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Speaking In Tonges
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Tonge-a-Long with Steve Andrews

By Steve Andrews

Pumping 600 gallons of water by hand. That was the Saturday morning job of one of Tonge's longest residents - Arthur Fairbrother. And the payment? One shilling (5p for younger readers).

The water in question had to be pumped up to the tank at the top of Tonge Hall Farm so that the family of the tenant - Alf William Wyatt - could have something other than rust coming out of their taps.

Young Arthur well remembers that he and his brother - a touch fed up with hand-pumping - tried to sneak away one Saturday morning but were confronted by Mrs Wyatt shouting, "It's not full - it's not full" at them.

There are many other memories. Walking past the chapel in Tonge Lane, for instance, and seeing that the doors had been taken off - this would have been in the late 20s or early 30s - but that all the pews were still inside. Or the great stone wall of Tonge which ran from Mr and Mrs Fairbrother's current house at 1 Peter's Close up to the railway line. The track leading to Cloud Hill went through where 3 Peter's Close now stands.

Arthur was born in Tonge in 1924 but his father - a farm labourer - soon moved to a different job and the children went to school in Diseworth. When he was 14, Arthur was faced with the choice of working on the land or in the quarry and chose the former. War soon intervened and Arthur remembers his medical at the Assembly Rooms in Derby. A congenital problem with one of his feet, however, soon persuaded the doctors that he would be of more value working on the land so back he came. He joined the Home Guard and recalls that they met in the Blue Room behind the old lock-up in Breedon.

One surprise - to me at least - was that the War Department took over Tonge station during the war and all the material which was to be assembled at Donington Park - tanks, lorries etc. - was unloaded there. Arthur got a job helping the crane drivers to load and unload and after the war he worked as a despatch rider. Among his collection of evocative photographs is one showing the lady who is now Mrs Fairbrother perched slightly precariously on the pillion of one of his early motorbikes.

Married in 1951, the Fairbrothers have three children and seven grandchildren. Tonge will have the opportunity to wish them well on their golden wedding anniversary in September 2001.