Memories - Pat Tyrrell

 

Pat Tyrrell remembers Alf Woodford and his withies:

Alf had a withy bed up at Sudmore on the left as you go towards Chilton; he used to cut all these withies and when he wanted to take them down to his house he’d carry them down on his back; all you’d see was a pair of legs and a great big pile of withies walking down the Military Road! It was like a big round bird’s nest but Alf was under there somewhere! He was only a little man, but very strong. He knew how to cut the withies so he had a continuous flow from one year to the next. I never went in there much because Alf always used to say there was some very big snakes there… In the Summer it was wet and cool and adders used to like being there, so Alf said, and there were some that were four or five foot long. Maybe he said this to discourage people from going in there... The withies were stacked outside the shed in the open to weather. Withies are very pliable, like a bit of string and you could nearly tie a knot with them. Of course when Alf made his lobster pots in the winter he’d sell more than he kept for himself. I suppose he’d replace any that had got worn, but mostly he made them to sell; that was part of his living. It was a very skilled job, even in the sixties, with not so many folks doing it. He had perhaps twenty or thirty lobster pots outside his hut all black with tar and piled carefully on top of one another, about eight foot high. They were ordered by fishermen from all around. I don’t know how much you could get for a lobster pot in those days but I expect he made enough to buy his groceries every week.