Small Town Inertia

Documentary & Portraits by J A Mortram

Market Town : Jimmy : Tales of escape, endurance and infinite moments

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“I never had any plans. Just take it as it comes. Never made any plans. I never knew nothing you see, coming from a small village up in the country like I did. Then, when I was a child in Ireland the country was on the breadline. That’s why a lot of Irish people up and left for America because they just couldn’t live in Ireland, there was no money, no work, no Doctors, no Social Security, no nothing.”

“The only bit of work was sugar beeting or harvesting and you could only get that for a few weeks out of every 12 months. There was nothing. No Doctor in the village if anyone was sick. It was terrible and there was 14 of us in the family. My Mother used to get 7 and sixpence a week childrens allowance and that had to get us through Tuesday to Tuesday. There was bread rationing, you’d go into a shop they give you one loaf, one pound of sugar and that was your lot for a week. Hard old times and no doubt about it.”

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“It was terrible. Always fucking hungry. I was 12 at this time and I’ll tell you as I’m not ashamed, I used to go out and thieve turnips out of the fields and rob the orchards because I was hungry. I had nothing else, nothing else. Never had a Christmas, never knew what a Christmas was, never knew what a proper meal was and that’s the gospel truth.”

“The village I lived in was only a mickey mouse place, only a tiny village. There was a little school. It was useless, they never learned us a thing. The teachers only used to look after the rich, all the farmers kids because they had the money.  We didn’t have any books, pencils or nothing and they wouldn’t learn us, just put us all out, all the poor kids got put out in the playground and the teachers would leave us out there all bloody day. We never had a chance, never had any chance. They didn’t give a shit about us.”

“You couldn’t get nothing, no work. You used to go up the farms, stand on the corner waiting to see if there was work all fucking day, just hoping a farmer would stop by and take some hands for a couple of hours work but no, they’d not take any notice of you. All the power then was with the farmers and if we ever did get a job for a day or two with the farmers they were bastards to us. Your sweat wasn’t enough they wanted your blood. They would expect you to do as much work as a horse.”

“Now, when you could get it I used to do a bit of sugar beeting, when there was snow on the ground, pull all the sugar beet out of the fields just to get a few bob like and I worked all day in the frost, the fog and the snow when I came to get my money this bastard of a farmer, I was only young like and I went and asked for my pay and the farmer said; “You have to fight me for my money.”  “What!?” I said… “You have to beat the shite out of me to get any money.” the farmer replied and then he would pay me, dirty bastard. A full grown man. So he bashed me up and once we’d had the fight he paid me my money. Thats how they treated us over there. They barely paid us anything, made you feel like a fucking slave. We’d work from 8 till 8 and no dinner break for a pound.”

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“Nobody would believe how we survived, even I don’t know when I come to think about it.”

“My Father, well, he left home in 1941 so I was only about 6 years of age and he never come back. He didn’t give a shit about us, any of us. He never supported us. My Mother tried to get him to come back home or to send us a little bit of money but he sent nothing and I never saw him again.”

“He left 14 children behind. He left for England and left us all to die in Ireland. Thats what he done the bastard. Apparently he’d settled in Slough and was living with another woman. He was claiming money for all of us but we never saw a penny as he kept is all for himself. He never sent us a fucking penny. He had a heart of stone.”

“My Mother stood by us and did her best with barely any money coming in, she was a good woman. Eventually I left home, I was so fed up with not getting any work and being hungry all the time. My first cousins, they had come over to England and used to come back every Christmas and one time they said “Jimmy, why don’t you come back with us to England?. You can get a job there, we’ll look after you.” So I thought about it and I came over in January 1960 and they put me up in the place where they were living.”

“It was a Monday I got to England, I went out Tuesday and I got a job just like that working on the river at the docks and I started on the Wednesday.”

“The docks was where all the boats came in loaded with sugar beet, beans and the like and we’d load them on to all the barges to take them on to all the factories. It was so busy in those days, the rivers.”

“The gangerman, Bluey was his name, he really took to me, asked me to go into his office and he explained to me “This is the docks and really to work on the docks you have to have a card, a white card, if any of the other dockers ask you where you’ve come from just tell them the London docks.” and he gave me the job. I was there up to 1965 when they closed up the rivers.”

“The first little dog I got was Shelia. I got her with Olive the lady I lived with for 23 years from 1973 to 1994 when she passed away. Olive got so scared in London after having the house broken into 3 times that she wanted to return to Norfolk so we moved here in 1988. Ever since we got Shelia I would take photographs of our dogs, I’d never taken photos before.”

“Every photograph I’ve ever taken has been of the dogs. I’ve hundreds and hundreds of photographs of them. It’s nice to take them and look back at them a few years later, memories, beautiful memories. It makes a moment infinite.”

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Part of Jimmys huge collection of photographs documenting his dogs.

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The late Susie and Rosie.

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A ritual now is Jimmys daily visit to the local bookmakers a good 2 miles journey from his bungalow.

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Working out which numbers to bet on the hourly lottery.

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More than the gambling the bookmakers has become a place where people meet and can catch up with each other, in many ways it’s replaced the role of Public Houses and Social Centres for a large proportion of the Towns elderly.

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Watching, waiting and hoping for the winning draw.

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Market Town : Jimmy : Tales of escape, endurance and infinite moments