Page last updated at 07:54 GMT, Thursday, 13 May 2010 08:54 UK

Land Girl recalls life down on the farm

By Laura Pettigrew
Lanarkshire reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Mona McLeod  in WLA uniform on horse in 1942
Mona McLeod joined the Women's Land Army in 1940, aged 16

"I loved animals, I was very strong and I loved the country," said 87-year-old Mona McLeod.

In 1940, aged just 16, she was among thousands of young women who left their homes during WWII and went to work on a farm to help feed the nation in its time of need.

"If I had gone into one of the other services, living in a barracks, I would have gone mad," she said.

"On the farm, although it was very lonely, it was a very satisfying life."

The former Land Girl had been evacuated to a cottage in Yorkshire with her siblings and was preparing for university when, a fortnight after Dunkirk, her father, Professor Walter McLeod, came to see her.

"He told me he felt as strongly as ever about the higher education of women but said that he really felt we should concentrate on winning the war, " she recalled.

"I said 'yes daddy' so he arranged for me to go and work on Mr Armstrong's farm in Gallloway and a fortnight later I had left school and was busy making hay and cutting thistles."

I was less happy when I was shoring turnips which were usually covered with ice and freezing to work with
Mona McLeod
Land Girl

The Women's Land Army and Women's Timber Corps, dubbed the Land Girls and Lumber Jills, played an essential wartime role.

Because many foods could no longer be imported, more land had to be ploughed in order to grow more.

Mona, who now lives in Edinburgh, remembers her five years spent ploughing, sowing and digging for victory as a hard but happy time.

"The best part of my work was always with the animals," she said.

"They put me to work in the stable with the horses and I worked a lot with the shepherd doing things like dipping and shearing the sheep.

"I was less happy when I was shoring turnips which were usually covered with ice and freezing to work with."

'Extra labour'

She added: "Hoeing turnips was even worse because you worked for 10 hours in a line trying to single turnips and I was very bad at it.

"The men were wonderful and one of them used to come and help me finish my row because everyone else had finished five minutes before."

Now those endless hours spent labouring down on the farm are being commemorated with a new 1st class Land Girls stamp, part of a set of eight being launched by Royal Mail honouring the efforts made by British people on the Home Front.

Mona McLeod and Nicole O'Neil at the National Museum of Country Life in Lanarkshire
Mona launched the stamps with student Nicole O’Neill dressed in a WLA uniform

Mona helped launch the stamps at the National Museum of Rural Life in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire.

She said: "I think the Land Girls' contribution was very important. We were the main source of extra labour during the war."

She left her farm at the end of the war to embark on an academic career.

The 87-year-old now looks back on her time spent in the fields with fondness but said it is vital that her efforts, and those of her fellow Land Girls, are never forgotten.

"We had very low pay. Normally we worked 60 hours a week, more in the summer, and only had one week's paid holiday a year," she recalled.

"Our uniforms were grossly inadequate so we had to provide ourselves with waterproof leggings and I got clogs, which were wonderful, to keep my feet warm.

"You also got hold of your brothers old jackets and underclothes and anything else you could get your hands on."

She added: "We were badly treated without any doubt at all.

"But on the other hand we lived out of doors, and if you loved the country like me that was wonderful."

Print Sponsor

Land Girls honoured in new stamp
13 May 10 |  Scotland
Statue to 'lumberjills' unveiled
10 Oct 07 |  Tayside and Central

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