Hoping to find the identity of Old Father Time from the 60s

Norfolk’s answer to Last of the Summer Wine? A mardling trio at side of the road in Toftwood in ear

Norfolk’s answer to Last of the Summer Wine? A mardling trio at side of the road in Toftwood in early 1960s. Can anyone put a name to Old Father Time? - Credit: Archant

This week Keith's asking for help to track down the jovial character in this old black and white photo

One of the choicest perks arising from opening a proudly parochial window on the world each week is attracting rich selections of old photographs and always-vibrant memories.

I've been blessed with a particularly big crop since turn of the year including a tantalising picture taken in the early 1960s and delivered as 'surely a great Norfolk example of Last of the Summer Wine!'

It comes from Rosemary Button of Watton who had copied writing on the back of the original: '1 Father Time, 2 Little Jack Horner (my father), 3 One Man and his Dog.' I wanted to know more, and Rosemary obliged when I got in touch.

'It always makes me laugh and seemed such a shame it should be hidden away in a drawer. I'm sure it will bring a smile to many a face'. Agreed – and readers may be able to throw a bit more light on a cheerful scene captured in Toftwood, next to East Dereham at a time when a bit more precious space and greenery separated the two.

'Father Time' is all we have to identify the older gent on the left with white hair and beard. A striking figure, he must have made an impact on the Dereham and district scene as a friend of the other two. Any information gratefully received.

'Little Jack Horner' is indeed Rosemary's father, Robert Girling, who died at Toftwood in 1969 aged 72. He served in the First World War and had various jobs after until buying a small run-down farm in 1937 and eventually turning it into a success.

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'One Man and his Dog' was the role taken by Eric Greenwood, a good neighbour to Rosemary's parents in Toftwood, ,and apparently a regular on parade with the other pair enjoying a mardle at side of the road.

Rosemary was born in Mattishall in 1932 but as a five-year-old hopped just over the border into the small Suffolk community of Syleham. She left Norfolk again in 1953, married in 1962 and settled in Kent – but the pull of her native county lured her back in 1989.

Old acquaintance Ray Edwards of Brampton, near Beccles is always ready to share stories and scenes from a farming world when it moved at a horse's pace. He will soon be 86 and reckons 'the number of old boys who worked with hosses, ploughing fields in deepest winter with only a pulp sack or two to keep out the north winds from Cromer, must be dwindling fast'.

More memories were stirred by a recent photo on this page of a farm stackyard with horses, men and boys taking a break. A long ladder on show sent Ray scurrying aloft to find the box marked 'Boyhood Memories'. He was just 10 when he started helping on the farm. This high-risk incident comes from the year he became a full-time son of the soil.

'The master said we were going to clean the church ready for harvest festival. Men loaded the thatching ladder onto a wagon. It was a struggle to get it inside the building, but they managed eventually to manoeuvre it upright against the apex of roof rafters.

'The foreman handed me a long bamboo cane with turkey feathers tied on and exclaimed: 'Up you go, boy. And don't fall off the ladder!' He put his foot on the bottom rung to stop it slipping on the tiles.

' It bent and bowed as I climbed, and I clung on for dear life.! I was instructed to brush all the cobwebs down, but I found none as so many bats had made it their home and done the job for me. The master said I'd done a good job so I could clean all the big windows - but not to put force on the stained glass or it might fall out!'

Thanks, Ray, for all your souvenirs of local country life - even if they do make you feel 'like a dinosaur lost in a bygone time'. Just remember it's horses for courses when it comes to nostalgia.

Finally, a fond salute towards Shirley Sirrell of Attleborough. We were at Beeston primary school together a few terms ago when I knew her as Shirley Burton. She sent me an evocative photo of our respective Nannas, Wyett and Burton, mardling outside their cottages next door to each other close to the village school.