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POTATO PICKING WEEK


rover1949
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At primary school in the 50s some of the pupils were absent for a week because they were going 'potato picking'.  Not only did they get an extra holiday but they apparently got paid as well. The rest of us were miffed because we weren't allowed.  It was all a bit of a mystery, - where did they go and was it officially endorsed?

I understand it was regular practice in rural areas and school holidays would be arranged around harvest time. But we lived in an industrial city and I don't recall seeing any potato fields around here. Did anyone go potato picking?

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Certainly back in the early 1950'sPotato Picking Week was a regular Autumn occurrence in the old Wortley Rural District Council area. Us kids, who played on the "Brook" ( the then boundary between Sheffield and the WRDC) were always envious of our mates who schooled t'other side of the stream and had a more interesting week, or so we thought, than did we .....On reflection a week bent over picking up spuds in a muddy field might not have been such a good way to spend  a week but I seem to remember they received some sort of remuneration!

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I grew up in Tibshelf, Derbyshire. In the 1960's  it was common for kids to potato pick for local farmers at half term I think in the autumn. Some adults used to do it too, perhaps unemployed or housewives, I don't know.   The farmer I knew was called Billy Hill, a lovely bloke, I used to go to his farm for eggs and straw/hay for my rabbits.  I only went potato picking once. We lined up on our knees in the field and the tractor would be driven along turning up the spuds and you had to put them in buckets.   At the end of the day we were paid a small amount and given a sack of potatoes to take home. It felt good to give my mum the potatoes, but not so good that I ever did it again!!!

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In the mid 1950's, living in High Green, Potato Picking week was a couple of weeks before bonfire night. I guess what they now call "half term". I would only be ten or eleven at the time and around a dozen of us would spend the week up on Bank End Farm, Wortley with the farmer Alec Scholey. Yes it was hard work, cold and damp, especially if there had been a frost. We used to take our own metal bucket to collect the potatoes (plastic buckets weren't around in those days). We took sandwiches and his wife made us all a hot drink at lunchtime, when we were allowed to shelter from the damp and cold in the hay barn. We had great times playing king of the castle on the bales of hay before being driven back to the field on a trailer pulled by the farm tractor. At the end of the week the younger ones received 7/6d whereas the older ones had 12/6d (37½p and 62½p in new money). We were only paid at the end of the week to make sure we turned up every day. Normally we would buy fireworks with our hard-gotten gains. It certainly taught me the value of money! Happy days.

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Our school was in Wortley RDC and it is likely that some of the pupils came from the places mentioned.  But it wasn't a school holiday and it appeared that absence for potato picking was tolerated.

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I seem to recall spud picking occurred around Half Term....or as we knew it..."Teachers Rest"????

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We didn't have at my Sheffield school but I know that they did a few miles away at Worrall

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