Independent characters

Bill Ballard, his brother Alec and their close neighbour Alf Woodford, were good examples of self-sufficiency.

Like the Jacobs’ brothers from Cliff Cottage, they lived all their lives on Brook Green and never married.

The Ballards lived in Chine Cottage and Alf behind in Therles. Like Alf Woodford, and Phil and Ben Jacobs, Bill held a long service certificate as a crew member of Brooke Lifeboat. He knew a great deal about the local countryside and coast and had been a farm labourer as well as a builder for Downers and Bucketts.

Everyone who knew Bill knew what a strong-willed person he was. He planted all his own vegetables until two years before died aged 90 in 1989. He fetched water from his well (refusing the water board’s suggestion that he boiled it), cooked for himself and refused to consider the need for an inside lavatory. Many people today remember Bill sitting on his bench outside the cottage, always with a pipe in his mouth.

Alf Woodford was made of the same stuff and Pat Tyrell remembers: Alf was always dressed the same; a very heavy jacket, a shirt with no collar and the sleeves rolled up, and a pair of overall trousers, always a bit short on him, and black boots. Alf never rode a bike but walked everywhere and never seemed far away. He’d walk up from his house to the shop, come up and get a drop of milk at the farm and never went far as I remember. I never went in Alf’s house. I went to his door but never had any need to go in. Alec and Bill lived in front of him and they all got on well. They’d go in and out and look after one another. 

It is interesting to speculate about why they never married.They all lived with their mothers who they looked after until they died; all of them could live off the land and sea but may not have made enough money to support a family; they needed little and rarely left Brook to meet new people. While their sisters married and moved away, by the time their mothers died these batchelors were, perhaps, set in their ways and well able to look after themselves. Finally, the high casualty figures of the First World War did not lead to large numbers of unmarried women in the area since many men had stayed working on the land in reserved occupations.