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Farming and Countryside

Rare Birds - A Gamekeeper's Memories



About this book:

  • ISBN: 190 452 4265 (paperback)

  • Published 2005

  • Now only £10 (plus postage)
  • 263 pages
  • Illustrated with 18 black and white photographs



About the Author:
BRIAN Aston was born and brought up in Earlsheaton, near Dewsbury, West Yorkshire where this autobiography begins. The amazing thing about this book is that Brian has a photographic memory and can recall the smallest details from his boyhood. This ability makes the book an important social history of the 20th century.
The story follows Brian, who now lives near Windermere, from his school days to his first work on farms and down the mines - the latter experience nearly killed him in a rock fall. The story continues with National Service in Germany followed by work on the roads before he found his calling in life as a gamekeeper.
The book recounts his experiences working for various estates in Yorkshire, Kent, Wiltshire, Lancashire and Cumbria. There is a great deal of colourful description of the people he knew and of gamekeeping practices. It is an impressive memoir covering the 1930s through to the 1970s when this first part of Brian's autobiography ends at Edenhall, near Penrith.
In many ways this book documents a lost way of life. It will make fascinating reading for anyone interested in the countryside and the way things were.

A gamekeeper from Earlsheaton has turned author with his first book in which he exploits his photographic memory to recall details from his childhood.

Brian Aston, who was born and brought up at Bank Top, Earlsheaton, wrote the autobiography despite being 'uneducated' by recalling minute details from his early years in the 1930s, through to his gamekeeping days in the 1970s.

The book uses Brian's own colloquialisms to bring back to life an earlier Earlsheaton, when what is now a district of Dewsbury was a small village surrounded by fields.

It is full of the young Brian's adventures, as a child rolling in the hay, catching rats, rummaging in the rubbish pits looking for jam jars, delivering coal bags and playing conkers.

The story follows him from his days at junior school and Park School in Earlsheaton, to his work on local farms and down the mines, national service in Germany, followed by work on the roads, before finding his calling as a gamekeeper. This work took him to various estates in Yorkshire, Kent, Wiltshire, Lancashire and Cumbria.

Brian now lives in Windermere in Cumbria and, although his book looks back fondly on his days in Dewsbury, the memories are tinged with sadness that things have changed.

In one chapter called 'Life on the Farm', he states: 'I believe Jim Sheard's field is now covered in houses as are many more of the fields I used to work in. It makes me sad to see anything gone - roads, houses and buses everywhere where we used to shoot partridges and rabbits. All for the sake of people who are spreading like a plague over everything.'

Despite this, the book is full of Brian's Dewsbury haunts of old, including Sam Rhodes bakery at Chickenley, Mrs Hurst's penny shop on the corner of Mill Lane, camping at Coxley Valley, working on Grove Farm and crossing the 'Iron Bridge'. Dewsbury Reporter, April 2005.

INTRIGUING DETAILS of the life of a Cumbrian gamekeeper are revealed to the wider world in this autobiography by Brian Aston. Mr. Aston, who was born and brought up near Dewsbury, but now lives in Windermere, claims to be gifted with a photographic memory.
This talent enables him to recall the smallest details of his early life growing up in Yorkshire and recount how his love for farming and the countryside developed.
In the early part of the book, Mr Aston recalls his childhood and offers a detailed account of traditional farming methods in a world that has since disappeared. This would be fascinating to an historian studying agricultural life in the mid-20th century...
The book becomes considerably more interesting when Mr Aston starts work in a coalmine and is then ent to complete a tough stint of national service in Germany with the army.
On his return following a period as a railway worker, he decides to become a gamekeeper and opens a new chapter in his life, working first in Yorkshire, then in Kent, Wiltshire, Lancashire and finally at the Eden Hall Estate in Cumbria.
The chapters describing life on the estates are far more interesting and offer a fascinating insight into the skills neded to be a gamekeeper - as well as the bravery required to tackle armed poachers alone in the dead of night.
All in all, this book is an excellent document of a way of life that is close to disappearing and is an entertaining read for anyone interested in the countryside
. Westmorland Gazette, September 2005


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