A Life in the Growing Lane

Mum Ruth middle with tray for Charlie, Auntie Ivy (left) Mother Ethel ( right)

Having read the book of Ebenezer Le Page by Gerald Basil Edwards when I was younger an d it was a living history of that era to 1950. I was born on the 21st April 1950 at Clovelly Villas, Rue Maize, in the parish of St Martin on the same day as the 34 th birthday of Queen ofElizabeth 2 of England
My father was Clifford Lewis Gorvel, a grower and Ruth Mary Gorvel nee Leadbeater (housewife). I was the latest addition, a second son and third child of the family.
The house Clovelly Villas was were my father and mother had first rented in 1946 and then 3 years later forced by need to buy.

Big cabbage for large family

Me, Dave Smith and Dad ready for Market

They had lived in a house that was called Mountain Ash, (later Yeamans the Chemist) opposite the St.Martin Rectory from 1942.My father had during the occupation in 1940 lived there, with his brother Ernest. The property was

Me at 4 Years old at Clovelly

Uncle Cyrille

Uncle Cyrille

My Dad on left

My brother Barry left and mother right with some of the Maderian staff.

My Aunt Selina with one of her Guernsey cows.


Mum at North Show with some of her siblings

owned by Jacque Le Clare, who had been in business selling coffee, with my Uncle Ernest. He also owned Les  Merriens Hotel and fields behind, which is now called the St.Martins Hotel. These fields where farmed by my father before and after the occupation. The reason why they were living there, and not Jacque Le Clare, was that he had been arrested for selling coffee and deported to Germany. My Uncle had been very lucky, as he always was, and was not caught, Jacques parting words were, look after the place while l’m away.
I had an older brother Barry born October 10th 1945? a sister Rosemary born July 6th 1947 and still one sister to arrive called Gillian.Uncle Cyril
I was born into a very large family, with my father having 10 ( Roger, Doris, Violet, Frank, Selina, Cyrille, Irene, Clifford, Ernest, Molly and Brabara)

Mum on left me on right and Maderian couple middle

My mothers brothers and sisters and my mother being identical twin were nine in total. My mother had married my father, in 1942, while all of her family, apart from her twin at been evacuated, to an auntie in Devises. My grandparent on my father’s side where from Jersey and some of his brothers and sisters, were born there so they spent the war years in our sister Island

Planting Lettuce ( summer1980)

Golden Guernsey goats, chickens bantams and capons.

Since Ebenezer Le Page finish 1950 and I was born in that year, worked  in the traditional way of life of that time and seen the changes to now. My father farmed grew vegetables and sold them to shops, market, hotels and  his hawkers round at night. This was  was an idyllic life  like ” the Darling buds of May” living off the land for Mum, Dad, eldest brother Barry, Rosemary, myself and younger sister Gillian with homegrown produce and meat. We did not have the variety and  had a lot of stews and  vegetable soups from the farm and if my dad did have it he bartered for something else. I worked in the family growing business  from 1968 to 2005  and the first 25 years working alongside my father and the next 35 years with my brother after my father died young. How many people have this opportunity to be with your family most of the time sharing all the good, bad, experiences and fun times together. So this is dedicated to my future generations to see the era that will be gone by there time but will be part of what made Guernsey and I and family were part of.
Guernsey is 50,000 acres and at this time 1,000 of this was in Greenhouses growing toms, flowers and an assortment of produce for local and export. We exported 10 million 6kilo trays(4lb) of toms to Britain each year, 75% Freesia sold, 25% Roses, 20% spray carnation and 10% Iris with acres of Daffodil grown in the fields to be exported to Britain. When driving around the island you would see fields of Cauliflower, cabbage, sprouts, potatoes etc.,  this was the era of growing and we where not only  seasonally self sufficient but also exporting. The trays (chips)  for the where made in box factories, tomatoes packers,  hauliers and thousands of people and families  relied on this industry for their income and when i joined it at  16, like so many others. I then spent the rest of my life in it and to this day in a smaller way but sad to say nearly all of that history, culture and reliance is gone. Finance is now the biggest industry bringing in the income and only very small holding are left to that huge heritage. So I will from memory try to remember about the good and the  bad times to that history and way of life and time spent in it.

