I’ve had a great deal of pleasure reading the Ray Rees Diaries and of course seeing the photographs of so many old friends, especially my very good pal Charlie McGonnigal.
We were together from the start of the conversion of a tumbledown old cottage into my favourite Youth Hostel, where we subsequently spent most of our weekends, especially in the wintertime.
We always seemed to have lots of snow in those days and I remember one glorious weekend when Charlie and myself had been the only two people to get up to Wholehope in deep snow and on the Saturday we skied over to Uswayford, seen here in summer colours.
The Telfers had been snowed in for two weeks and we had heard on the radio that the RAF were going to drop provisions and tons of hay that very morning. We arrived just in time to se the last load of hay come down and we spent the day helping to get it all in as quite a lot had been dropped some distance up the fell side. We were well fed for our help and spent the night in their old caravan before a lovely days skiing back to Wholehope, then later down to Alwinton on the Sunday.
Neil Telfer of Uswayford remembers the day well:
‘The hay drop was of black clover, a gift from the farmers of Abingdon in Berkshire. The BBC told us to make a sign in the snow, C for cattle and sheep feed and a F for food for the family. We made the C and F from the muck of the muck heap manure in the middle of the hay field and at the appropriate time lit a smoky fire of tractor fuel. The Beverly bombers came one at a time from the south, over the Five Gates, dropped about 1 1⁄2 tons of hay and immediately steeply climbed over Hen Hill, circling over Cheviot as the next plane made its run., They got so accurate that at the third attempt they put the fire out. Bulls Eye!. One went into a snow drift and we measured that it went in 20 feet. That had to wait till the thaw….
Two of the shepherds Harold Hedley and Tug Wilson had skis but they were no good in this instance as when they had to handle the supplies and took their skis off, they just sank into the deep snow. We had snowshoes that worked well, these were thoughtfully supplied by the Ministry, from Alnwick.
As one of the Beverlys made its run, someone accidentally dropped his RAF scarf-hat near the house. Annie Telfer wrote a letter and after the thaw sent it together with the scarf back to the RAF unit inviting them next time to call in for a cup of tea. (Annie’s ‘cup of tea’ was a table groaning with her delicious baking.) She had a wonderful letter back from the Commander that was signed by all the crew, they also said that they would not reveal what they did to the accident prone airman!
The cattle and sheep thrived on the new experience of clover hay so much so that the poor family cow started to give creamy milk just as if it was summer time again in mid winter’.