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Povey’s People

by Radio Stoke’s Owd Grandad Piggott

April 6th 2020

This Month: RIP Harold

Harold Thornton’s funeral was well attended. He was a well liked and highly respected member of the Uttoxeter farming community and people came from near and far to pay their respects. The wake was held in The White Hart and the pub was packed to the gunnels. Throughout the afternoon, Harold’s two sons came across and joined me. Phil, the eldest bought me a pint and sat down by me. He told of his problem.

Harold Thornton had never thrown anything away. Three huge barns held the contents of Harold’s life in the belief that one day, whatever it was would ‘come in for summat’. The three barns were like a vast museum. There was everything from old tractor parts and ancient tools to boxes of clog nails, hundreds of assorted nuts, bolts, screws, carefully wound lengths of string, wire, elastic; if you wanted something obscure, it could be found in a dark corner of one of Harold Thornton’s barns.

‘I don’t know what the hell to do!’ said Phil spreading his hands and Tom, his younger brother nodded in agreement . My mind went immediately to Mick and Seamus O’Rourke. Mick and Seamus would tackle any job, large or small and were well known for being able to outwork a gang of twenty council operatives on an average road job. I told Phil that Seamus O’Rourke could be contacted at my local pub in Weston and I agreed to meet him there to introduce them to each other.

Seamus was quite happy to visit the farm and went the next morning where Tom and Phil showed him around.

‘We want the barns emptied’ said Phil. ‘The lot... gone!... apart from a pile of stuff in that first barn. ‘That’s sentimental stuff and not to be touched! I’ll show it to you and you’ll know where it is. I’m not paying you for the job but You can have it all, I just want it gone!’ ‘Ye can trust us sor so ye can...’, said Seamus earnestly shaking the brother’s hands. ‘We’ll have to bring a few friends to help us ‘cause ir’s a big job sor... so it is , but don’t you worry about nutt’n sor... Ye can trust us - so ye can!!’

The next morning, Seamus and Mick turned up at the farm with half the itinerant population of Staffordshire and there followed a dawn till dusk operation which involved copious quantities of bad language, several fights and frenzied activity but miraculously, with a lot of coming and going, the site was cleared. Harold’s two sons could hardly believe their eyes and that evening, Phil Thornton rang me, full of gratitude for the efforts that had been put in by the men. For some reason, I felt a twinge of apprehension.

I was soon to find out that the feeling was justified. Two days later I had a phone call. It was Phil Thornton. Gone was the cheerfulness in his voice. ‘Is that little irishman likely to be in the pub later?’ he growled ominously

‘Eh - yes’, I confirmed. ‘Why - what’s up?’

‘I want a word with him’. Phil said shortly and put the phone down. That evening, early doors, I wandered to the pub and found Seamus propped at a thirty degree angle between the floor and the bar. He blinked at me inimically when I spoke to him. Phil wasn’t yet there, but when he did turn up, Seamus gave him a hunted look.

‘Is everything okay?’ I ventured. ‘He looks a bit upset’.

‘Everytin’s foine sor’, muttered Seamus watching Phil warily as he bought a drink strode over. I came to the conclusion that everything wasn’t ‘foine’

‘I’m an anvil missing!’ ground Phil. Seamus’s reply was too quick.

‘Oi dont know nutt’n aboot no anvil sor’ said Seamus earnestly.

‘Well, somebody does!’ grated Phil, ‘There was an anvil among that pile I told you not to touch - and it’s gone!. If it’s not back there by this time tomorrow, I’m going to the police... Somebody’s had that anvil!’

Seamus looked hurt and offended.

‘OO sor, dey wouldn’t do nutt’n loike dat sor! Gabbled Seamus, ‘Dat would be dishonest sor, an’ we’re as ‘onest as de day is long...’

‘Of course you are’. Said Phil, ‘Butter wouldn’t melt, but I’m not kidding, if that anvil isn’t back by this time tomorrow, it’s the police.’ and with that, he drained his glass and strode stiffly out of the pub leaving Seamus and me blinking at the closing door.

‘You had better get it back!’ I told Seamus curtly, ‘His father was a good friend of mine and my name is on that job!’.

‘Oi don’t know nutt’n aboot...’ began Seamus, but he was talking to himself as I also walked out of the pub.

The next morning at seven thirty, Phil Thornton rang me.

‘They’re here!’ he told me.

‘Have they got it?’

‘They’ve got summat in the back of their truck... under a tarpaulin... I’ll keep you posted’, he rang off. Two hours later, phil phoned again and couldn’t keep the mirth out of his voice as he told the tale.

With great ceremony, the brothers had parked their transit in the middle of the farmyard and took the tarpaulin off the item in the centre of the bed of the lorry. Whatever it was was massively heavy and after they had divested it, they spent fifteen minutes inch by inching it to the edge, then after composing themselves and taking a series of very deep breaths, they seized the anvil and handballed it to the ground. As they wrestled with it, cords of muscle stood out hard on their arms and with a final gasp of relief, the thing hit the ground. The anvil must have weighed at least three hundredweight and when the brothers finally stood up, Mick gave a dismissive wave of his hand.

‘Twas an unfortunate accident Mister Toruntun sor’, elaborated Mick, ‘Y’see phwee wus up aggen de clock... We’d oniy got de men for a single day, an’ dey wus workin’ loike demons sor, so dey wus an’ de wus stuff flyin’ all over de place... it’s easy for tings to get a bit mixed up, an’ loike dat anvil, It must o’ got on somebody’s shovel by accident’.