Still working at 83, and married 60 years
GWG talks with a rare old worthy of Evershot
Taken from the Dorset Echo Saturday 4th April 1936
Truly, it is no easy matter to get across the chasm of 70 years, yet in this village, nay, on ones very doorstep, stands a historian of repute. He knocks. The door opens.
“Is the schoolmeaster in ?”
Then slowly : “I think he wanted to see I about and thing or two.”
He knew full well I did, but that was his dorset way of drawing to the point.
In he comes, recognises the room. “H’m, now just think, I saw ’em plaster thease room in ’74
“I was born April 26, ’53, my fathers family were bakers, and the parson says there hav been Mullins’ here for generations. Schooling? No, I never went to school; but rattled around with my mother’s people who were masons. At the age if 12 I started work on the Estate as a mortar boy, ands here I do still work. Our first job was on the new offices. We were busy on it when thy rushed down to say the village was all afire.
“We left work, and rushed off up the street to help put it out, but most of old Evershot were burnt down.”
One of the buildings to suffer demolition was the barn, reputed to be the meeting place of Tess and Alec D’Urberville on her return journey through Evershot. (More about the great fire of Evershot)
We were married on April 8 1876 at Yeovil Wesleyan Church, came back to Frome St Quinton. Only last night I said to mother: ‘Do ‘ee mind how we come back in the wold tilted trap?’ She Zed: ‘Shall I ever forget it?’
“Now mind what you be putten down for the missus can read if I can’t! And you’ll look out if it don’t read properly”. I laughed heartily at this treat for Mrs Mullins is, if anything, an even better historian than her happy spouse. We do well to remember that the social life of an early 19th century Dorset village is well known to octogenarians: partly through hearsay from their parents; partly through slowness of change in country life.
Bread and Taters
“How did you get on for food,” said I.
“Food-oh, none too much. Mostly ‘t were bread and taters, ‘n taters ‘n bread. Why 12 zacks were usual crop to carry drew a family till taters a-comed again. Then there was a pig, killed ‘n zalted in. You midden ‘blieve it, but a workman today is a gentleman compared wi’ they days. Now do ‘ee stop a scraten down so much wi’ the pen. Bread was 9d a loaf.
“Clothes. Mostly cord and fustian and readymade boots were just comen in, here and here.”
Quoth Harry :- “Evershot fete were the first Tuesday in June.” Now I knew what these club walkens were like by experience, so asked my old friend if he still possessed a a club members’ pole. “No- they’ve been agone for 50 year.”
Wrong for once, was Harry. Going to my study, I fetched from thence an Evershot “painted pole” given to me by dear old George Pullman. Harry became strangely agitated; recollections brought flashes of light to his eyes. “What! Never. You ain’t a-got ‘oon o’m hev ee ? He must hev a number or a name zumwhere.”
Now it must be owned that stick had not been closely inspected. We two examined its length and there sure enough were two letters in red. “J.H” “Yes ‘t is then, that’s Joe Hill’s.” A gentleman come to I some months ago asking about our wold club and zed he’d gie a pound vor a pole. ‘Ood he part wi’n vor a pound?”
“Not for five,” was my sharp rejoinder. What take money for dear old George Pullman’s Keepsake! the proposition was unthinkable.
“How did you get on for light? Of course we’ve electric street lamps off the grid now.” This proved another good lead.
“Ha’penny dips – But you cudden buy many o’ they. Ah, we went to bed when t’was dark, and got up when ’twas light.”
Following the passing of the parish councils act by which every village could have a little parliament of its own, Evershot was not slow in coming forward to partake of advantages. An election for councilors was held at Stocklands’s School; Mr Harry Mullins was a candidate and the working men saw to it that he went on “ah hands up.” The parish council duly met for the first time on December 4th, 1894; Councilor Mulllins has retained it through 41 years; and still is a valuable member.
Is it a right of way?
A now disused footpath?
A chalk pit or Two?
Where the lime kilns used two be?
Where the drains were laid? Where each of the four inns used to stand; or where the chandler’s, the threshing barn, where such and such roystering took place := Why ask Harry Mullins, of course; and who dares to contradict?
He can neither read nor write; but bless you he merely turns back the page of his memory and there in chapter, page, number, verse so and so; and off he reels the facts with accuracy begotten of an unfuddled brain.
In lighter vein
“Evershot had a fair, ye know. Twelfth o’ May. Then there was market every Thursday, Barrels, n’ barrels o’ butter. ‘T were wonderful where all come from. Two families, the Chub’ses were coopers; always busy making small barrels, firkins; from ash grown round here. The firkins o’ butter were loaded when sold, on to a dree horse dray, and hauled to Dorchester.” (or did he say “Doddester”?)
Of the grey haired, bearded patriarchs of the soil, and there are many, who closeted with me, have revealed their life’s story; scarcely one but must needs plentifully besprinkle his tales with “cass’ns”; “waddeb’s”; “coosn’s”; “oosn’s”; and such dialectical brevities. But Evershot’s historian used a vocabulary of a polished, New Stone Age type; thereby. one must assume, reflecting the language of a superior sort. Most of his discourse was conveyed in an easy style; it was only when he was really moved at some long past event that his language become definitely dialectical.
The evening was far spent. He rose to take his departure; passed a staircase; paused; halted; looked at it.
“D’ye know, when we were putting that up, I missed the step at the top of a ladder, and come right down. Funny tho’. It didn’t hurt till I got to the bottom!”
So much for Mr Mullins, mortar boy at the age of 12, mortaring still at the age of 83 years, hale and hearty today.
Mrs Mullins keeps active; does all her own housework, reads the papers with the greatest of ease; and is as homely a picture of a dorset great grandmother as you wish to see, as she sits by the open fire of a winter evening, busy plying her needle.
They have 6 children living, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.
When Harry died on July 15th 1940 at the age of 87, he and Mary had been married for over 64 years, Mary lived on for less than a year and died in the second qtr of 1941, at the age of 91.