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Former West Norfolk mayor Bryan Howling, who was also long-serving councillor, releases autobiography 'Half a Boy'





From a lad working on the land, he went on to become West Norfolk's civic leader and a long serving councillor.

And from growing prize chrysanthemums to bringing CCTV to Lynn and raising the profile of a famous seafaring son – there's no question that Bryan Howling has made his mark in the community.

Now at 92, he has added to his list of achievements with the publication of his autobiography Half a Boy.

Bryan launching the book at True's Yard Museum
Bryan launching the book at True's Yard Museum

It charts his childhood, school days, careers and achievements and paints a picture in print of what life was like in the rural community where he was born, brought up and still lives and how he has seen times change.

He said: “I have always been one for making notes, keeping records and taking photos and thought it might be an idea to put it all into a book. I hope it makes an interesting read,”

And the intriguing title? Like a number of youngsters, Bryan was allowed time off from school during the war to help out with a friend on Church Farm where his father was foreman.

Half a Boy - Bryan Howling's autobiography
Half a Boy - Bryan Howling's autobiography

He decided he only needed one of them so a disgruntled Bryan was send back to school.

Bryan says: “There was an old saying among farmfolk that one boy is a good boy, two boys are half a boy and three are no boy at all. Perhaps father found he only had a half boy!”

He starts his book in the early 1930s when there was no piped water, no electricity, no national health service and the lavatory was at the bottom of the garden but still recalls it as “an idyllic childhood when we were not always aware how hard times were.”

Early memories included eating breakfast by the light of his father's bicycle lamp, the first piped water arriving, the local baker falling headfirst into the excavation and how the changing of the seasons dictated what the family grew and ate.

From Bryan's archives: The New Inn, Terrington - now The Wildfowler.
From Bryan's archives: The New Inn, Terrington - now The Wildfowler.

He writes about characters he met, wartime memories and food rationing, birds nesting adventures and a school curriculum which included gardening - and a foundation for his future.

His early life also involved harvesting with self-binders and horses and carts and lots of walking, first to and from school and later behind horses in the fields.

When Bryan left school at 14, his first wage on the farm was the equivalent of today's £1.25 a week and after taking out board and lodging he had 55p to himself.

Pea viner at Tower Farm, Terrington in the 1950s.
Pea viner at Tower Farm, Terrington in the 1950s.

Many of his responsibilities were with the care of 10 horses, walking the equivalent of 20 miles a day behind a horse and harrows and, at only 15, taking goods to Lynn with a horse and cart.

He also recalls a less successful delivery job when he took a pig to Park House, Sandringham, where it was intended as a bowling prize and ended up scrabbling through rhododendrons in front of Lord Althorp when the animal did a runner.

He watched the end of the era of four-legged horsepower. He writes: “I saw our stable of horses diminish over a very short time to none and the threshing tackle powered by steam quickly taken over by tractors – and then superseded by the combine harvester.

Bryan led the Insight into Industry project in West Norfolk - seen here with Downham High School pupils
Bryan led the Insight into Industry project in West Norfolk - seen here with Downham High School pupils

“I have detailed some of the agricultural reformation I witnessed first hand – some of the most rapid and all enveloping changes to an industry that have ever been seen in one lifetime.”

Bryan was promoted to farm foreman at Church Farm, saw the farm expand into flower and fruit growing and became secretary of Terrington's Horticultural Society and its commercial chrysanthemum show.

Having spent his formative years working on the land, he was "headhunted" by an agricultural fertiliser merchanting company and also worked for the Shell Chemical Company until he was offered early retirement - and a chance to get more involved in local government.

After scraping onto the parish council near the bottom of the poll in 1964, he went on to serve for 47 years; and in 1974 was elected to the then new West Norfolk Council.

Bryan and June, as borough mayor and mayoress, congratulating Mabel Cave, of Church Farm, on her 100th birthday
Bryan and June, as borough mayor and mayoress, congratulating Mabel Cave, of Church Farm, on her 100th birthday

He went on to chair the committee which brought closed circuit security cameras to the town, earning the title Mr CCTV, as well as championing a number of environmental and conservation projects.

The book recalls the year that Bryan and his wife June were West Norfolk's mayor and mayoress and highlights that included hosting a reception for the Queen Mother to mark her 40 years as a Freeman of the Borough.

He was also at the forefront of the project to erect a statue of Captain George Vancouver near the waterfront at Lynn.

With the Duke of Edinburgh at the unveiling of the George Vancouver statue in Purfleet, Lynn
With the Duke of Edinburgh at the unveiling of the George Vancouver statue in Purfleet, Lynn

It is all there in a book which is full of detail, fascinating recollections and an underlying humour. But it finishes on a cautionary note with Bryan expressing sadness at how the village he knew as a boy has been "overdeveloped."

He says: "My thoughts suggest we should stand back and look very carefully at what we are doing.

"This is a small country and we should regard it as such. It is a sobering thought that I have seen well over 200% increases in the number of dwellings in my home village over my lifetime.

"I feel this is too many to maintain a village community to keep the integrity a village needs."

Copies of Half a Boy are available at Trues Yard Museum Lynn, and at Marshland Stores, Terrington St Clement.



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