Above: Les Large (right) with his two friends Mick Moon (left) and Tom Jenner

Many older residents will fondly remember Les Large, who was born in Five Oak Green in 1922, lived here all his life and died, aged 80, in 2002. With Mick Moon and Tom Jenner he was one of the 'Last of the Summer Wine' trio who looked after St. Thomas's Churchyard, which is where he and his wife, Bridie, lie at rest. Les recorded his memoirs, which open a window on the life of a young lad before World War II. To whet your appetite here are a few brief extracts:-

"I was taken to school by my sister who was then about 13 years old. We lived at no. 4 Bridge Cottages over the railway bridge next to what was then Tully's carpenters' shop. Of course, we had to walk to school in those days, but there wasn't the volume of traffic that there is today. We have kerbs and pathways today that were absent then, but the grass verges were always kept neat and tidy. We put on small plays, in one Mick Moon was the policeman, Jean Funnell the maid, Ron Jenner the tramp, and I was the manservant complete with tails."

"My father met my mother whilst working at Ploggs Hall Farm. She had come down from London for the hop picking with my gran. My mother had lost her first sailor husband in the Great War, drowned when H.M.S. Hogue, on patrol in the North Sea, was sunk by a German submarine in September 1914."

"I remember that we had to stand in line to go into school with our hands on the shoulders of the one in front. The teacher would then inspect the cleanliness of our hands and nails, and make sure that shoes had been cleaned (if you had them!). I also remember that I wore long grey stockings and only black plimsolls to wear; there was a hole in the black canvas, probably where I had been kicking stones. And what did Les do? Well, I got the black boot polish and put extra on the grey sock that showed through the hole so that it would not be noticed."

"As children, we used to hear on the grapevine when the hare hounds were going to meet at the Chequers pub. All the boys and girls gathered outside ready to run off behind them. Through the hedgerows, over fences and ditches, across streams and through the woods. Our parents always allowed us to follow the hounds so long as we did our Saturday chores on Sunday morning."

"From the age of fourteen I started work at Mr. Roe's dairy and smallholding. I worked from seven in the morning to five in the afternoon. ‚ÄčI worked with the horse and pony, the pony pulled the milk float."

Les went on to describe in some detail his work in the diary, taking up a new job on Moat Farm, and recounting the various tasks he had to undertake as well as giving fascinating insights into times past. We are very fortunate to have such a vibrant record of how life was lived so many years ago, before mechanisation changed farming for ever.

Dave Thompson