From left to right; Madame Salaun, Marrie L’hours, Niroko Rosineux, Loisique, Madame Sisan, Tom Hickman, Monsieur Le Lay, Monsieur Lostanlen, Pierre Louis Cleran plus Din Din the collie dog.
While browsing through some press cuttings I came across this one from the late nineties concerning the restoration of our village well. What struck me first was how naturally the group divided into men and women, without the slightest prompting from the journalist. It has to be said that although there are three who are married none of them appear with their respective partner. During an interval of twenty three years all but three of those villagers remain including myself. All the men are dead. Monsieur Le Lay a devout man died on the church doorstep having attended morning mass while Monsieur Lostanlen after a lifelong battle eventually succumbed to the demon drink. It was extra ordinary to think he’d lasted so long having never managed to secure an employment other than to drink his way through the fortnightly deliver that arrived on alternate Thursdays by lorry. As a local resistance leader during the war Pierre Louis was considered the unofficial mayor of the village and as such was first in line for the fish van that also called on Thursdays. My mind slipped easily back to that damp afternoon where for the first time I felt accepted in village and was impressed by the fact that out of the nine houses then occupied in the village all but one had its representative in the photo.
The old slate front was all that had been partially visible to indicate that buried in the earth bank was a well, and it irritated me that it had at some point been put back upside down. One summer I noticed that a hole had appeared above the slate and on investigation I discovered the old planks covering the well had rotted making it potentially very dangerous for any inquisitive children. Before I made any attempt to restore the well I had first to prove that it was the village well and as such belonged to everyone. Monsieur Lostanlen was sure it belonged to him as it abutted his father in-law’s old house however consulting the 1836 maps it showed the well pre-existing outside the limits of the later house. The well is situated half way between the two oldest houses in the village and on the same spring line as two other later wells. Our first job was to empty the well and during a period of rare sobriety Monsieur Lostanlen loaned his pump. The next step was to climb down the well using the foot holds conveniently provided by the original constructors. I am more comfortable climbing above ground but at six meters down I found only one lump of wood and surprisingly little mud. The spring source was easily identifiable already clear and strong in the front right hand corner. The large arched cut granite was most likely a recuperation from Manoir de Keryvon and would have been one of a pair that served as a well head being placed flat. However since now only a single stone had been reused I felt it more appropriate to raise it vertically so as to form a well entrance. Pierre Louis was pleased to have found and adapted an old winder and the required length of chain. The well would have probably been originally covered by a single massive slate but since that was no longer at hand I made do with a selection of smaller rustic slates, surmounting them with a line of interlocking lignolets slates ornamented with a date of 1692 the same age as my own house. The only thing missing now was the original granite trough that had been removed by Monsieur Lostanlen’s father in-law. Since mains water had arrived the well remained unused and so when Monsieur Jaffrey removed it when enlarging the entrance to his house nobody complained, but now his son in-law was more than happy that it be returned to its original emplacement and could regain its original purpose of holding water rather than soil and some annual bedding plants.
On the death of her husband Madame Lostanlen was not slow in getting one of the local farmer to take back the trough and despite a visit from Plouye mayor plus a professional arbitrator the forlorn trough remains stranded and empty in the centre of her lawn. So the family tradition of steeling the trough is maintained. Her father in-law’s house has since been sold and she made sure that the notaire included the well in the sale so that now the present owner retired from the south of France thinks the well is his. Such is life but it won’t stop me parking my van alongside to wash it.