Mont ABBOTT (1902–1989)
Carter, shepherd, storyteller
Biddy’s Bottom, Fulwell, Enstone
Mont Abbott, © his great-niece, Sarah Heywood
Montague Archibald Abbott (Old Mont), one of ten children, was born in St Clement’s, Oxford in 1902. His father was a bootmaker. When he was three, the family moved to ‘Down Alley’ in Neat Enstone. He spent his whole life in Enstone Parish, living later at Church Enstone, Cleveley and finally from 1961 until his death at Fulwell, in the cottage he named ‘Biddy’s Bottom’.
After receiving a silver pocket-watch, from Viscount Dillon, for good conduct and perfect attendance at Enstone Council School in September 1915, he began his working life as a cowman at Fulwell, on one of the farms of the Ditchley Estate. After two years he was promoted to carter with responsibility for the horses, ploughing and haulage. As farming practices changed during the century, he spent most of his time shepherding. He hardly ever left Oxfordshire, although he made one notable foray into Buckingham Palace where his brother was a footman and encountered the young Lilibet. After the sad loss of his young sweetheart Kate, a nurse at the Radcliffe Infirmary, who contracted pneumonia on a winter journey just before their wedding, he never married.
He became celebrated locally for his stories of people, animals, places and customs and came to the notice of the writer Sheila Stewart. Over the course of two years she sat at his kitchen table and tape-recorded his recollections from which she then collated his autobiography Lifting the Latch, faithfully reproducing his words and dialect. The memoir is personal, humorous and poignant; it is also alert to national events and forces impacting on rural life in the twentieth century and an eloquent testimony to the unsung heroism of those who work on the land.
- Source: Sheila Stewart, Lifting the Latch (1983), available from Day Books of Charlbury
- Pictures: Biddy’s Bottom and unveiling ceremony
- Oxford Mail, 26 June 2007: ‘Blue plaque honours village shepherd’
The plaque was unveiled at Biddy’s Bottom, Fulwell, Enstone on 23 June 2007 by Sheila Stewart.
Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board
People of Enstone parish