When one of Pilling’s oldest residents Norman Bleasdale died recently aged 97, he left behind a legacy of stories that create a gentle picture of rural history and traditions between the wars.
The retired farmer was a natural storyteller who was fond of reminiscing to family and friends about his childhood years growing up in the Over Wyre district.
As one of the few surviving speakers of traditional Lancashire dialect, his stories were peppered with words and phrases that have all but disappeared from everyday language.
Norman, who lived alone at his farmhouse off Head Dyke Lane – his family home for more than 60 years – was born on October 28, 1917, at Carters Charity Farm, Duck Street, Pilling, the eldest of six.
One of his earliest memories relates to the day his father came home from serving in the Great War. Norman could also remember the countless relatives and neighbours who returned from the war, with ‘cork’ legs – prosthetic limbs made from wood.
Despite the hardship of the war and post-war years, families created their own entertainment to lighten up the gloom. His grandparents would invite their neighbours round for evenings of food and musical entertainment led by a local band.
As a child, Norman helped on the family farm. He recalled having to get up at five o’ clock every morning to feed and milk the cows and attend to the horses. He would then run the two miles to school, only just getting there in time for the school bell.
After school, the whole routine would be repeated until he collapsed into bed, exhausted, after his supper.
As he grew older, Norman was given more responsibilities on the farm. He learnt to use a horse-drawn ‘swing plough.’ Steering the animals was a job which required precision and timing, and his father would chastise him if the horses failed to do their job properly.
After leaving school, Norman went to work on the family farm full time. He used to go to Fleetwood Market on the Fleetwood to Knott End Ferry each Friday with a wicker cart brimming with apples, pears and plums grown on the farm.
He could recall the fateful night the ferry boat got lost in the fog as it made its way across from Fleetwood.
Norman met his wife-to-be, Kate Lawrenson, at a dance at Pilling Comrades Hall. They later married and had three children: John, Rose and Arnold, six grandchildren and several great grand children.
After his retirement Norman kept himself busy pottering around on the farm, but more recently he enjoyed reminiscing and was, rightly, proud of his role as the custodian of Pilling’s history and traditions.