monday morning at 6 a.m., like Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs, off to work we go, spudding charlock and thistles in the winter oats. Twelve weary hours for 7d.
At night, although tired, I was picked to play in a cricket match on the village green. There was a 7-foot brick wall along the green with a big farmer’s house the other side. If the ball hit the wall before it touched the ground it counted for 6. I went to bat No. 7. We needed 10 runs to win. The first ball I had hit me on the thumb, which raised my temperature a bit. The next ball I hit with a mighty clout and it sailed just over the wall. There was a big crash of glass and like all boys, we took to our heels. (I reckon I beat Roger Bannister’s 4 minute mile by 2 minutes that night.)
When I went indoors my mother said: “You are puffing and sweating. You been up to something?” “No, I hurried because I thought it was getting late.” (Unlike George Washington I told a lie.)
A little while later there was a knock at the door. Father went to see who it was and there was Robert Peel the village cop. He said: “Is your lad George in? I would like a few words with him.” My father said: “OK. Is there something wrong?” The cop said: “You will hear and I don’t think you will be very amused.” I went to the door and the cop said to me: “You were playing cricket on the green this evening and you knocked a ball over the wall right through farmer Buss’s bay windows and what’s more farmer Buss wants 7/6 from your father for damage.”
My father was mad, he clouted me around the ears a couple of times and knocked me down in a bed of wallflowers and forget-me-nots and he said: “If you don’t soon get up I will knock you down again.” I thought how is he going to do that when I am already down. Anyway, he cooled down and he did not have to pay on condition that we turned the wicket round and hit the ball away from the house, much to the annoyance of people on bikes along the road.
Anyway, for the next 2 weeks of evenings, I had to help him dig and crop the garden and if I dd not do things to his liking I had to do it over again.
Well, garden cropped, what a blessing. I put the tools in the shed. My father followed behind and then I got a kick in the pants for putting the tools away dirty.
That is how I started work on 13 May 1907.
George Henry Young – 4 Apr 1921
Note: The Canon Hitchins must be Rev. Frederick Harrison Hichens, honourary canon who lived at Speldhurst Lodge, Barton Fields, Canterbury, in Edwardian times. Unfortunately, there were several farmers called Buss then. Henry Buss of Crump’s Farm, St. Nicholas-at-Wade, Isle of Thanet. A George Buss lived at Manor House, Littlebourne. Frank Buss at Bogshole, Whitstable.
George Henry Young was born 1 Apr 1894 in Haine, St. Lawrence, Ramsgate, Kent to William Young and Mary Ann Hayward. In 1901 they were living at Brick Kiln Cottages in Littlebourne, Kent.