The tale I am about to tell you, that I was told when I was still at school, (I am 75 years old now), is a delightful tale of old Little Thetford in the 19th century. It involves two local old boys of Little Thetford. A farmer called Tharby of Manor Farm (now built over) and the other one Fal Al Taylor, who ran the pumping engine on the River Ouse, just over the main railway line at the end of the village. Both Tharby and Fal Al had been drinking in the “Three Horse Shoes” for several hours (beer was then 2p old money a pint), so you know it was a long time ago. (approx. 150 years).
The time came for them to leave the pub, both a bit under the weather. About 100 yards from the pub Fal Al said “I can’t go on Tharby”. Tharby not to be out done said come on Fal Al jump on my back and I will give you a piggy back to the railway line. So this Fal Al did. They were going along the main pumping drain to the pumping engine. Fal Al said “put me down Tharby I want a piddle”. This Tharby did. After a few minutes of some relief Fal Al ran away in some laughter. Tharby was a bit dumfounded with this. In the fen fog Fal Al picked a lump of soil (a clod of fen earth). Running over a brow (a plank of wood) spanning the drain and dropped the lump of earth into the drain. Tharby thought Fal Al had fallen into the water and kept calling his name “Fal Al, Fal Al”, with no response. Tharby was in panic and after searching for 20 minutes or more he went back to the village and raised the alarm. Several villagers began to search the drain sides with no avail. So they went to the pumping engine and raised Fal Al’s wife (Lilly I think) and said Fal Al had fallen into the drain and probably drowned. Lilly laughed and informed them all that Fal Al had been tucked up in bed asleep for nearly two hours.
To me this is a typical old boy tale.
Fred Haynes, Little Thetford, 2011.