' The Ragman's Serenade tells the story of four families- one from North Shields and the other three from Wallsend. It is a story of relationships- The Davis family are up to their eyes in debt - The Stewart family have a daughter who has downs syndrome– The hagarths who’s husband owns a bookmakers shop and his wife is a midwife at the RVI- and the Higginbottom's have a father with the on set of Alzheimer's. How do they cope - read this fascinating story i'm sure you will enjoy.


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  When Saturday morning arrived Mick Flannery arrived at Shieldsland with Gerry Cooper and a strange looking machine. There was a trailer piled high with fence posts another truck had five lads from the farm in it including Billy Ballie his friend. They wasted no time at all marking out the rows where all the fence posts would go and set to work. Tom Davis, Will Flannery, Frankie Cooper, all mucked in carrying and laying out the fence posts along with Billy Ballie and the rest of his mates. Mick was driving this machine that drove the posts into the ground at an angle. The full acre of land had been spread with a good coating of lime and compost. The lava enriched soil was perfect for wine growing. It was pretty quick hammering the posts in then as the rows were completed some metal horse shoe nails were hammered in near the bottom and then spaced all the way up the 6 feet posts so that wire could be threaded all the way through. Billy Ballie pulled the cart carrying the large spool of wire and a large bag of grippers. He carried a bag over his shoulder with a pair of wire snips and a kind of mini winch device. The wire was fed through the last post with enough wire to go through the horse shoe nails then a kind of noose was made a gripper was fixed to the end of the wire then attached to the main line then using the mini winch gradually tightened, not too tight though as each wire had to have some play in order to train the spurs from the vines that would be planted out eventually. By Twelve o’clock half the field was done. Each row had eight feet of walking space in between so that the grapes could be inspected for diseases, pruned, and eventually picked. The wives and girls of both the Cooper and Flannery family came over to help Jenifer make lunch and they drove out to the field to give it to them along with some freshly made coffee and cold drinks for those who wanted them.

“It’s coming together isn’t it love; said Matty.’

 “It hasn’t taken long has it?’

“We don’t mess about; said Mick as he opened a flask and poured himself coffee from a huge thermos flask that his wife Georgie had brought over. The lads were keen to get on with it so after a fifteen minute break they commenced working again. They were all wearing their hats and sunglasses now as the sun’s rays got hotter.

It was 86% and it would get even hotter than that by 3 p.m. The women went back to the house and began to prepare the meat and other food ready for the Barbie later that night. The lads carried on until all the posts were in and the wires all fixed. Mick had got all the posts, wire, and pipework needed cheaply for Matty.

Next they dug a trench all the way along near the back of the row nearest the house.

Then got the plans and found where the main water supply was underground and followed it they dug down to it and attached another line running off it. At the end there was a control lever which would control the amount of water that would be needed for each plant. A long length of hose was then fed through and clipped to the wire at the bottom. Will, Frankie, and Tom had the arduous job of placing a drip feed every 3 feet. They used a metal device with a spike that pierced the hose at the bottom and then a round plastic cap was then inserted into the hole made. The caps all had a setting which would allow a measured amount of water to drip out per hour.  Metal pencil stakes were then inserted every 3 feet along the wire and those were joined to the wires using specially twisted clips to hold them in place.  Frankie and Gerry used the lads to insert the main water pipe into the trench then at the end of each row a connecting tube was fitted to each end of the hoses then fixed to the main water supply each one had its own water regulator so more or less water could be controlled depending on the growth of the plants. By 6 p.m. that evening they were finished the first stage of the vineyard. Looking down the rows of posts Matty couldn’t believe that it had just taken them a day to do it all.’

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