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Does it still work?


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Another little tale, that was amusing but annoying at the time, occurred in the early '70s. The age of the three day week. Another of the miners gifts to the countries economy, orchestrated by one of the country's greatest parasites...Arthur Scargill.


We had bought a farm house, and one or two small out buildings, in order to look after my mother and father in their last few years. The farmhouse was attached to a barn (or it might have been that the barn was attached to the house.) The vendor was the M.D. of a precision engineering company and he had bought this farm a few years earlier in order to set up his son in business. This business was the breeding and rearing of “game” (the vendor was a “sportsman” ……. pheasants, partridge, deer, salmon ). He was in fact a very nice chap. very helpful and considerate.


The house had been partitioned into two dwellings many years before, and in the partitioned section dwelt a couple of old age pension tenants. They had dwelt there all their married lives and the rental, for kitchen, sitting room and bedroom was still the 5/- per week. (which included gas, electricity, heating and water and an outside “tippler”). Our vendor asked us to treat them gently.

The remainder of the house had been occupied by a chap who was employed on the game farm, until he was “found with his hand in the till !”


Before my parents could be housed it was necessary to extend the house and do alterations so that they could have their own downstairs domain, and so work got under way just as soon as we had finished rectifying problems with what would be “our” part of the dwelling.


The son of the vendor, Alan, and his wife, who lived in a very nice new house a couple of field lengths above us, became welcome visitors and helpers, as did Leslie the farmer from the farm just across the road.


The barn, and an added on building behind it, were used by Alan for a variety of purposes. One section housed the hatchery, from which came a continuous stream of quail. After fattening these were sent to several Indian restaurants, mainly in the Midlands. Another section housed the standby electricity generator (to foil Arthur Scargill and his gang). Yet other sections performed other purposes.

There were also three large wooden buildings of the “nissen hut“ style which served as egg producing sources and game bird (pheasant and partridge) nurseries. A few peacocks and a few red deer rounded off the livestock tally.


One late Autumn evening, as Alan and I were doing something or other in the house, the lights suddenly went out. Alan said “I just got a new tankful of diesel oil for the generator. Have you enough wire to run a lead from it into your house?”


Well, I had been rewiring all the house, because the last person to do any wiring had been a local electrician who had been putting in new type 13 amp. switches and sockets and a new multi fused distribution board. He was proud of his work because he had left his sticker on the distribution box.


The reason for my rewiring was that he had used the old wiring “in situ” (much of it lead covered, rubber insulated, single strand cable of the thirtys that used the lead cover as the earthing wire). It certainly was not safe and I am not sure it was legal. So as a result I had rewired the entire property and as a result of that I had built up quite a stock of all the electric cabling any man could need.


So we rigged up a length of power cable from Alan's generator to my distribution board and he went and brought his wife down to our house for the rest of the evening. The following day we rigged another cable over the road to Leslie's place. We were a very snug smug little group, and the village down the road looked on with mixed feelings.


The following day Scargill disbanded his troops and the lights came on again and things reverted to what passed for normal and the house renovation carried on as before.


Alan was a young man who slightly resented having to “work”. He would much rather be a “kept” M.D.'s son than be a working man. One day, not long after Scargill's climbdown, he said that he had decided to sell up and buy a caravan site that he had seen advertised that was situated just over the Scottish boarder. This led to quite an upheaval for a two or three weeks and then he was gone and the barn and the few acres that went with it were up for sale.


One day shortly after he had gone Leslie and I were chatting about Scargill and the strikes when we were both hit with the same thought at the same time….. “Alan's generator !”


Leslie knew of an interesting dealer in ex-army surplus things, in a town no more than fifteen miles away, and so we had a trip out to see what was available. We found a generator on a stand (ex US army) and a decent sized Jeep engine that suitably tweeked would drive the generator.


It was decided that we would site this lot in an old disused stone shed behind Leslie's farm house and convert the engine to run on gas, obtainable by running a pipe from the kitchen. ...but first we had to coax the engine and the generator to perform their relative functions.


Over the years I had gathered a lot of engineering stuff, a lathe, pillar drill, welding gear, and electrical hand tools such as drills, angle grinders, etc. so the manufacture of “bits” was no problem.

The first thing was making sure the engine was a runner on petrol. This went well and so it was decided to position the generator in it's appointed running position in it's new home on it's new concrete pad. That too was a resounding success. The next bit, which was coupling up the generator to the engine in a manner that would allow for a little flexing of the coupling, was a little more taxing. However we succeeded, and also succeeded in getting electricity out of the assembly.


The next bit was modifying the carburettor system into accepting gas instead of petrol, and a way of controlling the flow of gas to the engine by the “load” on the engine. This took far longer than all the rest of the work put together and resulted in a lot of midnight lathe work and brazing. However after a few long evening struggles we made it.


It was all finished off with an exhaust pipe through the back wall into a dustbin with its sides perforated and interior filled with coke providing virtual silence. It ran and it generated electricity and we just waited to see how it performed under reality conditions.


Over the years our tenants died and we returned that part the house back to its original condition. Then my parents died and that just left the two of us rattling about in a thirteen room house. The barn had been bought and converted into a very nice house with very nice friendly owners (with whom we are still in regular touch).


We decided that we should downsize and move to a drier part of the country than the Yorkshire Dales. The met office told us of the driest place in the country and so we moved here. This is not the driest part of the country….we could not afford that!!!


Leslie has gone to the big farmhouse in the sky, as has his wife. His farm house still stand there empty. Where the gas driven electricity generator is I have no clue. I wonder if it still works????


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  • 1 year later...

There is a sad end to this tale.

A couple of weeks ago we went over to see our old next door neighbours. ( The couple who lived in"the barn conversion" next door)

The only thing that is left of "Leslie's farm" is the house. It looks ominously like some builder has bought the place and is hell bent on converting the farm and land into a country housing  estate.

I hope he gets suitably dealt with by nature.

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