When John Ireland’s father ran off with a 16-year-old girl and the family television in 1960, John was left with a note to go and see the family’s solicitors in Malton the next day. The upshot of the meeting led to John running Knapton Ings Farm at 21 years of age.
When his father came back to the tiny hamlet of West Knapton in 1967, with his young lady and their five-year-old son, John was given his marching orders to get off the land and told that he would never be given the farm and that he’d blown any chance of inheriting it.
In the next three decades John proceeded to build a successful business that at one time included agricultural contracting, haulage and Marshall tractor sales.
The JD Ireland company logo was a familiar sight on his trucks, tractors and at his premises on the A64 at West Heslerton and he was the main haulier for sugar beet from the east of the county into the York sugar factory. In 1982 John’s mother passed away.
Whilst his animosity to his late father is clear for all to see, John counts himself fortunate to have had many close friends and colleagues throughout his life and no more so than his grandfather who he recalls affectionately. “He was a canny old man my grandfather and he didn’t trust anyone,” he said.
“There was a time when he bought a new tractor from Mr Slaughter, who was a salesman with Richardson of Driffield.
“It had been the last time the Great Yorkshire Show was to be held around the county rather than at its now permanent home in Harrogate.
“The show had come to Malton. It was 1950.
“Grandfather told Mr Slaughter that he would buy this particular tractor – a blue Standard Fordson with the registration CBT151 – but he said that when it was delivered it had to be exactly the one he’s seen at the show.
“When Mr Slaughter delivered it grandfather said ‘Od ’Ard’, which to the uninitiated means ‘hold on’. I just want to look around before it is unloaded. He started inspecting the tractor but what he was really looking for was his own penknife mark he had made just underneath the mudguard. He hadn’t told anyone, but he had put a little nick in the paintwork to identify the machine as being the one he’d viewed.”
Even before his father’s elopement, John already had a dim view of his patriarch: “Dad was the equivalent of Ebeneezer Scrooge, without all the good bits! He didn’t bother getting us a Christmas tree – ours was a branch from a fir tree, the straightest I could find; and he certainly wasn’t particularly interested in providing our Christmas dinner.
“That led to one of the moments I hated the most. Each Christmas morning we had to catch the cockerel. We would chase it around the yard and usually mum would catch it, kill it, pluck it and serve it up for dinner. We really didn’t fancy eating it and my sisters didn’t. It was like having to eat a member of the family.”