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Family Of Four: 37 - The Botany Ramble

...Once I was chased through a field by pigs! I had joined a few other children to collect the cans of milk, carried by thin handles, and on the return we passed a large herd of pigs. Little piglets were among them, some all pink, some black and pink, and I went closer to examine them and to make friends. Loud and ugly grunting began and a few of the bigger animals pushed the earth round my feet with their snouts. I realised they were not friendly but angry, and alarmed I backed away and took to my heels. They made a concerted rush towards me and I darted over the tussocky grass, my ankles turning this way and that, so that the heavy, lumbering animals began to gain upon me...

Mrs Vivien Hirst recalls an incident on a school outing.

Mrs Hirst's memories were gathered into a book, Family Of Four, by her nephew Raymond Prior.

How those sisters worked! how they worked! They seldom retired to bed before 1 a.m. and were up betimes. On many days, after school hours, they dressed elegantly and walked through the Park to shop in town. They still kept open-house as in their childhood days, and entertained with a generous hospitality. In addition, in the summer a botany ramble was organised so that the wild flowers could be collected, pressed into books, and annotated. In the winter terms came an annual party and a concert, each one requiring a great deal of preparation and planning.

The aunts missed the help of their sister, Fanny, who had died before my mind had gathered a memory of her. I do remember, however, how I came to hear of her death.

Miss Redman and I were walking one morning when we unexpectedly met Doreen on her way home from school, accompanied by Miss Fidler. The poor child was sobbing in a heartbroken way (she had a deep affection for this aunt) so that it was left to Miss Fidler to break the sad news. Auntie Fanny had been expected to make a good recovery from an operation, and this sudden collapse was a great shock to the family.

Twice in that year was I to meet Doreen sobbing as she made her way home, for later came the episode of her falling into the pond. I think this must be why I remember the incidents so clearly although I was only four years old.

The occasion which pleased me best at school was when we went by train for our botany ramble. Whole coaches would be booked for all but the little ones, and it was a novelty going in such a crowd, pouring into the carriages, stopping at one small country station after another, admiring the tidy gardens, and talking excitedly together until we came to our destination.

We often passed through woods before fanning out into the fields in search of the wild flowers. Doreen and the older girls found a great many, handing those unknown to the mistresses for identification; we junior children, after making some attempt to join in the search, soon lost interest, and gave ourselves up completely to the enjoyment of a day in the country.

We had picnics, milk being supplied by a farm in the district, and were nearly always fortunate in the weather. Often the grass was wet, but I do not remember the day ever being wet enough to spoil our enjoyment of these delightful expeditions.

Once I was chased through a field by pigs! I had joined a few other children to collect the cans of milk, carried by thin handles, and on the return we passed a large herd of pigs. Little piglets were among them, some all pink, some black and pink, and I went closer to examine them and to make friends. Loud and ugly grunting began and a few of the bigger animals pushed the earth round my feet with their snouts. I realised they were not friendly but angry, and alarmed I backed away and took to my heels. They made a concerted rush towards me and I darted over the tussocky grass, my ankles turning this way and that, so that the heavy, lumbering animals began to gain upon me.

The wall seemed terribly far away but gasping and panting, the milkcan swinging violently, but still within my clasp, I kept a fair distance between us until I was able to grasp the stones of the dry wall. I quickly placed my toes, first of one foot and then of the other, in the footholds, pulling myself up, and at last I was on the top and over, the pigs milling about on the other side. I had no idea pigs could look so angry or move so swiftly and learned later that when they have piglets they are often very fierce and would have done me grievous harm had I not escaped. I felt it was most undignified to be chased by pigs, of all animals!

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