Fresh air, sunshine (some of the time), food cooked in the open, singing and dancing around the camp fire, surely a recipe for the odd romance in the hop yard? But, in the adapted words of that great song, we’ve heard of a few, but then again, too few to mention. Some were life-long love matches, others were of heartbreak and missed opportunities.
We heard from one sprightly 93-year-old, whose beloved son was the result of a one night stand with a Canadian airman during the War. She never saw or heard from him again, though, 70 plus years later, she was unbothered. She had her son and that’s what mattered most. Extraordinarily for the time, her parents, far from rejecting their pregnant daughter, instead supported her. As the birth day approached, she was ushered away to an Aunt in the north of England for her ‘confinement’. When she returned with her son, people may have gossiped but no questions were asked. Together with her sister, they raised her son, who would accompany her on the annual hop ‘pilgrimage’. If the photographs were anything to go by of that period, they were happy times and her son today is a successful farmer. As we all know, love can be a fickle creature, and it never came her way again.
It came knocking loudly on the door for one very young couple, who lasted the distance. It will bring a lump to your throat.
Nellie was a 16-year-old from Oldbury, Birmingham, when she arrived in Bosbury on the family’s annual hop picking holiday. In 1940, in the hop fields, she met Ernie. She always maintained it was love at first sight. Ernie, who was born and bred in Bosbury, worked for Graham Andrews at the Grange. When Nellie had the chance to stay on in Bosbury, her dad gave her permission to stay with Ernie’s parents. It really was love, for the couple decided they wanted to marry, but first they needed the permission of Nellie’s parents – at just 16, Nellie was legally under age and needed her parent’s permission for the nuptials to go ahead. Clearly, there was nothing going to stand in this young couple’s way, they loved each other, and they were going to get married. They eventually married in 1941 in Ledbury when Nellie was 17.
Nellie’s parents need not have had any concern. Ernie and Nellie went on to have five children, (sadly one passed away at an early age) and their marriage lasted a lifetime. Ernie continued working with hops all that time, including time on Townend Farm, Bosbury. Sadly, passed away in 2009 and Nellie followed in 2010. Ahhh. Stories like theirs really do warm the cockles of your heart, don’t they?
By Marsha O’Mahony