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Sack Cloth and Coal

Photo prompt copyright:
Photo prompt copyright: Rochelle Wisoff-Field

As Hector tied sacking over Henrys feet, Henry chomped leisurely at the contents of his nose bag whilst his tail tried to knock Hector’s cap off.

Nay lad we’s going to need our caps and boots this day. It’s sore cold outside and we’ve forty bags of coal to deliver. You’re be needing all your strength and the old yellow blanket, for Iceland’s got now’t on Birmingham today.

With layers of sacking over his leather jerkin Hector guided Henry around drab red brick streets. Now and again Hector would loop his arms around the horse’s neck as they both struggled to earn their keep.



The winter of 1946/47 was bitterly cold and the continuation of former wartime austerity meant that coal was still rationed.

Hector and Henry are an amalgamation of childhood memories. Inspired by a memories told to me by Bill Thornber.


This Post Has 41 Comments
  1. What an awesome little glimpse of a piece of history. How soon we have forgotten what a real day’s work is. Ever and always, I will remember with profound love, respect, and honor the gentleman farmer who delivered milk to us even in the middle of the blizzard of 1978. He did so by horse and sleigh. An extremely rare sight in central Ohio back then (or even now), but ever so blessed by his devotion. Mom had left me home to take care of gr. grands (I was 8) so she could walk the mile and a half to the store and doc’s office for medicines. She’d been gone for many, many hours. The farmer’s visit literally saved our lives, especially my Mom’s. He asked where she was, I told him she left to go to store right when the sun came up. It was evening now. He left and went looking for her. He found her in a snow bank about 3/4 a mile from home. Frostbite, hypothermic, barely alive. He brought her home by sleigh and fetched the doctor on the way.

    1. Thank you for sharing a piece of real life, your farmer was an intelligent resourceful man. Until the 1950s some farmers around here in the yorkshire dales used sleighs to move items on the steep hillsides

      1. Oh, I can just imagine. That would be so terrifying, I think, to ride in such a conveyance up a sharp hill. I’ve ridden in sleigh’s but only on flat ground.

        1. Mostly they were taken up hill empty, then used on grass or snow to slide a load down the hill. I have seen a similar set up using runners under large wicker baskets to slide/carry tourist down a hill in Madera’s capital !!!

  2. And all this time I thought he was delivering Christmas presents to all the bad little girls and boys (just kidding). Beautifully written, Mike. I felt like I was there in the moment.

  3. This reminded me of my friend Jennifer from my early schooldays – her dad was a coalman who kept his horse in a shed behind their house. I can still smell the coal dust.

    1. Thank you Clare, dialect and me generally don’t get on, as I find it hard to think in regional dialects, sadly my own rural dialect has long ago disappeared. So I am so pleased to get your feed back.

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