2 February 2003

Ullswater The Nelson’s 1

 My father came to Sharrow Bay in 1939 to become Gardener to Thomas Basil Nelson, the owner.

Mr Nelson was an intensely shy man of very few words. To me he appeared a large bulky man and very aloof. His wife, Mrs. Nelson always used to address him, as either TB or Jay whom I assume was her pet name for him, never by his given name.

To own Sharrow Bay and all its grounds and then the lakeside woods he must have been a very rich man. So rich he did not need to work for his living in fact he had never worked in his life. His main occupation was reading and he spent most of his time in his large library. Generally he used to communicate through his wife unless he felt something was of particular importance. In fact I think his wife made most of the day-to-day decisions.

Rumour had it that his wealth came through the famous Lord Nelson but as I write this I at present tend to discount this, there is certainly no mention in Burke’s Peerage. Just another “below stairs” rumour passed down over the years?

As I grew older I was asked via Mrs Nelson if I was interested in becoming Mr. Nelson’s beater. I would guess I would be about eleven or twelve at the time. When in season every Saturday morning Mr Nelson would go to organised game shoots on other larger estates for partridge and pheasant. Each member of the shooting party was required to supply a beater and pay the beater from his own pocket. I jumped at the chance, the payment was much more than the two and sixpence I was getting for four hours gardening and odd jobs I received each Saturday morning.

Each early Saturday morning I would wait by the garage for Mr Nelson and he would greet me with a “Good Morning” and I would get into the Jaguar with him. He usually did not speak at all during the trip or at most an odd question. As I was a shy boy then I too said nothing. I wish now that I had asked him questions; looking in retrospect he must have been a very lonely man.

When we reached our destination I would join the other beaters under the direction of the head beater and we would move off to the shooting area. Our job was to walk in a long line abreast through the undergrowth beating the thick areas of bushes and rough grass driving the game out and forward of us into a firing line of shooters standing in a line abreast who shot the flying birds. They did not stand a chance.

By lunchtime or one o’clock the shoot was usually over and after the shooters lunch with me and the other beaters eating our sandwiches we would leave for home. Mr Nelson would put his share of the booty in the boot of the Jaguar and when we reached home he would get out of the car and just say “Thank you”, put his had in his pocket and give me a ten shilling note… twenty shillings was a pound in today’s money. The average wage in those days would be five to six pounds per week so for a days work with a early afternoon finish I was well rewarded.

Mrs. Nelson to be continued.

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