Myxymatosis

I grew up in a town where electricity and gas on tap were taken for granted, as was indoor plumbing. It did not for one moment occur to me that there might be communities without these amenities. When I went to Grammar School I became friendly with jim Franklin who came from Beachampton. Occasionally, on a Saturday or on a day during the holidays I would cycle over to spend a day in the country. I always found it interesting because it rural life was so very different from our town experience. Jim knew a lot more about fishing than I did, for example. He knew about all the different breeds of fish and much of their habits, whereas my experience had been confined at that time to catching four inch gudgeon or roach from the canal. He knew his way around the fields as well as I knew the streets of Wolverton and we spent some happy moments exploring the land around the village. I also recall helping to build a haystack at a nearby farm one August. It was also Jim’s job to pump the organ for the organist. I assisted him during one practice session. The amount of air in the organ was measured by a floating needle. Naturally we (or at least I) could not resist letting the needle fall below the line just to see what would happen. The organ died of course and we got told off.

Beachampton was a small village of a few houses along a single street. It has changed little in 50 years. the Franklins lived in a house opposite the Bell Inn, Beachampton’s only pub.
One day we cycled out to talk to “Yorkie” a well known tramp who lived in a barn on the Thornton Road. He was an affable character and told us stories about things I cannot remember. I do remember being impressed by this meeting with a real live “tramp”. Two years before we had been read W H Davies “Autobiography of a Super Tramp” in primary school.
This was also the period that the virus myxymatosis had been introduced and the rabbit population was being decimated or even, as we thought, wiped out. It was not uncommon to find rabbit skeletons in those fields around Beachampton or even a rabbit with a swollen head dying of the disease. In such cases Jim would despatch the stricken animal with a slug from his airgun.