Exhibit of the Week: Shepherd’s crook, Ryedale Folk Museum

The crook used by Rose Farrow, but only on special occasions.
The crook used by Rose Farrow, but only on special occasions.

With Christmas approaching, schools across the area will be putting on Nativity plays and countless tea towels will be used to turn children into shepherds.

Our exhibit of the week is a shepherd’s crook, or more accurately a shepherdess’ crook. You can see the crook on display in the White Cottage here at Ryedale Folk Museum.

It was made for Rose Farrow (1911-2008), by her nephew, Jeffrey Featherstone. The stick is made from hazel and the bone handle has a thistle carved on it. Rose was a working shepherdess but this crook was her “Sunday best”, used on special occasions rather than for her day to day activities.

Ryedale Folk Museum contains not only an eclectic collection of buildings, artefacts and photographs but it also tells the story of the people connected with them. A varied collection of Rose’s belongings were donated to the museum. They give a fascinating insight into the life of this remarkable person.

Rose Farrow lived in Hutton-le-Hole, in the same cottage, for all of her 97 years. She was a shepherdess in the village and on the moors until well into her eighties. Her father started the flock in the 1880s.

When the flock was formed, the villagers donated their grazing rights so that he could graze his sheep on the moors and surrounding land. Rose took over the shepherding from her father and was helped by her nephew Jeffrey Featherstone and her brother Charles.

Rose was an expert at breeding Scottish Blackface sheep and was a leading light in the Scottish Blackface Sheep Society. Rose could often be seen tending her flock on the moors riding her pony. She is still remembered fondly among the local farming community. There are stories of her riding out bareback in an emergency, not even stopping to saddle up in order to save time – perhaps if there was a ewe having a difficult birth or a sheep stuck in a ditch. There are many photographs of Rose helping with sheep dipping and other tasks in the care of the flock.

Her collection includes objects such as some decorative hatpins inherited from her mother; her Red Cross certificate on completion of her first aid training in the early months of the Second World War and a touching letter from an injured soldier of the First World War thanking her for the gift of an egg. Rose was also very active in village life. She was a Sunday School teacher for thirty six years. She served on the Village Hall Committee and was involved in the organisation of the Mell Supper every year.

Ryedale Folk Museum will re-open to the public on Saturday 10 February 2018.