"Out of the Long Ago" by Maud Milgate



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“Musky”

Our next holiday was rather a late one. I had caught a chill on my birthday and if Adelaide had not been coming with me I should have called it off.

Finally it was well into October before we got to Diss. The weather was lovely and the countryside a golden brown, we had got used to the leisurely bus service and knew just how to go on. The buses stood at this departure place quite a long time waiting for passengers, and the driver and his conductor sat around talking. From them I learned quite a lot about the surrounding district . Victoria Road where the bus station was had once been meadow land and grazing ground. although there had been a rough right-of-way through it with gates to go through different, owners meadows, there was no real road, you dismounted from your horse, opened the gate, went through and closed it after you. This happened about 3 times before you got through from one road to the other. It must have been very lovely in those days, but now a busy road went through, and this saved traffic going all up through the narrow streets of Diss above the Mere. One morning talking about my search to this bus crew, one of them said "You ought to see old Musky, he knows a lot". "Musky?" I repeated, "Yes, Musky Scaulding, lives in an old cottage near Eye. You’d find him there any time bar Fridays when he gets a bus to fetch his pension". Consulting Mrs. Coleman about this she said she knew him and one afternoon she took us to find him. On the way we passed over Coldbrook Bridge where St. Edmund 20th November 870 hid from the Danes and where he was discovered by a wedding party who handed him over to his enemies. They tied him to an oak tree and shot him with arrows. Nearby in a field we saw a monument where the oak tree had tree stood.

Turning down a narrow wooded lane we came to an old thatched cottage where Musky Scaulding lived, as had his father and grandfather before him. We went down two steps into a scullery and then two more into a low pitched old-fashioned room. An iron double bed was in the corner near the fire. A kettle sat its bottom in a few grey embers in the old black grate. A very tall gangling man, his head seemed to be in the rafters, came to meet us. He knew Mrs. Coleman, but looked at me with some distrust. Adelaide didn’t care for the look of the cottage, and went off and later said she had found a duck pond. Mrs. Coleman explained to him my quest and he began to talk when he found I was genuinely interested. He had been a woodsman, an ostler, a gamekeeper on the Brome and Oakley Estates and in later years he had helped at auctions. Living in an old caravan he had guarded the silver and valuables at many a country house sale. His room was a paradise of articles picked up at sales and things left over that nobody wanted. There were old pictures of country houses, a model railway engine, lovely old chests and a conglomeration of stuff dear to the heart of antique seekers. In fact he showed me a letter printed in the June issue of "Riding" (which I afterwards bought) in which a correspondent said he had old "Musky" to thank for preserving the pieces of a horse Memorial which had been knocked to pieces when Oakley Hall was pulled down years before. Because of his love for horses Musky had begged the pieces and put them in his old potting shed. Here the writer, with Musky’s help, was able to locate them and to put the pieces together. They formed a fine marble tablet 48" by 34" deep. The tablet had been erected by General Kerrison’s wife Lady Kerrison of Brome Hall in 1828
"To the memory of three favourite chargers of My General Sir Edward Kerrison Bart".
To "Forrester" in Holland 1799
To "Blake" in Spain 1808-9
To "Harlequin" in battle of Others 1813-14

It is nice to think this memorial, erected to 3 valiant horses was preserved by an old man who loved them and re erected by someone else who also loved the past.

I asked Musky about Brome Hall and he said there was as much of it underground as above, with vast storage places and cellars. He said "large country houses were monuments to slave labour". Talking to him of seeing the St. Edmund monument in the field where the oak tree had stood, Musky said when it was taken down it was full of arrow heads. He said a large table had been made from the tree and he had handled it many times. It was in private ownership in the district. He lent me an old White’s Directory of 1840 which I took home with me and studied. I saw Musky on several occasions after that. He was always willing to talk, but some of his Norfolk dialect I could not understand and Mrs. Coleman had to interpret. He allowed me to take his photograph in the lane, an immensely tall gaunt old man, well in his 80s. He died some years later aged 87 and his funeral cortege read like a squire’s, so greatly was he respected, not only by his own folks but by all the landed gentry who attended or sent representatives to his funeral. On our way back Mrs. Coleman took us to see a large country house which was being repaired. We turned up a rough track through some sugar beet fields and through a belt of trees and came to a large square house, pink washed, surrounded by lawn arid a belt of trees.

"Oak Lawn" captured my imagination, the pink coloured house, the very green lawn and tall trees which formed a ring round it. But it was remote. I could not help wondering how any poor servant ever got anywhere on her afternoon off. In fact I understood the last owner had moved into Eye, because she could not get help at "Oak Lawn".

On our way back we also saw the "Abbey" where St. Edmund was at first buried. It is now a farmhouse and beautifully kept. St. Edmunds bones were transferred to Bury St. Edmunds 903.

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