“There aren’t gentlemen like him anymore” was what everyone said today.
We went to the celebration of my neighbour, Sonny Williamson’s. life. An afternoon’s party was organised at our local hall and there was a good turn out. Folk talked about him, telling stories of his love for his animals and their admiration for him.
For me, Sonny was always there. He used to get me out of endless trouble. I was a single parent for many years in my little house with two young children, two dogs, three cats and “some” horses. When Jo’s tractor went into the peat bog and refused to budge, he arrived with his tractor and dragged it out.
One day, a stranger appeared at my door saying Sonny had my dog. This was Pencille, a clever black lurcher taken to going off on his own after rabbits. I was terrified that Sonny had shot him for being in his fields. Up here dogs are swiftly dispatched for sheep chasing and rightly so too. I knew that Celt was after rabbits but didn’t know if Sonny could tell the difference. I tentatively asked if Sonny had shot Celt only to be told that no, Sonny had caught him, put him in a shed and was feeding him dinner. Feeling very embarrassed, I went and collected Celt.
I used to ride on Sonny’s land, with his permission. I was very careful especially during lambing season, and would ask if I could take the dogs too. This was in the days when they came along when I rode. Sonny always talked to them and the horses. He trusted me that my dogs would behave and they did (phew!).
We would often pass the time of day on these rides and Sonny was one of those people who had a cheeky grin and a sparkle in his eye. His cows were gentle and trustworthy. They would follow me either on horseback or on foot and I was never feared of them. He loved his cows. I found out today that each one had a proper name too.
On Sonny’s land was the galloping track and every year he would leave the gate open knowing full well that we would charge up and down it. We even took the cart and two Shetland ponies to race them. We took the sharp corner at the end on one wheel. I bet he watched us smiling from his window.
I will miss Sonny. A part of my life has gone now and there will never be that smiling gentle man for whom nothing was too much trouble.