December 3, 2015

Alfred Charles Webb, known as Brommer (28.05.1916 – 19.11.2015) – A Tribute

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:12 pm by aleksan

Alfred Charles Webb, known as Brommer (28.05.1916 – 19.11.2015)

 

Called Alf by his wife and family, I have known him as Brommer all my life – a kind man who was always there, with a smile and a twinkle in his eye. A man who enjoyed life and who was content with his rural pursuits, his family and his many friends of all ages. A man who was always there. He loved life to the full. A kind man with a sense of humour who cared for his large family and his work mates, and enjoyed living and working at Hazeldown Farm. It is hard to believe that we will not see his familiar figure again, digging in his garden, walking along the road or enjoying conversation, food and a glass or two of beer. I will miss him – we will all miss him – we already do.

Brommer was born 99 years ago in Houghton, the son of a Shepherd. He was one of six children but sadly his father died in the great flu epidemic just after the first world war, when little Alfred was only two years old. He did not remember his father and those early years must have been difficult for his mother and family, who moved to Longstock when he was 4.

When he was 14 my grandfather, Alexander Burnfield, gave young Alf his first job – looking after the chickens. Around that time a house was built next to Hazeldown Farm for my great grandmother Marjory who moved down from Scotland to join her son and grandsons. Alf worked for her too, helping generally about the house, chopping wood, in the garden, and he also helped out at the Farm This would become Brommer’s own home in the course of time, where he lived with his wife Joan and where they brought up their daughter Jean and son Michael -a home that he loved and considered the envy of millionaires.

Brommer told me that my grandfather was a kind man who treated him like a son, and who took him with him on many journeys and jobs – he was like a father to Alf and took a great interest in his future life. I always liked hearing Brommer talk about these times because my grandfather and grandmother both died before I was born. All this made Brommer very special to us – he used to say “I am just as much a Burnfield as any of you” with that twinkle in his eye.

When he was a young man he and my father and uncles worked together – difficult times on the farm, eating rabbits and taking no holidays. After harvest they would sometimes go down to Highcliffe for a swim. After the war, for many years, Brommer delivered milk in Stockbridge, a welcome sight in the farm’s brown van. I remember how proud I was to see this van on rare visits to Stockbridge from my boarding school – contact with home! It was during his time, as the local milkman, some think he got called Brommer – from the sound of his van – broom, broom!  However my brother Rob was told by our father that our grandfather gave him the name when young Alf first started working for the family – maybe the lad with the broom spoken in a strong Scots accent is the reason for his unusual name?

Brommer also worked as a tractor driver, gardener and with plucking and preparing birds for the table – there was, for a time, a huge pile of feathers in a shed on the farm that intrigued us kids. He sometimes used to do the school run to Andover – and was plagued by me and my brother Rob occasionally knocking off his cap through the window. Mike says he used to come home and say “Those little rascals knocked my hat off again today!” When I was young I caused him much trouble when I uprooted all the seedlings he had planted one morning – and blamed my brother Rob, setting the baby down as evidence…Brommer was a calm man who seldom lost his temper – but I certainly knew when we had gone too far…

Although a good man Brommer was no Saint, and once got into trouble over a bit of poaching – with our famous local shopkeeper Mr John Spedan Lewis. Mr Lewis’s game keeper had reported Brommer, who was summoned to Mr Lewis house about half a mile from Hazeldown. After a long session at the house Brommer eventually returned, according to his son Mike – “completely sloshed”!

When I began studying to be a doctor Brommer helped me with my animal anatomy, demonstrating the body parts of chickens and rabbits we had set up for dissection in the Well House at Hazeldown when I was home for a few days – these are the “lights” here is the “gizzard” and this is his “ticker” – a bit gruesome for me, but run of the mill for him.

Brommer and Joan never went abroad but they enjoyed visits to Weymouth and regularly spent some time at my parent’s holiday bungalow in Brixham. He always worked hard and exercised continuously, preferring the outdoor life. He used to cut our hair, as well as that of many other local people – we used to sit outside his kitchen door for this, and hope that our ears did not get nicked!

Brommer was a regular at St Mary’s Church and used to ring the bells and help out with the Churchyard. He was fond of his dear wife Joan and devastated when she died about 13 years ago. In his later life he socialised with other old people in the village and was a great friend to our mother in the last few years of her life, spending time with her reading the papers and tending the plants.

Brommer had two children, Jean and Mike, our sometime playmates as kids, and also three grandchildren, great grandchildren, and also great great grandchildren – a devoted family who helped him remain in his own home until not long before his death. I talked with Brommer about death at times and he had no fear, just an acceptance that it was natural and an inevitable part of nature.

I want to leave you with a final tribute to Brommer from my niece Jenny who put this moving post up on her Facebook the day he died:

 

“Alfred Webb (Brommer) started work on the family farm when he was 14 and was still working till he was 90, today he passed away at the grand age of 99. The days will be missed of being chased away from the apple trees he cared for, and him having to replace the chickens water after I filled it with water and mud to make “potions”. Or more recently being chased around the pub tables for a kiss at the Farm Christmas dinner. His old bones will go back into the ground he worked and lived by for all those years. Goodbye Mr Brommer”

 

Alexander (Sandy) Burnfield

St Mary’s Church, Longstock – Monday December 7th 2015