Fond farewell to popular show leader

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FOR TEN years he has been the smiling face of a show that has just kept growing under his directorship and when the time came today for Bill Cowling to step away from the top job, he did so with typical good humour.

As the final afternoon of the 157th Great Yorkshire Show was played out, honorary show director Bill Cowling was ambushed as he exited the President’s Pavilion after lunch by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s press steward Lady Ingilby.

Bill Cowling, who retired as honorary show director of the Great Yorkshire Show today.

Bill Cowling, who retired as honorary show director of the Great Yorkshire Show today.

Caught completely unawares, Lady Ingilby convinced Mr Cowling to wear a pink sash pinned full of rosettes as he stepped out to be met by a gathering of journalists and the sight of a waiting buggy decked out with hay bales, stuffed toy animals, more rosettes, flowers on the dashboard and a toy tractor on the front.

After being taken for a spin in his buggy, The Yorkshire Post asked him how he was feeling about his last show as director.

“I’m surprised at this buggy, that’s an absolute certainty.

“(There’s) obviously an element of sadness because I have been doing this for ten years and have really enjoyed doing it but I set out to do it for five years and I have done it for ten, and it’s a great honour to be involved.”

During his decade as show director Mr Cowling, of Pannal near Harrogate, has accompanied various members of the royal family around the show, including The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh in 2008. This year he welcomed The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall for a third time.

He said his swansong had been a pleasure, adding that he would miss working with people he had spent much time preparing for shows with over the years.

“It’s been a decent show, it was a huge honour to have the royal visitor on the first day of the show of course and the rest of the show seems to have gone alright.

“I will miss meeting the people, having the involvement with the team that runs the Great Yorkshire Show and the exhibitors, and the people you meet through the Great Yorkshire Show and the other shows that we visit.”

To the show’s visitors Mr Cowling is a familiar face too, and he expects to be among the throngs who pass through the showground gates next year.

“I’m still going to be part of the cattle section in a very peripheral way and I will certainly be visiting the show next year - and I will enjoy it.”

Nigel Pulling, chief executive of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, offered words of praise to his out-going colleague, saying: “It’s an outstanding record of achievement and it has been a pleasure to work with him for so many years.

“Clearly he is passionate about Yorkshire, about farming and about the Great Yorkshire Show and being part of the Society in particular. He is a great ambassador for us and for the agricultural industry.”

The final act of the show involved a handing-over ceremony in which Sarah York officially succeeded Lord Crathorne as the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s president, and Charles Mills followed in Mr Cowling’s footsteps by becoming the Society’s new show director.