5 January 2001

Wheelwright on battlefield

THOUGH they were so glad to be home again, soldiers from the First World War found it very hard to settle down and pick up the threads of their old lives.

In Gunstocks and Dovetails Thomas Hudson tells how Abey (short for Abraham) Stoughton made this difficult transition and moved on, and how his prospects were enhanced as a result of his soldierly diligence.

Farmers son Abey was a qualified wheelwright before he was called up but found himself serving in the Royal Army Medical Corps as "a medical orderly-cum-ambulance driver-cum-stretcher bearer". His tale takes off at speed around the trenches but slows down to a careful pace when the war ends. Abey returns to Hardwicks wheelwright shop and the author takes the opportunity to explain much of the work involved in making and repairing horse-drawn vehicles and farm equipment.

But tractors and motor vehicles were sounding the death knell for wooden wheels and Abeys aspirations turn to furniture making. He struggles to get some college training and successfully joins the two branches of the woodworking industry. He also gets his girl.

Author Thomas Hudson is a craftsman himself in wood and metal and was a dairy farmer for some years. His earlier novel, Wheelstocks and Ploughshares, tells the story of Abeys early years as a wheelwrights apprentice. AC

Gunstocks and Dovetails by Thomas Hudson, £14.95, is published by Tabb House, 7 Church Street, Padstow, Cornwall (01841-532316).