JOHN Batey was raised in the village of Allendale, high in the North Pennines, in the immediate post-war years. His father, the village headmaster, had a clear vision of how his second son should be brought up… but things did not always go to plan.
This amusing account of his childhood and adolescence provides a light-hearted and affectionate account of growing up in this “idyllic village”.
After a short teaching career in Cornwall, with the call to return to Northumberland becoming more insistent, the author was delighted to be offered a job as assistant warden of a field study centre near Wark-on-Tweed.
He explains: “My re-awakening to my Northumbrian childhood had come about in a curious way. For many years my brother had given me a subscription to The Northumbrian magazine and when it arrives I eagerly check to see if there are any articles about the Allendale area.” In one article he read about old schoolfriends, Ian and Valeria Dunn. He wrote to them and that was the start of a renewed contact.
One of many happy memories from his youth was of the days spent during the grouse season as part of a team of beaters armed with white flags whose job was to drive the game birds towards a line of shooters.
He recalls: “Some of the less experienced shooters were downright dangerous, and we had to be ready to dive for cover if we saw the gun swinging our way. One lady had a habit of shooting at anything that moved and at the end of one drive she had bagged two brace of grouse, a snipe, a racing pigeon and a sheep!”
Teenage years saw John rough shooting for rabbits, hares, partridges and pheasants, and angling for trout in the River Allen. Unusually, he lists some of the characters who give the human framework to the dale. These include molecatcher Walter Rutherford, head keeper Eddie Fairless, beaters Geoff Fairlamb and Eddie Robinson, rough shooter Derek Blair, angling companions Eddie Forrest and Robert Phillipson, plus old friends Bill Nichol, Jack Stephenson and Ian Dunn (leading lights in Allendale’s New Year’s Eve tar bar’l procession), Josie Phillipson and Hilton Walker, and blacksmith Basil Fairlamb.
He observes: “I wanted to reflect on the post-war years when we were lucky enough to live in a time of peace, when traditional values still held sway, and when we had the good fortune to be raised in Allendale, and the lovely North Pennine valley in which it is situated.”