The Considine’s at Edgewick Farm 1942-1959 (supplied by William Considine)

My father, Billy Considine came to Edgewick Farm in 1942/43, War Time. He had worked for 13 years on the farms of William and Tom Smith at Brayfield and Olney after coming over from Ireland as a 16 year old boy in the year of the crash, 1929. He lived in a “living van” on the farm and carried on the dairy herd and milk round. Some years later, nurse Delia Hansbury was posted to Edgebury Home. One day while out walking, she passed the cowshed and heard a man singing an Irish song. Being Irish herself, she stopped to investigate. They “sparked”, courted and married and lived on the farm until I was born in 1949 when they bought Salford Cottage at Hardwick Place. My mother left nursing to take over the daily bottling of the milk and cleaning and sterilising of utensils. She also delivered milk from a handfloat around the Leys, Theyden Avenue and Wood Street. My father meanwhile managed and milked the cows and delivered the milk as far away as Aspley Guise with a milk float and a stubborn pony called Gypsy. Around 1953 they got a Ford van and the handfloat and Gypsy went into retirement. It was a difficult way of living. Every morning, 365 days of the year, they rose early, milked the cows, bottled the milk and did the daily milk round. All of life was lived between the two fixed constants of morning and evening milking. From time to time, helpers were engaged. Those I recall were Valery Cox, Jimmy Passingham and Georgie Savage from the Leys.

The Farm and its Animals

The daily supply of fresh milk was the mainstay. In those pre-refrigerator days, keeping quality was all important. Top hygiene and the shortest time between cow and consumer got the best results. There were several strong competitors around the village who were naturally compared for how quickly their milk “went off”. My mothers nursing training and attention to detail was applied to attempt to give Edgewick Farm Dairy a competitive edge. The dairy was run largely on the “flying herd” system. To match fluctuating natural milk production with the regular daily requirement of the milk round, newly calved cows were bought at Banbury Market. When they went dry, they were  sold at Bletchely or Northampton markets. However there were a number of “favourites” that were retained, put in calf and founded dynasties. One I remember, was a large blue roan inevitably called Bluebell. The herd had a variety of breeds but always had a number of Jerseys or Guernseys to keep the “cream line” up. The milk was not pasteurised or homogenised so, unlike today, the cream came to the top. The milk was sold in reusable clear glass bottles, so the depth of cream was another key selling point. In addition to Gypsy the pony and the cows & calves, hens were kept for eggs delivered on the milk round, a pig or two for home use and lots of cats. In my memory the farm was all grass but I do remember my father growing kale on one of the adjacent fields owned by Mills or Allens.

Growing up on the Farm

From the start, as a baby in the pram, I was parked in the meal room at the end of the cowshed. For many years this was to be my base during milking times. I read my Beano and Dandy there, did my school homework there, dreamed there, nursed new kittens and puppies there and got up to mischief including once covering myself in paint. On cold days in the Winter I was “parked” in the boiler room at the back of the dairy. Summers were glorious. Playing cowboys in the fields and up the woods, catching tadpoles in the ponds, playing around all the old machines and oil drums in the yard and the Nissen Hut and up the top sheds, “helping” with the hay and going over to the Fullers Earth workings to explore the bulldozers and excavators. The playmates that shared some of those escapades were Christopher Duff of Leys Villas and Ian Peters of Hardwick Place.

The Leaving

We left in 1959. My father had suffered a perforated ulcer in 1957. To make life easier, the milk round was sold to a Mr Barlow who then sold it on to a Mr Tanner. They collected the Edgewick Farm bottles of milk from our dairy each day after my parents had produced and bottled it. My father was a gregarious man and I think he deeply missed the congeniality of villagers and customers on the milk round.  Many customers were kind enough to say they missed their “whistling Billy, milk man”.

Its an Irish emigrants dream to make enough money to return, buy a good sized farm and give your child roots in Ireland. With hard work, the help of God, the goodness of Edgewick Farm and the kind and lovely people of Woburn Sands, my parents achieved the dream. Their earnings from Edgewick Farm bought the 100 acre farm in the South East of Ireland where I still live. But the dream was bitter sweet and much hard work lay ahead. My father died too young in 1976 and my mother in 1986. My own memories of Edgewick Farm and surroundings were so happy and precious, I feared revisiting and seeing changes would be disturbing. Thus it was only in 2002, 43 years after leaving, that I summoned the resolve to revisit the farm and the scenes of my childhood. I was amazed and delighted that the farm was not built over and that it was being preserved as a community farm and that very little had in fact changed.  My biggest amazement however, is just how small the cowshed actually is because in my child’s memory it was HUGE! 


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