All the horsemen would spend hours making paper tissue flowers and decorate the harnesses with them.
My memory of the fifties was working for North Shields Co-operative Society as a stableboy. My job involved taking the horses from the stables in Hylton Street to Hoods blacksmiths in back Northumberland Square. The blacksmith was called Hope Hood. I had to stand and hold the horses’ head until they were fitted with new shoes. First the old shoes had to be removed then the new ones had to be heated in the furnace until they were red hot. They were then put onto the horses’ hoof to burn a mark onto the hoof so the blacksmith could cut the hoof to the right size. The smell from the burning hoof was very acrid but rather pleasant. The shoes were then nailed onto the hooves with special nails and any excess hoof was then filed off.
May Day was a very busy time and also special as all the horses were given extra cleaning. Harnesses were black polished, brasses were all polished until they were gleaming. All the horsemen including my father J V M Rutherford, John Taylor, Tommy Denton and many others would spend hours making paper tissue flowers and decorate the harnesses with them. They would then go out on their milk and grocery rounds showing them off to the customers. On their return they would be judged on cleanest horse, harness and flower display.