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A snapshot of the Llangammarch Wells Sketch


Some farmers volunteered to fill in a questionnaire about farmers and their families during the twentieth century. From their answers we have been able to build a general picture of what life was like and how it has changed.

Martin Davies 17 November 2005

The main picture that emerges is one of really hard physical work by both men and women until the coming of the tractor for the men and electricity for the women. Sheep have been the mainstay of farming, with men travelling the hills either on ponies or on foot, and always with dogs. Lambing took place in all weathers and in all locations, and shearing was all done by hand with farmers helping their neighbours whenever possible.

During the war years of 1939-1945, it became compulsory to grow potatoes and corn in order to help feed the nation. Tractors began to appear around tis time. One farmer told of having his first car in 1937 and his first tractor in 1941, and another had his first tractor in 1946. It would seem that most farmers who had teams of horses and difficult, hilly land kept to them until things improved and tractors became less cumbersome. It is also a well-known fact that fuel was scarce during the war. However, life on the farm does not seem to have been affected too much by rationing. Farms had their own meat supply from pigs, poultry and rabbits, and there was also milk, butter, cheese and obviously potatoes. One farmer said plaintively - if only they could have grown sugar!

Land Girls came and introduced the local girls to "townee" ways (pubs, etc!) and there seems to have been a very popular prisoner of war called Henry, who was 18.

The life of women on the farm seems to have changed dramatically. They helped outside with lambing and milking the cows, and still had all the washing, cleaning, bread-making, butter- and cheese-making to do, meals to cook and children to raise; and some did not even have the aid of electricity until 1962. It was even suggested that if a man chose his wife with care, he could get as much work out of her as a man!

Nowadays things are very different. The women still help with the lambing and the haymakng and, it seems, do much of the paperwork; but many now go out to work to augment the family income. Of course, they were brought up on farms and knew what to expect of life. Even so, one farmer's comment that "The girls can't wait to get away now" was just a little sad.

Since 1945 there have been many changes. Very few arable crops are grown now and there is perhaps some overstocking. The first tractors apparently frightened the stock for the first couple of years. Jobs that had taken all day could now be done in an hour or two and by one man. Although electricity was in Llangammarch in 1937, some of the outlying farms did not have it until 1962.

There are now indoor sheep sheds and scanning machines which result in more live lambs but perhaps also more infections. One farmer tells a lovely story of reviving poorly lambs in the old days. They were put into hot water with a dose of whisky. One particular lamb refused to revive and was thought to be dead until it began to snore. It seems that it had had too much whisky and when it eventually awoke it staggered around as if drunk.

Although electricity has revolutionised farming, it has also brought the computer and those of the European Union have churned out mountains of paperwork to be completed by farmers, causing a great deal of pressure. Some farmers find it all too much.

Some of the farms in Llangammarch have been in the same family for as many as seven generations dating back to the eighteenth century. Many have absorbed smaller holdings. Some have wonderful stories to hand on to future generations, such as poaching salmon to feed to the pigs, and a cow getting into a kitchen and walking round the table with the farmer behind her until she found the door and the way out.

There always seem to have been ways of supplementing the farm income: selling butter and eggs; rabbits to the man who collected them once a week at 2s 6d (12½p) a rabbit; someone did knitting for a Scottish firm. Nowadays some farms offer bed and breakfast, and many of the wives go out to work.

When asked if things are better or worse now, all agree that physically life is much better but it is also more stressful. One farmer summed it up by saying, "The 50s to the 70s were the best times, too much hardship before, too much stress now."

written by Beryl Joy and taken from Llangammarch Wells Past and Present – A History and Guide. March 2000