Marian Walsh tells of childhood fun collecting conkers in the 1950s
The village of Ockbrook where I lived a a child was lucky to contain a good collection of conker trees, huge in size and would contain a good haul if you could beat the other gangs to them. So armed with our own throwing sticks we would do the rounds, often to find the other gangs had beaten us to it.
It was getting a bit critical for our gang - we needed some King Conkers for matches, when Allan Freeman said "There are some great ones at The Grange.". Now Allan's father was the chauffeur for the Morleys who lived in "The Grange" and the Freemans lived in the gate lodge. Mrs Morley was the spitting image of the old Queen Mary and kept herself to herself. She was a widow and looked after by her butler and his wife was the housekeeper. The house was surrounded by a stone wall a a huge gate leading up a long drive to the house. Allan said "There is small gate near the lodge, but I won't come in in case Dad finds out."
We decided to do it in the evening when it was dark. Ken, David, John, Jean, Joan and me crept through the little gate and up the drive onto the lawn where there were conkers all over the place.We dashed about picking them up and stuffing them in our bags. Ken said "I still think we can get some bigger ones." So we started using our throwing sticks bringing down another great haul, when Joan started screaming and running all over the place - she was being attacked by an owl who kept swooping onto her head.
All of a sudden lights were going on all over the house and Joan was still screaming. We all bolted down the drive towards the gate with conkers flying in all directions and did not stop until we got home. Mom took one look at me and said "Now what have you been up to?". "Nothing, just looking for conkers." Joan never said a word.
Of course the next step to getting a good King Conker was baking them, so many times Mom has gone to use the gas oven to find it full of baking conkers, and I have had Mom chasing me down the yard with the coal shovel. And then for your King Conker you bored a hole and thread it with a boot lace. There were a lot of men at that time of year wondering why their pair of boots had only one lace!
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