The Day I Earned My First Pay
It was a Friday night as I headed for the toss-pit and the side of Banty Paddy’s hut. I was only able to watch the lads play as I was skint as usual.?Tommy Donnelly was tossing the pennies. Micky George and Brendy Wilkinson were talking about going out in the morning to pick spuds for a farmer out past the Branch Road.”You get 10 bob a day and tea at 10 o’clock and a good big dinner at 12.30” said Brendy. "I’ m going to then" I said and soon there were 8 of us going. So we met at the camp gate at 7.45 the next morning.I remember it well.The sky was blue and the sun shining.?I said to Brendy “do you know where this farm is?” "Ayeee, it’s just out the road." he said .So we started walking, the 8 off us. After about 30mins Tommy Donnelly asked “Is it much further Brendy” "Naw I don’t think so." replied Brendy. "Look, you just listen for the sound of the digger in the fields." ?We walked and walked. Still no farm or no sound of the digger!! It was now about 9 o’clock and we were still walking and getting thirsty by the minute.?Suddenly,we heard the magical sound of the digger in the distance ,so we ran to where the sound came from and sure enough it was a digger and a big field and only 4 people gathering the spuds. We went over to the diggerman and asked him if he wanted any spud pickers.He looked at us and asked “Did you ever pick spuds before?” "Aye we did, we all answered together. The farmer looked at us.Brendy was the oldest and he was 13.?"Ok. I will give you all 10 shillings each for the day . ”Will you give us dinner also?” asked Danny Feeney. "As much as you can eat," the farmer replied.?So we all split into pairs and grabbed a spud basket and started gathering the spuds at a furious pace!!! So our first days work had begun !!
After about 45 minutes Jim English asked. 'Is it nearly tea time?" and before we could answer back ,this land rover pulled in to the field with two women in it and they off loaded a basket full of scone bread and a massive urn of tea.The farmer stopped his digger and waved us all over to the land rover and soon we were all tucking in to a lovely hot mug of tea and the most delicious scone bread I have ever tasted. Fifteen minutes later we started gathering the spuds again and suddenly the farmer on the digger started singing “I never felt more like singing the blues” and one by one we all started singing along with him and as we gathered the spuds. We had a sing song and before we knew it it was dinner time and excitement was high as the farmer jumped on to another tractor with a big trailer on it and shouted"All aboard. We are going for are dinner."So we all jumped on board and the singing got louder as we drove along the wee winding country road towards the farm yard .We arrived at the farm yard and the woman beckoned us all in and there was this massive long table and she told us to sit down. We sat down and we got served loads of spuds, meat, gravy and vegetables. It was a lovely dinner and when we were all finished we all thanked the women for the dinner.As we started to get up from the table she asked “Do you not want desert ?" Down like a flash we sat again and out came a large piece of apple tart and custard.We all thought this must heaven or the closest thing to it .Back again to the spud field and boy did we sing on the way back on the trailer. Our bellies full and the sun shining and getting paid in to the bargain.As the afternoon wore on the farmer stopped and called us all over. We had grins as wide as the Foyle. It was pay time . We all stood there as he handed us all a big ten shilling note each. What a feeling !!!! Our bellies full and loads of money in our pocket.We were about to leave the field when the farmer asked ”Do you all fancy coming out again next Saturday again?” A loud roar came up. AYEEEE!
"Good" the farmer said " Now jump on the trailer and I will run you all home to the camp." Sammy Porter asked "What’s your name?" and the farmer laughed and said "Sproule." He duly dropped us off at the camp gate,and we all ran down the camp to our huts and proudly show our mothers our ten shilling note .We all agreed we would give our mothers 5 shillings each and keep the other 5 shillings to ourselves. I can still see the happy smile on my mother's face as I showed her MY FIRST DAY'S PAY. I told her I was going to give her 5 shillings .She was thrilled. Ten minutes later my big sister tapped me for a loan of 2 shillings to go to the Corinthian Ballroom and she would pay me back on Friday. "Ok" I said.I mean I still had three shillings left . I could afford it as I was rich and next Saturday I was getting another ten shillings as well. I felt happy, very happy as I made my way to Mc Connell's shop to spend a bob. Sure I could afford this treat for myself. Sure wasn’t I now a “Working Man” with a good job!! We continued to work picking spuds for farmer Sproule for a few years after that Saturday in September in 1960.?Willie Deery