School holidays in 2020 will, in all probability, be very different from previous years, but one thing is certain: they will be nothing like school holidays straight after the First World War. Long-time Milton resident, Peter Rathbone, found an essay written by his father, Geoff Rathbone, while in his early teens at Burford School. The title of that essay, and one beloved by successive generations of teachers was the highly unoriginal one of ‘How I spent my holidays.’ The essay was dated 30th September 1918. At the foot of the essay is the teacher’s comments:
“Good. You must try and vary your sentences; 8 out of 10.”
This is not a refined piece of writing, but it does give an eye-opening account of what holidays were like nearly a hundred years ago; spot the differences with present day holidays!
The first fortnight of my holiday I spent on fishing and other sports such as football and cricket. When the weather was fine and harvest began, I helped on the farm, first to cut the corn and then helped to carry it. In bad weather, I helped with horse hoeing the rows of crops.
I went picking apples and putting them in bags ready to send them to London by train. I caught several nice fish which were mostly rainbow trout. I went blackberrying the next day and got about eight pounds with which we made jam.
On Wednesday September 12th I went to Oxford. I went to see Christ Church College. In the dining hall we saw some very ancient and beautiful paintings and we had to pay two pence. Then we went to see the cathedral which had very beautiful stained glass windows. We saw the goldfish in the pond outside and after that we went up Old Tom’s Tower.
On the way home we saw a lot of aeroplanes rising and settling as we went past the aerodrome at Port Meadow. One of the planes followed the train a long way and was only just above the train. When the train reached Ascott station about twenty or thirty German prisoners got onto the train.
On Thursday I went to the fete at Milton in aid of the Red Cross. There were several stalls, bowling for the pig, hoop-la and a lot of races at night. There was also a livestock stall and a tent inside of which were German helmets, belts, bayonets, bullets and other souvenirs.
On Friday I went out with the shooters and we shot fourteen and a half brace of partridges, twenty hares and two rabbits in the morning. Then on Sunday I went to church in the morning and evening and on Monday morning I went gathering nuts in the woods. I gathered nearly half a peck of nuts. The last two days of my holidays I spent gathering apples and pears.
Quite a difference to 2020!
August – September 2020