* The Ballad of Willie Samuel Faircloth *
* A Postman’s Lot Was Not an Easy One *
Willie Samuel Faircloth was born on the thirteenth of August eighteen sixty six. He was born in a four roomed cottage at Hardy’s Green. It was the same cottage his father shared with his mother and their other children, Willie’s brothers, Harry and Fred. The men were all farm labourers.
Before becoming a postman, Willie had worked as an ostler at ‘The Fleece’ in Head Street.
As a postman Willie’s duties began at six in the morning. He worked out of Colchester Post office and therefore would have had to get out of bed at about five. He would dress by the light of the fire leaving it to burn so that his family would feel the benefit when the rose from their slumbers. He worked a split shift which meant that he would collect the mail, sort it and then deliver it to the residents of Birch and other places on the way. His first call was always his own home where he would brew a cup of tea; one for him self and one for his wife. If it was a particularly cold winter’s morning then he would lace the tea with a tot of his favourite tipple, Johnny Walker whisky. Then he would pedal off through the Birch countryside.
His next port of call was at Shrub End Post Office and Mrs. Morris. Willie was responsible for delivering to all the houses between Straight road and Birch Post Office and also Stanway Green. It was a huge round and one that modern day postmen would not be asked to do or if they were would simply refuse
He normally finished his deliveries between nine thirty and ten in the morning. This meant that he was free from then until four in the afternoon when he would start his collections from the post boxes in the Birch area.
For most of his thirty six year career he worked on his own but later he was joined by an auxiliary postman, an ex-naval chap, Phil Fisher who lived nearby in a cottage on the Birch side of Heckford Bridge.
A postman in those days was so much more than just a deliverer of mail; he was a friendly face who called once or twice a day, someone you could chat to and gather bits of gossip from, someone who was able, by the very job they performed, to connect you to the further reaches of the area, far beyond your own small village sphere.
Willie spent nearly all of his seventy nine years on this earth in and around Birch. He died in the house he was born in at Hardy’s Green in nineteen forty five.
I walk now with the sullen summer sun sinking over fields of taupe. The start of twilight descends drawing in the light as though the day were a candle being filmed but in a reverse cycle so that the light, rather than growing brighter goes into decline and slowly peters out. This sight of daylight fading is the saddest thing in the world and has the effect of making me feel the pinch of loneliness. Once the day has gone people disappear while they all prepare for their slumbers. Meals are cooked, families sit down to share the days events, televisions spring into life and Mum’s run children’s baths before tucking them in and reading them their nightly stories. My children have all grown up and no longer require that service. It was always a two way thing and I miss those short
moments spent reading to them; I miss reading Fox Under My Jacket, Watership Down, The Hobbit and the wonderful tales of Winnie The Pooh.
We used to play Pooh sticks my kids and me. We would find small sticks and throw them into a stream before running quick as like to the other side to see whose sticks came out first. They were magic times; the best of times and ones that went too soon. I have no regrets for those days as they were, as far as I remember, the very best days of my life. I do regret not knowing how to behave when their teenage years arrived and I, the worst of teenage rebels, couldn’t find a way to deal with my son’s problems. I loved him then and I love him now, I just wish I could have shown him that then when life seemed so full of pain and hurt for him.
My son is a handsome man and I am very proud of him. Proud that he made his own choice to be a Royal Marine Commando; proud even though it was the very last thing that I would have wanted him to do; proud of the way he has changed and turned into the man he now is but more than this, proud just because he is my son.
Life is so damn short and a new one can’t be bought but what you’ve got means such a lot to me.
I shuffle off my melancholy trying to remember that each day is a brand new start and tomorrow will shake off these dusty dusk thoughts. The streams still flow and life goes on and not so far away Tiptree and Colchester beckon. If there is one thing in life that you must try before you die it is the jam that comes from fair Tiptree.
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