The harvest hymn Come, Ye Thankful People, Come was written to celebrate the end of harvesting: “all is safely gathered in”. Harvest thanksgiving was not only a celebration of the gift of crops, now safe from the elements, but, to some extent, celebrated that village men, women and children had avoided injury during the long harvesting days. Accidents during the harvest season were commonplace.
In September 1913, the villagers of Abbotsham, Devon, celebrated the end of summer and a successful harvest with traditional games and festivities. Amongst them was William Cloke who won the skittle competition. The summer had been particularly memorable for the birth of his son, Herbert.
William only saw one more summer. He voluntarily signed up to serve in the Great War and was killed in France whilst on sentry duty. Herbert was only two.
Age 14, Herbert began work at Eastington Farm, Lapford. In 1928, at the end of his second summer season at the farm, he was gathering in the harvest as his late father had done. Frederick Greenslade and Charles Hammett were pitching the hay into a cart whilst Herbert stacked it. At about 5pm, with the job was almost done, Frederick Greenslade noticed that Herbert had disappeared from the top of the stack. It was windy and Herbert had managed to fall. On a fully loaded haycart the top of the stack was some distance from the ground. Herbert broke his neck and died the following day.