Video: Bill Cowling on his years at the Great Yorkshire Show

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DURING his time as Great Yorkshire Show director Bill Cowling has rubbed shoulders with royalty, cabinet ministers and welcomed hundreds of thousands of people through the gates at the famous Harrogate showground.

However, after a decade at the helm of England’s biggest agricultural show, Mr Cowling has decided to step down, with the 2015 show to be his last as show director.

Bill Cowling with The Princess Royal in 2010.

Bill Cowling with The Princess Royal in 2010.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post following his announcement, Mr Cowling said that he was sad to be leaving the director’s job but that he felt 10 years was long enough.

“I have been there longer than most,” he said.

“When I started the job, five years was more typically the norm for directors.

“It will be different after I leave I am sure but in most respects it will be very much the same.

“It is a wonderful job. I have had the chance to meet so many wonderful people.

“When I took on the role it was decided that I would be around for around five years and I have doubled that.”

The search for the new incumbent begins today with the small committee having been established to look at potential successors.

Making the announcement, Simon Theakston, chairman of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, said: “It is impossible to over-state the contribution Bill has made to the Society, not only as our Honorary Show Director but in the 30 years before. He has been a brilliant Show Director guiding the show through a challenging period not only for the country’s economy, but also for the world of agriculture.

“The fact that the Great Yorkshire Show is now one of the most important of its kind in the UK is a testimony to his success. He now leaves us with the very challenging task of finding a replacement to take on the mantle.”

Mr Cowling has an associated with the show that has lasted four decades.

Born in Leeds, Mr Cowling’s association with the Yorkshire Agricultural Society began in the 1960s when he successfully showed dairy cattle at the Great Yorkshire.

In 1978 he commenced stewarding the cattle section, going on to become Chief Cattle Steward in 1995.

He continues to be involved in the family farm near Harrogate and his interest in farming and rural life is very much reflected in the Show’s focus on maintaining its agricultural ethos.

When asked to pick out his highlight from his time at the helm of the show he said: “The visit of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh of course was an absolute thrill.

“The actual visit ended up being longer than anticipated as she was supposed to be going to somewhere near Hull but David Davies had called a by-election which scuppered things. To have her for those extra couple of hours was wonderful.”

During his time in charge the Great Yorkshire Show has enjoyed attendance figures routinely past the 100,000 mark and he played an instrumental role in the launch of the show’s autumnal sister event Countryside Live.

He said: “I am very proud to be part of it. We have got a really good team here at the moment. Some of the bigger shows have had their difficulties but we have stuck to our guns, and we continue to do OK. If I was to give my successor any advice it would be to make sure that this direction remains as it should be.”

Aside from the Society, Mr Cowling has a keen interest in modern British paintings.

He also has a passion for antiques, jazz, classic cars and caravanning. He has also served on the regional committee of the National Trust and as a member of the BBC’s Regional Audience Council.

He is President of the Yorkshire Dry Stone Walling Guild. His interest in livestock is deep rooted. In the early 1960s, he became Secretary of the Livestock Section of what was to become the Northern Counties Livestock Society,

Mr Cowling and his wife Caroline live at a farm at Pannal near Harrogate and they have a daughter, two sons and two granddaughters.