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Dora taking place in the ploughing competition. (Click to see whole photo)




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The Wartime Memories of
Dora Varley

Before the war Dora was a cashier in a Bradford office, but she volunteered for the Women’s Land Army and came to work in the Skipton area, living at the hostel up Shortbank Road.  The hostel housed 40 girls and she remembers they were well fed paying 17/6d per week for board out of a weekly wage of something over £2, although overtime could be earned in busy periods.  They were expected to be in at night by 10.30pm unless they had requested a special pass.

The War Agriculture Executive Committee (War Ag) organised the work from their HQ at the back of Millbridge House, between the Castle Inn and what was then the New Ship Inn.  The girls were sent to work from a depot such as Carleton, West Marton, Gargrave or Bolton Abbey, sometimes travelling there by bicycle, otherwise they were transported there by van or truck before going out to work on the various farms in their area. 

Dora had been taught to drive a tractor and obviously showed great aptitude as she became a ‘flyer driver’,  the name given to the person who drove the double tractor unit. The spiked wheel tractors used for heavy work could not travel on the roads so were transported on a trailer pulled by a tractor with rubber wheels.  This tractor also pulled a fuel trailer, and at harvest time a reaper/binder too, making the whole outfit long and difficult to manoeuvre especially if it needed to be reversed for any distance.  She was given instruction by an Irish man who promised he would teach her to get it ‘…through the oye of a needle.’  Accurate driving was essential as some of the gates were too narrow for the machinery and the posts would have to be removed to enable the tractors to inch through the narrow gaps. 

The Carleton fuel depot was where Owd Bill’s Garage used to be, down Broughton Road and another of Dora’s jobs was to reconcile the fuel dispensed with that left in the tank, a job which Dora, used to figures as a cashier, took in her stride.

Quite a large amount of time was spent ploughing but other jobs included potato picking which was back breaking work as the potatoes were picked into feed buckets which were very heavy when full.  These then had to be tipped into a trailer.  Dora remembers helping to raise the sugar beet at Newfield on a freezing cold morning making it very difficult to ease the beet out of the ground.  They were also involved in haymaking and harvesting.  Of the crops to be harvested, wheat was the best to cut but not much of that was grown.  When it came to threshing time, the threshing machine was taken from farm to farm.  She remembers threshing as a hard and dusty job.  Two girls threw the sheaves to the person feeding the thresher who had to feed the machine at the right speed.  The person operating the baler had to feed in wires through three sided needles and make sure the bales were of a reasonable size, otherwise there were complaints if they were too big and heavy to handle.  Apparently barley was unpopular to thresh because the ‘whiskers’ caused a lot of problems.  Eventually a drying plant was set up at Addingham because of the problem of drying the grain in the Yorkshire climate.

Ploughing competitions were organised to provide some interest and test skill.  In January 1944, one such competition was organised on a county basis with the local heats being held at Aireville and the finals at Wetherby.  Dora won the Land Army Employees class at Aireville and went on to become the runner up at the county finals at Wetherby.

Dora now lives in the Skipton area having met her husband through her work in the Land Army.  She is now the organiser of the Skipton Land Army Re-union Group.

Read the Wartime memories of other Malhamdale residents:
Edith Carr
Veronica Fletcher (Fell)
Rob Foster
John Geldard
Norman Heaton
Barbara Purcell (Hoare)
Frank Sharp
Ethel Taylor
Margaret Thompson (Carr)
Marion Wellock


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