Marrar’s done a lot in his life and there’s no time for regrets

Tony 'Marra' Harland, of Old School House, Egton Bridge.
Tony 'Marra' Harland, of Old School House, Egton Bridge.
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Although Brazilian footballers are often known by one word names such as Pele or Zico the same doesn’t generally happen in farming, but Marrar of Egton Bridge is most definitely the exception. He’s 76 and has rarely been known as anything else.

“That’s all people know me as. I’m just Marrar to everybody, always have been always will be. If you put my name as Tony Harland they’ll wonder what’s going on.”

Marrar is the farming character to dispel any thoughts among those who say agriculture no longer has any. His love of life and happy disposition has seen him run his own livestock haulage business, ride Point to Point, build a beef cattle enterprise, raise thousands for charity through social events and help out at Ruswarp Mart for the past 30 years.

His familiar smile is never far away and even though he’s currently considering his future having lost half the land he was renting he remains refreshingly bright.

“I’ve had a wonderful life. I’m gutted at the moment because I’ve lost 80 acres of land I’ve been renting for the past 25 years and I might well be on my way to finally packing in having cattle due to what’s happened but in a lot of ways I’m happy as a king. I’ve had to sell a few cows and calves because now I don’t have enough land to graze and that’s a shame because I have one of the best cattle sheds in the district with space for 100.”

Marrar was born at his parents’ George and Louisa Harland’s Key Green Farm in Egton Bridge. He lost his sister Monica when she was just 18 and is the youngest of three brothers.

The family swapped farms with Wilf Miller of Swang Farm just half a mile away from Key Green as Wilf was on his own and as his farm was larger than theirs, running to around 200 acres, it made sense. When the brothers became old enough Bob took over the running of the farm, Bill left and Marrar helped out Bob.

“I remember when I was at school in Whitby I used to have to milk four cows by hand and then had to run to catch the train at 8.30 every morning. All hell let loose if I didn’t get them milked before I went.”

It certainly hasn’t all been plain sailing for Marrar in the past 70 years. He’s suffered illness, lost trucks through a fire and has had two new knees in the past five years with the latest one just eight weeks ago.

“I had a bit of bad health with Bell’s Palsy when I was younger that meant I lost the use of half my face but I never let it stop me from getting on. We got into contracting in a big way and at one time I had six or seven men on and we had 10-12 tractors in the days when they were a lot smaller. I got into livestock haulage and was in it for 44 years.

“We used to go all over but more particularly to and from the marts at Ruswarp, Thirsk and Darlington. I built the business up to four wagons but a fire cost me two of them. The lorries went in the end when I had my first knee operation five years ago. The work had drifted away as the farms that had become bigger had their own transport. We’d been looking after a lot of those who were smaller farms and who couldn’t afford their own truck. They had pretty much all gone by then.”

Farming in his own right had always been Marrar’s goal and although he’s never owned or tenanted he has built up a suckler herd of 70 cattle using a Limousin bull on to British Friesian cows to produce stock sold at Ruswarp Mart at around nine months.

“I’ve been trying to be a farmer all my life and was in for a number of farms but could never get one because I wasn’t married.

“Up until recently I was renting around 150 acres but now I only have the 70 acres off Mulgrave Estate and 26 acres of that is cropping for hay and silage so there’s not a lot left for grazing and that is why I’m having to reduce cattle numbers. I have a really good working relationship with Teresa Egan who is a teacher from Caistor and she has let me have 12 acres here where we had the shed built and named it Harganside using three letters from each of our surnames.

“Our events called Shed Warmings attracted hundreds and we raised £65,500 in eight years. The last one was five years ago.”

Marrar has never married. He tells an affectionate tale of his mum Louisa who lived until she was 100 years and six months old putting a stop to several liaisons.

“There could have been one or two Mrs Marrars but if I got a good lass she’d always find a way to wind her out.

“She never wanted me to leave. It’s not stopped me enjoying life.”