Film ID:
YFA 5862



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This 1981 dramatization of the autobiography of Fred Kitchen focuses on his first year as a farm labourer aged 13, in 1904. The drama paints a vivid portrait of life as a farm labourer and as a navvy on the railway at the turn of the century. Fred has an extremely harsh time at the hands of his widow employer, but soon becomes capable in his farming tasks, finding comfort with the shire horses he looks after. At the end of the year he has matured enough to bargain a wage at the Hire Fair. The Yorkshire Television programme was adapted for TV by Stephen Wakelam.  

The drama follows the story of Fred Kitchen beginning when his father dies in 1903.  Following that, Kitchen, his mother, and two sisters have to leave their tied cottage with their belongings on a horse and cart.  At the age of 13 Fred has to seek work on a farm in South Yorkshire, admitting to his mother to being very scared, where he works for a very “hard and stony woman”.  He has to shepherd the sheep, milk the cows and look after the horses.  With very little food he is bullied by the woman who runs the farm and takes on more and more farm work, returning home to his mother, uncomplaining, at weekends, and hands over his scant earnings.

As well as his hard drudgery of his working life, we see him relaxing with the workers on the neighbouring farm who tease him about drawings he has made, and get him to sing the song “A farmer’s boy”.  He works gathering hay, threshing and gradually learns to plough.  His one consolation is the relationship he forms with the work horses.  One of the farm workers who has befriended him inadvertently gets him drunk.  Although progressing well, he has to battle to get his pay, and gets into trouble once too often, and so he decides to move on, having heard about a new railway being built in the area.  He sets off to get work on the railway labouring, which he eventually manages with the help of a friendly vicar.  But after a summer of back-breaking work, he eventually decides to leave and in the autumn goers off to the Hiring Fair.  Here he negotiates a wage of £15 for the year in which he is bound by statute to his owner, and the film comes to an end.

Adapted for television by Stephen Wakelam
Boy  Graham Hill 
Mother – Diana Davies 
Missus –Sandra Voe 
George – Bert Gaunt 
Arthur – Peter Ivatts 
Tom – Johnny Maxfield  
Jack – Teddy Turner 
Bob – Ashley Barker 
Sam – Howard Crossley 
Miller – Peter Wallis 
Mrs Miller - Joan Campion 
Ganger – Christopher Quinn 
Mick – Bill Croasdale 
Missioner – James Benson 
Narrator - Peter Bell
Designer - Mary Rea 

Shire horses owned and trained by Geoffrey Morton
Unit Manager – David Goldstrom
Stage Manager – Mike fisher
Production buyer – Chris Normanton
Chargehand electrician – Phil Field
Costume – Joan Ellacott
Make up – Di Lofthouse
Casting – Heather Stammer
Graphics – David Gledhill
Sound – Roger Davies
Dubbing Mixer – Steve Haynes
Film Editor – John Watts
Lighting camera – Graham Barker
Design by Mary Rea, Paul Laugier
Producer/Director - John Willis 

Yorkshire Television