Labor Omnia Vincit (Work Overcomes Everything)


They said that he began with nothing and, with hard work and determination, became the richest orchardist in the area.

Apart from other plantings he had twenty acres of oranges and a huge house — a house, they said, that ‘she’ had nagged him into. He also had, if you listened to the whispers, a grip on the quid.

Take the oranges for instance. One corner of his block was close to the school. The children would pinch the odd orange from the end tree. So he put up a six-foot high barbed-wire fence along the road. It ran for about two hundred yards. Mind you, he, or she, would sell us oranges – two pence each. If you only had a penny they’d cut one in half. Even as a kid I wondered how many oranges he’d need to sell to cover the cost of that fence.

Between the fence and house a strip of land lay idle. It seemed to bother him. Eventually he planted it with couch grass and made a bowling green. Each Wednesday three of his workmen would play bowls with him. Some thought that he was getting generous. Those who knew him better knew that he had no choice. His men would never have played there in their own time.

Herself, though, held the family in some grudging regard. They had status of a sort and she loved any sort of status.

One Wednesday we walked past the two-penny oranges. She pointed to the house, “You can have everything that Dick has if you’re careful and work as hard as he has done”.

I saw the house – then the fence, the bowling green and the hired players. I looked again for something else. It had to be there – something of value that made all that work worth while. I looked for a long time, after all, hard work must have had something going for it.

People spoke so highly of it.

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