Saturday, 13 December 2008

Finding links with the past.

Ronald Blythe in "River Diary" talks of one of the most sure ways of linking with the past being the scent (and sight) of flowers. I agree with this. If I was to walk down the side of a hawthorn hedge in early June, I could be pretty sure that the May Blossom on the hedge would look like it looked to our ancestors a thousand years ago - and that the smell would also be the same. I think the same could be said of birdsong. The sound of a skylark on moorland on a hot summer's day will not have changed one iota over the years - so we can be sure we are hearing exactly the same sound that our great-great-grandfathers heard.
Somehow these somewhat tenuous links with the past generations give me a sense of comfort and a feeling that nature perpetuates itself, that things - animals, people, plants- come and go in the giant scheme of things and each of us is just a small part.
Anyone who has read my blog for a while will remember me writing about the Neolithic Stone Axe that we found in one of our fields, and the silver and carnelian watch fob dated 1863. These were quite rare findings and, as such, very exciting.
But we often come across other links with the past which are much more common. Three of them are photographed above - the spindle whorl, the clay pipe and the flint knife - thousands of these lie about waiting to be found. If you type spindle whorl in Google you will find a whole list of recent finds, some of them beautifully decorated. Putting Clay pipes into Google will also throw up various examples - so they are not at all rare. But to me they are exciting links with the past.
Spindle whorls were used to hold down the thread with weight while the spinning was done - hand spinning. I saw these being used in Turkey in the Taurus mountains by nomadic women as they walked behind their menfolk. I find it exciting to think that at one time people walked in our fields spinning as they walked. It is made of lead and is quite heavy for its size and it has been beautifully decorated although most of the pattern has now worn off. But if I hold it in my hand I feel a link with the past which is hard to ignore.
We have picked up a few clay pipes - this is the most complete. The hole to the bowl is very narrow - smoking must have been quite hard. There is a hatched heart on the bowl which leads me to think it was made for or by a sweetheart. Not so, says Heather, an expert on clay pipes. This one dates from about 1860 - a time when farmworkers were feeling particularly disgruntled with their work conditions and when Trades Unions were beginning to be formed to help them. This heart signifies an allegiance to a Trades Union Movement. A bit more prosaic, but when I look at it I think, who held it in his hand before me, was he working the field, did it break and did he discard it, or did he drop it and lose it?
The flint knife was picked up in my garden. It is easy to think it is just a bit of old flint but for two things - this is not a flint area at all and this flint has been chipped away to give a very sharp edge - that edge is still capable to cutting today. How long that has been there is anybody's guess. Other flint knives have been found so it is not a rarity.
I have a friend with very sharp eyes which she has trained to look carefully as she walks. She has found countless little treasures and then done research into their origins - things from Roman times, Viking times. She is also a dab hand at finding and investigating owl pellets!
The links with the past are all around us, to be heard in bird song, to me smelt in flowers, to be handled and thought about in objects dug from the soil. One question remains - I wonder what I have lost, dropped or inadvertently left around that future generations might find. And if they do, will they pick the object up, hold it in their hand and speculate on my time here on earth?


Any Girl said...

How exciting! Where I live in the western united states there is such a vast expanse, that sometimes people come across arrow heads, etc. There are interesting things to be found, but it doesn't have quite the same density and closeness as the UK has. How exciting! It makes me want to come for another visit over there even sooner!

Leenie said...

Yes, it is fascinating to discover someone else's items from generations past. Even in my garden which has a very short past when it comes to people, I find horse shoes and hay hooks to remind me of the pioneers who struggled to make this place a home.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for visiting anygirl. Yes I can see in the vast expanse of the US artefacts would not turn up in the soil so regularly.

The Weaver of Grass said...

If you live in a pioneer area Leenie then there must be exciting things to discover. I did pay a visit to Plymouth and visit the open air museum there some years ago - it was very exciting.

Pat Posner said...

Great post, Weaver.
Bit spooky, too, as yesterday I was dipping into 'A Favoured Land' - The work of Marie Hartley, Joan Ingilby and Ella Pontefract. There are illustrations of old craft tools and farming implements etc - now housed in the Dales Countryside Museum. I bet you've been there? I really must visit it one day.

Dragonstar said...

We frequently found pieces of clay pipe when we lived on the island. In fact, the children made a collection. We found that boxes of them were bought for wakes, and anyone who called (male or female) was offered a filled pipe. It seems they broke very easily, but there would be several spares in the house.
We never found anything more exciting - not even a spindle whorl.

david mcmahon said...

G'day from Australia,

I came here from Dave's blog, where I saw your comment about the lyrics for the Sunday School song about Zaccheus climbing the sycamore tree.

I used to sing that too, as a kid.

And yes, I learnt The Jackdaw of Rheims as well, at my mother's knee.



The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes, Pat - I know the Dales museum very well. They have super art exhibitions there too.
We have quite a few old farm implements around the farm from David's dad's days - some of the still in use (wooden hay rakes). Well worth a visit.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Very interesting what you say about clay pipes, Dragonstar. I think the reason there are so many lying about is that they were so very breakable.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Hi David - welcome to my blog! What a pity you live so far away, otherwise we could render a pretty good duet for Dave of Zaccheus! Call again.