When my dad was 9 or 10 he learnt to play the squeeze  box (accordion) and also went on to play piano accordion and piano, all with from his head but never reading music. He loved the classical music but would only play popular ones when we all persisted at him to play the Beatles or Rolling Stones. He had a  leather bound volumes of Mantevoni which he played in the attic on his own and with the door locked.
When he first learnt to play the squeeze box it was in the kitchen of his family farm  La Roberge Farm, Forest but because of the noise of this he was relegated to the Houses Of Parliament or outside toilet at the top of the garden. If someone was wanted and was in the toilet on would say “he is in the Houses of Parliament”. My dad always practice in here , it had two opening in bench one for adults, one for the children and old news paper cut in squares to use. When anyone wanted to use the toilet my dad had to leave and return when the job was done. As there was a slope to the garden the gooseberries bushes where planted there and every season they were the size of golf balls for some reason. When visiting the farm my gran and later aunt Selena would make gooseberry pie or add other fruit with it with cream from the unpasteurized milk, freshly milked from their cows. They also made rice pudding or semolina with  unpasteurized milk and the skin being  1 ins thick. If you had a meal there cooked on an old arguer with everything fresh  from the farm and even the flour was browned on it. About produce ?

There are so many stories  of this life and for so many involved was a hard but good life being so close to nature with so many larger than life characters.  At Clovelly where we had the family house  field and sheds my dad grew among other vegetables, lettuce drilled with a small hand pushed Planet drill in rows.These rows where drilled  14 ins apart and where then when germinated hand weeded with a french  draw hoe, then gaped at 6 ins apart on hands and knees with a small hand weeder. This being on all fours and weeding with annual stinger nettle was not the best of jobs and most of this was done by Charlie Sweet. Charlie was in his seventies had been badly injured in the first world war, came from a large poor family live in La Cache Farm opposite the now Wicked Wolfe. He used to weed all days on this job and my mother from the family house would bring him a pot of tea and cake for his 10 o’clock and sandwiches, cake and pot of at  midday. My mother was  a good  cook and was always doing some baking every day but one day my mum could not take the tray down to Charlie at midday. So my sister Rosemary’s 10 year old daughter  Julie took the tray with tea, sandwiches and cake down to Charlie but my mum at forgotten to tell my niece one thing. So when  Julie had the tray in front of Charlie who was now sitting on the low bank after he had seen her coming. He did his usual thing of taking off his false leg from the knee off which he had loss in the war, as it kept him balanced when on all fours. He always took it off to eat as it gave him pain but Julie not knowing this saw the leg come off threw the tray in the air and raced off back to the house, screaming all the way. My mum had to console her and also make a fresh tray for poor old Charlie who was also upset having accidentally frightening Julie but who was still hungry as well.

Dad left home at 14, went to  work and in the 5o’s when I was born was self employed running is own business with a family working long hours seven days a week. At this time about May 1955 he  planted the whole of the 5 vergees  of  Clovelly in tomatoes. They where 18ins. apart in 2ft rows with along side each plant a bamboo with ties, after the fourth truss  the head was snipped off and the bunches were allowed to swell. They were planted in dry weather  had no rainfall up to August and by this time where starting to  colour , a heavy crop looked good and tomatoes had made some large growers millionaires. So my father speaking to my mothered said that they could be making a lot of money with this crop over a short picking period. Going to bed that night both felt very happy at the prospect but over night there was heavy  rain and in the morning when he looked at the crop. Of course with this rain the tomatoes had started to split with all the water and even pips where flying from the bursting fruit. When he went back to the house and told my mum what had happened she said for the first time she saw Clifford cry. My father had gone though a lot in his life and it shows even hard men cry at success/joy being turned into failure in a moment.  I with others, have found mother nature can give you pleasure but can also be quite ruthless and merciless at the same time.

When Clifford started he sold all his produce to the town market , local shops, hawkers round  and hotels, collection all his money on Saturday afternoon. One Saturday he ploughed three quarters of  the field in single furrows at Clovelly before collecting his cash on his market round and when he came to have his tea, told my mum “I will finish the field before tea.” He duly went down and ploughed the last quarter, returned to the house and was about to have his meal but mum asked him for the weekly housekeeping money. He always put the notes in his big wallet which always went in his back pocket but when reaching in the wallet had gone. He then realized that he had deposited the money in the wallet and then the back pocket, so it could only be lost when he had finished the ploughing. He said to my mum that he would not have tea yet but go and look in case it was in the van or in the field. Not ther so ended up ploughing the quarter of the field he thought had finished, cricking his neck looking back in the process before turning it up on the third attempt. All was not lost and food on the table for the week.