Stories of Fenland life and characters

PUBLISHED: 11:02 19 July 2007 | UPDATED: 12:39 04 May 2010

KEN Isaccson was born in Soham on August 31, 1921, in a bedroom above the butcher s shop that his father ran. Like many people who were born and brought up in the Fens in the last century, he has witnessed great changes to the way of life here, but rather

KEN Isaccson was born in Soham on August 31, 1921, in a bedroom above the butcher's shop that his father ran. Like many people who were born and brought up in the Fens in the last century, he has witnessed great changes to the way of life here, but rather unusually has written down his memories in a book called Home Sweet Soham of this time gone by for 'blow ins' like me to cherish.

He refers to the local Fen words; relations were "lashions", onions were "onguns", large objects "greatuns", and a clever person was "long headed", a young girl was a "mawther" and a young boy a "bor".

Then there were all the characters known locally such as Arbor Tebbitt, who did odd jobs, mainly agricultural, throughout the area. Arbor never had any schooling, never owned anything of any consequence and would walk miles to work wearing his sparrow-tailed coat that had turned green with age. Many a time he would have a few pints of ale and then sleep in the stable of the pub or a ditch, to be near to work the following day.

In those days, there were many pubs in Soham for Arbor to visit; at one time there were 43!

As well as characters like Arbor, the tradesmen of the time were different. Harry Stittle was a harness maker in Hall Street, Soham and when Ken was a boy he would see Harry, as his father had done before him, festoon the outside of his shop with harnesses, horse tack, halters saddles and other riding equipment.

When Harry was young in the mid-19th century there had been no cars or aeroplanes and he could recall 100 horses stabled in just Hall Street alone!

By the time he retired in the 1920s, horses had been replaced by tractors on most farms and his skills were no longer in such demand.

Every year Ken's father Ernie Isaccson would bring in by train to Soham station a number of 'fat cattle' from the Earls Court show. On the first Saturday after the cattle arrived Ernie would have the animals tied up outside his butcher's shop, groomed and decorated with their rosettes.

With his best black smock and pure white apron on Ernie would stand outside the shop with his order book for Christmas.

Ken recalls how his father would then "go into his spiel and suggest they had their joint cut from the sixth rib and every Christmas our animals has at least fifty of these sixth ribs". Nobody seemed to complain though and would come back for their Christmas joint year after year.

These days of course we buy or meat in a slightly different way.

INFO: There are many more stories in Ken's book available at Soham Book Shop and Burrows Book shop in Ely.

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