|" Well I remember the first elections that ever happened in Shenley, giving the working people the vote, which happened in November the 17th 1884, when my father had the chance to have the vote for the first time.
We lived at the old Folly Farm, and he went down and voted in the evening, after tea. I said I would like to go down. My mother said, "What do you want to go down for?" Well I wanted to see what they were doing. It was raining fast so I put on my coat and I went walking down to Shenley, which was where the men of Whaddon and Shenley Church and Brook End and Loughton had been to vote.
The voting was over, and there were a lot of people in the schoolyard of Shenley School. I was waiting to see what would happen. After a certain time, the Squire of the Parish (Mr Waddell of Shenley House) and his friend with him was Mr George Brett (the largest farmer in the villages, who was my master) and after a certain time they came outside. They asked the young men there, and there were quite a lot there, if they would take the ballot papers to the Bull Hotel at Stony Stratford, where a gentleman would meet them. He would take them on to the chief station, which was at Buckingham. So after some time no one had spoke, and they offered it, and the men said "Well they'll be awful sorry you know, who ever takes them", and no one still said anything.
I spoke up from the back of the crowd, I said "I'll take them Sir". He said, "Would you Archie?" and I said "Yes Sir!" He said "Cable" (this was Joe Cable, one of his men), he said, "You go up to the stable, up at the Manor, and fetch my mare Peggy, and bring her down here," she'd got the saddle and everything on you see, "and also bring an old mac down that's there", because it was still pouring with rain. This he did.
They tightened the girth of the saddle, strapped the ballot boxes on my back, put the mac over me and legged me up. Off I went down Shenley Lane, and it was "Well done! Well done! Give him a wave!" I trotted on down the lane, still pouring with rain it was, turned the corner into the Dell Woods, which was on the Watling Street. and saw light at The Bell, on the top of the hill. The men were just coming out, the lantern or lamp was still burning, so I could see their forms, and they could see me trotting along. They started going "Oohh Oohh Oohh Oohh!" and got into the middle of the road quite a few of them.
I thought, "Well, what should I do now? They're going to stop me, and I'm in charge of these wallets, and they, they're not going to have my ballot papers." I thought they would take my ballot papers away from me. So I struck my heels in the side of the mare, who immediately sped forward straight at the men. I knew she'd go for them because she had been charging in the Yeomanry for three years, and she went straight for them as if there was no one there at all. Down they fell, someone ran to her leather, but if she had kicked them she would have killed them probably.
But by then I was on my way to the Crabtree, which is about 150 yards, and I galloped off to Stony Stratford. Landed at The Bull Hotel and he was waiting at the Bull Hotel, with his horse and then he had got to ride on to Buckingham. I handed them over and started through Stony and I thought "Well I'll go through Calverton" which was a nearer way home for me, along the old Oakhill Lane. It was still raining fast, and the rain gathered some water, and sometimes I jumped them and sometimes I let her go through them, until I got back to the Folly Farm, safe with my half sovereign in my pocket and the mare under my legs.
Mother said "Where ever you been?" and I said "Stony Stratford".
"Stony Stratford!" she said, "What for?"
I said "To take the ballot papers!" and I got out the sovereign, "Mother, look here" and I only earned the half sovereign, and I thought that I had done a good night's work!
Never saw a soul between The Bell and Stony Stratford. When I passed the men, then I did think, "Well are you going to take my ballot papers away from me? Not if I can help it" I thought!"
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