The Lustleigh Society Meeting March 2009
A Thatcher’s Life’ – Mick Dray
Thatch, even the very best, doesn’t last forever; so perhaps it is not so surprising that Lustleigh boasts among its residents not one but two Master Thatcher’s. At the Society’s February meeting we were fortunate indeed to have one of these, Mick Dray, from a dynasty of five generations of Master Thatcher’s, to inform and entertain us with his lively account of (A Thatcher’s Life’. In fact it proved to be much more than that as he gave us a non-stop and profusely illustrated account of the whole business covering different styles of thatching, the various techniques in use, the development over the years of specialised hand tools, the risks of fire (illustrated with some thought provoking photographs) and the relevant precautionary measures, not to mention the relative merits of the many different types and sources of thatching material.
It was this last topic that probably occupied at least half of the evening, not so much because there is an unlimited variety (there isn’t) but because the several different materials, ranging from wheat straw to Norfolk Reed to Turkish Reed and so on, all come from different places within or not so far outside Europe – and Mick seemed to have visited each and every one of them in his search for the wherewithal to practise his trade. The fact that he had put together a whole dossier of photographs illustrating .this added immeasurably to the interest. Different cultures develop different tools and techniques and these result in different approaches to reaping, threshing, drying, storing and transporting the final product even though the basic principles remain unchanged. His account took us back in time to when, in the UK, vehicle number plates still bore white characters on a black back-ground, to peasant communities in Eastern Europe under Communist sway, and to more advanced countries where massive machinery had come into use. It became more and more of a travelogue but none the less interesting for that.
In fact when Mick came to the end of his talk there was an immediate forest of hands raised to put a whole sequence of interested questions, a certain indicator that his sixty-strong audience had enjoyed· listening to him at least as much as he had obviously enjoyed talking to us; a propitious start to our new season of talks. Thank you Mick for such a splendid ‘kick-off’!
Extract from April 2009 Lustleigh Parish Magazine