Neville John William Day 7 March 1922 - 26 November 1990
No pheasant in here Charles
The scene is set close to Sandringham, in Norfolk, England and therefore quite close to HM Queen Elizabeth II’s country house.
Sandringham House presides over a very large farm called, aptly, the 8,000 hectare (20,000 acre), Sandringham Estate.
For the benefit of a few hundred staff and workers on the estate who live in nearby villages there are a handful of social clubs, each situated in five surrounding villages. These are affiliated. Meaning that if you were a member of one you would be welcome at each of the others. My dear Stepfather, Neville Day, was once Treasurer for one of them.
Apart from estate employees other residents in the area were also frequently invited to join this small circle of clubs as members. One thing you could not do though was to apply for membership upon your own volition. It was frowned upon and thus unlikely to achieve the desired result. In the late seventies the annual membership subscription was ten Pence. This might give readers a clue as to what is the meaning of the words 'Social Club'!
That Dad was however appointed Treasurer, of anything, was an odd choice. Although a worldly wise, intelligent man, honest as the day is long and very affable, bookkeeping was definitely not his forte. That said and as mentioned, these social clubs belonged effectively to the Royal Family. Accurate accounting for tax purposes and so forth were probably therefore considered of little importance.
The club of which my Stepfather was Treasurer was managed, as indeed were all similar clubs managed of course, by a Steward. For my story here I will simply refer to him as Mr Steward, although not his real name. Sadly both Mr Steward and his dear wife died some years ago.
Mr Steward was also a keen and accomplished gardener, a grave digger and also a Beater in his limited spare time. A busy and extremely popular man. A little cantankerous at times perhaps but extremely popular nonetheless.
Mr Steward had one fault though and that was his penchant for swearing. In fact very few of Mr Steward's utterings contained anything other than profanities and swearwords.
Even his beloved cat’s ears would curl whenever he spoke. He could even construct whole sentences that contained nothing else but swearwords, though few people understood them!
This story was told me in Mr Steward’s presence by Neville Day and in addition to Treasurer also a fellow Beater who sat next to him at the same club table for the telling. I reiterate, it is one hundred percent true. Neville Day had no reason to lie and Mr Steward, a very modest and surprisingly shy man. had every opportunity to deny the story if it were not the case.
One day Mr Steward, Mr Day and others had been asked, nay - commanded, to attend a Royal shooting party as beaters. A pheasant shoot across one or possibly more of the local ‘tenant farms’ that are let to local farmers by the Estate at Sandringham.
Mr Steward was less than happy on this particular day. He had had an exhausting week already, what with digging graves for recently departed villagers, tending to the national award winning flower beds in his village and of course the day to day management and running of a busy social club, along with its even busier, heavily and gratefully subsidised bar.
As Neville Day recounted his friend's colourful oratory and in his presence. Providing him with every opportunity to refute it if he wished. But which he chose not to deny:-
“Oi’ve f****** got to b***** git back to the f****** club to git the b***** bar open afore six!”
Note: A Beater’s job was to try and persuade any recalcitrant pheasant into flight that might otherwise prefer to stay hidden where they were. In preference to being blasted out of the sky. For 'Sport'. Knocking seven bells out of a thick patch of brambles surrounding an old marl pit one of our hero beater's duties on this occasion.
As Neville continued to relate his account:-
“There ain’t no f****** pheasant in ‘ere, any f****** idiot should know that. We're wasting our f****** time down ‘ere an’ Oi f****** ought ta f****** well be f****** gittin’ back to me f****** bar. F***it!”
The Royal shooting party on this occasion included, amongst others, HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, HRH Prince Charles and very reluctantly (because she did not approve of what she considered as murdering
innocent pheasant) his then fiancée, Lady Diana Spencer.
Diana was standing close by and was reported by our verbatim orator as saying:-
“There aren’t any pheasant in here Charles, I’ve just heard Mr Steward say so.”
A brief Norfolk Glossary
Chris Latham-Smith 2022.
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