NEPHEW DAVID, THE FARMER

 1994 

Les, in his early teens, took over the family’s Faulkners grocery shop in Davyhulme, when drays were the order of the day for delivering grocery orders to their customers.    Faulkners were renowned for winning the prize at the Urmston Carnival for the best turned out drayhorse and cart.  

Les, on marrying Edith, eventually left the family business and started up on his own, opposite Davyhulme Park Hospital.   Here he built up a large business and forged friendships with nurses across the road.   He was told he had the largest family grocer’s shop on the south side of Manchester, by a representative in the trade.

His son, David, when asked if he would wish to stay at school, replied to the Headmaster, “No Sir, I wish to become a farmer.”    Despite the fact that he had never been close to a cow before, he landed a live-in job on a mixed dairy and sheep farm at Chelford, at the age of 16.

After three years’ practical experience, David started a National Certificate in Agriculture course, at the Lancashire County Agricultural College.   A spell as a tractor driver followed, and in 1962 Les sold their home in Keswick Drive to purchase Common Farm, where David built up his business, concentrating of dairy and pig production.     Disaster struck five years later, in the shape of the foot and mouth disease epidemic.   The whole dairy herd and 150 pigs were lost.  

David married Doris, whom he had met at their local Chapel, who was also a farmer’s daughter.   Eventually, Doris and David had a son, Steve, and a daughter, Sue, both of whom took to the farming life as ducks take to water.

All the time I knew David, I admired his innovation and his ability to tackle any construction problem.   In his early days, when Gladys and I stayed on the farm, he gave me jobs to do on his farmstead, which I understand have stood the test of time.   One of his major tasks undertaken was to enlarge a pond into a small reservoir, enabling him to have his independent watering system for irrigation of his fields, and in particular for potato crops.

The faith that his parents had in buying him this small farm of 44 acres when he was 21 proved more than justified, as he progressed in the National Farmers’ Union, reaching high office.   His ability to adopt the latest techniques, such as milking parlours and transponders fitted to cows to control their food input related to their output, stood him in good stead when in conference with other farmers.

His big breakthrough came when he was made Chairman of Middlewich and Winsford branch in 1975.   By 1989 he had become Chairman of the Cheshire National Farmers’ Union, making him Director of the Cheshire Annual Show, held at Knutsford.

His ability to hold his own when dealing with farmers, many of whom had hundreds of acres, made no change to everyday life.   He kept up his interest in bowls, being the captain of the Middlewich NFU bowls club.  David was also a treasurer and steward at Sandiway Methodist Chapel.

While Chairman of the county, he fostered a movement to bring the farmers and the general public nearer together.     It was claimed he told the farmers, “But, what I really want to see is a chance for 350,000 school children in the Merseyside and Greater Manchester areas to see at first hand what farming is all about.”

Whilst David attended to the NFU matters, sometimes involving visits to their headquarters in London, Stephen could be left to run the farm, from his late teens.  Stephen, when hardly ten years old, I marvelled, could handle the tractors, which I assumed were, to him, just like having a big toy to play with.

Edith’s role on the farm was to feed the cats daily, which meant that she had to visit the farm, ensuring that if she was not seen by a one of her offspring, it could mean that she was not well in her cottage.    Being virtually housebound it was vital to get Edith involved, in no matter how small a way, in the work of the farm.   From time to time, a lady picked her up to go to Whitegate Church on a Sunday, where she could meet friends in the village.

Back home, Ella was very housebound and dependant for news about the ladies’ scene from Dorothy Pigram, who continued to visit her on my Tuesday Emsworth bridge club night.

1994 had not been a very good year for trophy awards, or ‘pot hunting’ as it is sometimes referred to.    This was due, to some degree, to not being available for bowls during part of the outdoor bowling season, because of my knee operation which prevented me from entering the club’s competitions.   Alan Wagg and I won the Teams of Four bridge trophy, failing to win any of the other three awards.

At the Bowls Club AGM, we learned that a new brick pavilion would be built in 1995, and that all gear must be removed from the club’s premises by the end of the playing season.    Not all were aware of the effort put in by the founder members into improving the current portakabin.   I submitted a scheme, utilising the veranda and converting it into a shelter alongside the future brick building.   This suggestion I put forward at the AGM, but it was put aside because the Architect refused to allow non-brick buildings to be built on the site.

This meant that those who had given so much time in providing a temporary home, would see it either taken away or destroyed, without ceremony.

At least two former members, sadly not with us any more, who had contributed so much to our temporary pavilion, lasting almost ten years, Ernie King and George Hall, would I imagined be trying to rise from their graves to protest.

Bill Yeoman, our Godfather of the bowls club and who played in our indoor league team, was having difficulty in seeing.   On one occasion, playing indoors, he asked me to show him the white jack before he commenced to bowl.    When this is requested by a bowler, it is usually because the jack is hidden by one or more balls in front.    In this case, there were no objects between Bill and the jack on the green.   Immediately, I realised that he had been bowling blind, using his memory to get onto the jack.    I pulled out my hankerchief, and waved it over the jack.   Most bowlers soon realised the extent of his blindness, and gave him a verbal account of where his balls were, in respect to the jack.

Such people as Bill, and David, my stroke patient living on his own, were a great morale booster for anyone feeling low, as I was around this time during the autumn of 1994.    There was something inhuman about not giving a farewell send-off to our pavilion, which embodied so much of the efforts of the founders of the club, and which had given an intimate club house for ten years.

Andrew struck a happy note when he phoned to tell us that Christopher had been chosen as Shrewsbury Town football team mascot and would lead out their team onto the football pitch on Saturday 5th November.   This, I knew, would please both Jonathan and Peter, who had also carried out this role in their younger days.   Who knows, Andrew might ultimately have his own team to take onto the football ground in Shrewsbury!

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Alan Rayment 1998
Last revised: January 20, 2001