Grandmas Gleanings from Newton's Woolsthorpe

Recollections from a Lincolnshire Hamlet By Margaret Anne Winn Published in 1994 Copyright M. A. Winn 1994

This is a collection of stories and facts, recording the childhood of the Robinson children and their way of life growing up in Woolsthorpe in the early 1900's.

Chapter 3 The Family Bicycle

The family were lucky as between them they owned an old bicycle, most often ridden by Lizzie when she went to work at Weston's Farm, Stainby. When the girls went on errands anywhere they borrowed the bike. The plan was that one sister would set off walking, then, after 5 or 10 minutes, the other sister would set off on the bike. She would ride past the walker and go on for another 10 minutes or so. She would leave the bike on the grass verge or under the hedge and start walking. The first walker would come up to the bike, get on and ride, again pass the walking sister and leave the bike at a distance along the road. In this way the journey didn't seem so far and they each got equal turns at walking and cycling.

Quite considerable distances were traversed in this fashion, mainly by Helen and Alice. Annie never seemed to get the hang of cycling and when she lived for a time with the relations at Pond Farm, Quadring, Uncle Will offered to teach her to ride. This was probably prompted by having to walk the long straight Fen roads, along which you can see how far you have to go as the landscape is so flat but what magnificent sky-scapes they have! Uncle Will got Annie onto the bike and ran along with her, holding the saddle to give her a sense of balance. Annie was doing well, gaining confidence and speed, so Uncle Will let go, shouting after her that whatever happened to keep pedalling she did just that, but forgot to steer as well! When he caught up with her she was sitting on the bike on top of a stone-heap at the side of the road, wheels buried well down in the stones but she was still pedaling hard! Uncle Will laughed for many years afterwards when he told the tale, not unkindly though, as he was indeed a really lovely man. Unfortunately Annie's eyesight was never very good, so possibly this was one reason why she never mastered the art of cycling.

Another possible reason being that Annie was never what you would call mechanically minded, in fact I never knew anyone else get into such muddles even with the most simple machines! My Mother, on the other hand, biked many hundreds of miles in her time, the bicycle being, for most of her life, her only mode of transport. Once she had a sharp reminder that the railway was coming to Woolsthorpe for iron-ore transportation, when sailing down the road to Colsterworth, she hit the exposed line across the road with her front wheel and went flying over the handlebars. Lizzie's teeth were bad during the time when the children were little, but she could not afford to go to the Dentist in Grantham, to have them out and dentures fitted. After she had been gleaning during the First World War she managed somehow to save up enough money. She set off on her bicycle, biked all the way to Grantham to the Dentist, had her teeth out and was told to go to the Chemist to buy a block of alum. They told her to keep the alum in her mouth and to keep spitting out on the way home. This stopped excessive bleeding and prevented her getting a cold in her gums. Thus armed, she then biked home a distance of at least 8 miles with plenty of hills! Presumably she would then have to save up again and repeat the journey to be fitted with her dentures, which in those days were made out of vulcanite.

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