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Farming in Wartime, Getting Mechanised & Electrifying Music: Memories of a Lincolnshire Life

Eileen Burrell was born in Sheffield in 1930 but grew up in Brinkhill. Her father was David Baumber, and her mother Amelia Baumber née Harvey. Eileen’s maternal grandfather, James William Harvey, left Swineshead with a shilling in his pocket to seek his fortune. He found his way across the Pennines, helped to build the Manchester Ship Canal then moved to Sheffield where he fell for and married Ada Tankard. Eileen’s paternal grandmother, ‘Granny Humberston’, was a farmer’s daughter from Brinkhill.

James Harvey remained in Sheffield where he became a brewer. During Eileen’s childhood, he occasionally visited Brinkhill. He never drove – as he had two sons who could, he didn’t see the point. He kept onions on strings to keep germs at bay.

Eileen was born in smoky, industrial Sheffield. Her father trained as an engineer at Hadfield’s on the site of what is now Meadowhall. He’d left Lincolnshire to preach the gospel for the Plymouth Brethren in Sheffield, where he learned to play the organ which became his life-long passion.

sheffield & brinkhill

Above image: Pre-war Sheffield and Brinkhill today


When Eileen’s Lincolnshire granny died, her parents moved back to work on the family farm at Brinkhill Grange. Their move coincided with the change from horse-drawn to mechanised agriculture, so they worked with both horses and tractors.

Eileen maintains that farmers were a silent army during the Second World War. With the Battle of the Atlantic threatening us with shortages and starvation, the farmers did their bit. They threw down their hoes and embraced tractors. Eileen remembers how quickly the machinery grew in size. The first combine harvester she ever saw made a lasting impression when it crested the horizon over Brinkhill in the early war years. It was a real event but made a mess of the verges on the original narrow roads.

David Baumber was not called up as his was a reserved occupation. An estimated 70% of the UK’s food was imported so improving the domestic yield was deemed vital to the war effort. Eileen was certainly aware of the war. On a visit to her gran’s in Sheffield, she could see the glow from the steelworks by night as they made armaments. None of her family were hurt by bombing, although Eileen’s dad once spent a night under a tram at a Sheffield depot after a telling off by an ARP warden.

Tom Rhodes

Above image: Tom Rhodes, young and old.


Eileen grew up knowing Tom Rhodes, Jacqui Rhodes’ father-in-law. Tom married Elsie, personal maid to Mrs Massingberd-Mundy. When you spoke to Tom, recalls Eileen, he’d roll a cigarette, stare into the distance and talk to you in a way that made you really listen. Eileen once asked him what Mrs M was like and, after some thought, he said she was a wonderful, generous lady but a little bit fiery.

Squire Adrian, recalls Eileen, was a decent bloke who liked to chat and would always use your Christian name rather than your surname. When Eileen worked there, she just called everyone by their first name as she hadn’t grown up with the Hall’s level of etiquette. She once bought him an advent calendar and he thanked her as profusely as if she’d given him gold.

In later life, when Eileen lived on the estate, Squire Adrian asked if she’d help with lunch for the weekly shoot. He was very persuasive but she told him she was opposed to blood-sport and he accepted that with good grace.

St Leonard's Church & Anne Walters

Above image: St Leonard’s Church and current organist, Anne Walters. 


David Baumber was St Leonard’s Church’s organist for 46 years under a number of clergymen. For a time, a conscientious lad from Brinkhill pumped the organ while David played. One night, the organ went silent and when David investigated he found the lad reading the News of the World instead of pumping. This inspired Eileen’s dad to pay for an electric pump out of his own pocket, which meant he could take himself to St Leonard’s on his bike and play his heart out whenever the mood took him.

In 1973, Eileen’s dad happened to play the organ for a staged funeral when the BBC came to South Ormsby to film a Christmas adaptation of the M.R. James ghost story, ‘Lost Hearts’.

Having turned 90 over Christmas, Eileen now lives in West Ashby and remains active in the community. She regularly contributes to the Tennyson Chronicle, doing her bit to cheer people up in challenging times.


* Image of pre-war Sheffield courtesy of Sheffield Tiger via Flickr CC


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