A Filey Shepherd

There were several farms in and around Filey in the 19th century but I don’t think any raised sheep. When Filey Fields Farm went under the hammer in the early 1930s the byres, sheds, and pens were for cattle only. So, any young Filey man wanting to work with sheep had to leave the town.

Robert CAPPLEMAN was born into a fishing family. Two brothers, Thomas and “Jack Wraxer”, negotiated the dangers of this dangerous occupation, as did the father, John Pockley CAPPLEMAN. Robert’s youngest brother, Stephenson, died a soldier in South Africa (see the post Three Soldiers, 30 May).

Robert began his working life as a fisherman. The 1881 census captures him aged 14 following in his dad’s wake. Ten years later he was a servant on Greenhills Farm near Pickering and the following year he married Mary Hannah BERRIMAN from East Lutton. The couple had five children in the first twelve years of married life, as they moved from farm to farm on the Yorkshire Wolds. The last two children, though, were born in Beswick, in 1902 and 1904. Thirty-five years later, Robert was recorded in the 1939 Register in Beswick, aged 72, and still working as a shepherd. His death was registered in December Quarter 1952 in Holderness District, which includes Beswick within its boundaries.

By chance, my bed-time Kindle reading at the moment is Wild Life in a Southern County. I have a copy of the book, picked up at Winchester Market for 25 pence in 1978, about a hundred years after it was published. In Chapter V, Richard Jefferies has this to say about shepherds:-

If any labourers deserve to be paid well, it is the shepherds: upon their knowledge and fidelity the principal profit of a whole season depends on so many farms. On the bleak hills in lambing time the greatest care is necessary; and the fold, situated in a hollow if possible, with the down rising on the east or north, is built as it werer of straw walls, thick and warm, which the sheep soon make hollow inside, and this have a cave in which to nestle.

The shepherd has a distinct individuality, and is generally a much more observant man in his own sphere than the ordinary labourer. He knows every single field in the whole parish, what kind of weather best suits its soil, and can tell you without going within sight of a given farm pretty much what condition it will be found in. Knowledge of this character may seem trivial to those whose days are passed indoors; yet it is something to recollect all the endless fields in several square miles of country. As a student remembers for years the type and paper, the breadth of the margin – can see, as it were, before his eyes the bevel of the binding and hear again the rustle of the stiff leaves of some tall volume which he found in a forgotten corner of a library, and bent over with such delight, heedless of dust and “silverfish” and the gathered odour of years – so the shepherd recalls his books, the fields; for he, in the nature of things, has to linger over them and study every letter: sheep are slow.

When the hedges are grubbed and the grass grows where the hawthorn flowered, still the shepherd can point out to you where the trees stood – here an oak and here an ash. On the hills he has often little to do but ponder deeply, sitting on the turf of the slope, while the sheep graze in the hollow, waiting for hours as they eat their way. Therefore by degrees a habit of observation grows upon him – always in reference to his charge: and if he walks across the parish off duty he still cannot choose but notice how the crops are coming on, and where there is most “keep”. The shepherd has been the last of all to abandon the old custom of long service. While the labourers are restless,there may still be found not a few instances of shepherds whose whole lives have been spent upon one farm. Thus, from the habit of observation and the lapse of years, they often become local authorities; and when a dispute of boundaries or water rights or right of way arises, the question is frequently finally decided by the evidence of such a man.

20170620StMargaretsBeswick
St Margaret’s, Beswick, 20 June 2017

Robert’s pedigree on FST is a work in progress. On FG&C he has a “guesswork wife” but his ancestors may be usefully compared with those on the World Tree.

Today’s Image

Two days after the patriotic beach scene was recorded, England was beaten 2 – 1 by Italy in the first group match of the 2014 Fifa World Cup in Brazil. A few days later, Uruguay defeated our lads by the same score. I remember nothing about the third match. A goalless draw with Costa Rica meant an ignominious exit by England in the group stage. National pride this year is at the feet of a relatively young bunch of multi-millionaires. They should do better than the faded “golden generation” last time out. I just hope our traveling supporters have a good time in Russia and come home with a different narrative about the Federation than the shameful one peddled by the United Kingdom regime these past few years.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s