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The Singing Tortoises
The Singing Tortoises 

Western Mail, Thursday 27 July 1933, page 2

The Singing Tortoises.

It was a summer's day, down on an East Lothian farm, where Tom, Ken, and I, gunners all, had been sent to help with the harvest. But we were not harvesting; we were "singling" turnips - turnips that had grown too big for the hoe, and must needs be pulled by band; turnips whose interminable, mathematically ruled rows filled-the landscape.

It was laborious work; and our progress that of tortoises. The regular staff, the farm hands, their wives, and their adult sons and daughters, soon left us a long way behind.

"Big handfu's, and quick," the gaffer good humouredly admonished us.

"Beeg handfies, and queeck!" chorused his amused underlings.

But our efforts to catch up were unavailing; we continued to lose ground.

Sans faire rien! "Pack up your troubles," we began to sing. The regular staff straightened their backs to listen, "It's a long way to Tipperary," we warbled. The regular staff were delighted, and wasted .more time. "We're catching 'em up," whispered Ken. "Yes, keep 'er going." added Tom. We did. We sang for our lives, and tore up the turnips like scratching hens, and steadily gained on the others. We drew abreast and though, by then, our throats were parched, our backs aching, our hands sore, and sweat streamed from our foreheads, we dare not relax. "Kind, kind, and gentle was she, kind was my Mary," we croaked, and were dimly conscious of pointing fingers and some private joke; but we were too intent on the turnips to take much notice. (Later we learned that they imagined we were serenading the gaffer's daughter, Mary.) We repeated the song; then rendered it again, and swept ahead.

We staggered, still singing, to the end of our respective rows, a good chain ahead of the regular staff. We pulled on - last turnips, unbent our backs, then yelled a grand finale:

"Come on, there! Beeg handfies and quee-eeck!"

147344, E.A., Forest Grove