It is hard to imagine a seemingly more reluctant show president than Doug Ward of Moorside Farm near to Egton Show where he will take on the role that many see as an honour next Wednesday, August 24.
In all the years Doug has been involved with the show he has never seen anything but the sheep classes and so far as he’s concerned he’s never been bothered with anything else.
Doug used to show Scotch Blackface sheep at many shows, has been a regular winner at the Great Yorkshire Show in the wool classes, although he never attends he merely sends the clip, and is a committee member and has officiated in the sheep section at Egton as well as competing since he was 14 with his father John.
“I’ve no idea (why they’ve asked me to be president),” he says in a bewildered manner that hints at his character being more akin to Greengrass from TV’s Heartbeat series. He even has more than a passing resemblance to actor Bill Maynard’s creation.
“They tell me I am president but I haven’t agreed to it.”
There’s no discernible smile when he says this, in keeping with what is now a very old style North York Moors’ happy belligerence I’ve seen a number of times over the years from the kind of farmers who tend to keep themselves to themselves and appear to prefer isolation to socialisation. Doug is most definitely one of a dying breed but he will be there as president on Wednesday if indeed under a degree of sufferance.
“I’ve been with the committee as long as I can remember and although I’m not sheep secretary I’m always the one in charge of the sheep side on show day and prepare the pens with two young ’uns my son-in-law Malcolm and his brother Brian. I try to make sure things are right and if there are any faults people come to me. It’s a lot of work for a day but I enjoy it.”
Typically, Doug has his own way of handling complaints if they do arise.
“You do get one or two that object to this or that but when I tell them that it will cost them £25 to sort it out they soon walk away and get back on with their day. It’s in the rules and it’s been in for years. I think my dad may have had it put in.”
Doug will miss being around the sheep section this year although he hopes to have some of his sheep there. He still runs a flock of 100 Scotch Blackface breeding ewes at what is now the 60-acre Moorside Farm tenanted from the Mulgrave Estate. It was 200 acres when he also ran a suckler herd of commercial Limousin X cattle but he took one step closer to retirement around 10 years ago (now aged 77) in coming out of beef that left himself and wife Phyllis with the sheep.
“There was a time when I never used to miss a show in this area. I’d be at Rosedale, Danby, Egton, Farndale, Ryedale, Thornton le Dale, Stokesley, about 10 altogether and I’d have my fair share of winners’ rosettes and trophies.
“It depends on who is judging but I tended to win nine times out of 10. These days I only show at Egton and I just go and pick a good ’un or two on the night before the show. I don’t touch them or wash their faces. I just look for something that’s nice and smart and bonny, but this year it doesn’t look like I’ll be around them at all. I’ll have to go all around into the poultry tent and the produce tent. I’ve never been in either of them in nearly 70 years of going to the show as sheep judging doesn’t finish until 2.30pm.
“I don’t think I’ve missed a show since I was in my teens. My dad was a better showman than me. He’s the only Yorkshireman who has won at Hexham, Great Yorkshire and Smithfield in the same year. I grew up with Scotch Blackface sheep.”
Doug has a mobile phone, a four-year old New Holland baler and a recent New Holland tractor but they are his only nods to technology.
“I don’t like this modern stuff. I can’t even work a calculator. We’re not into computers and things like that. I have a mobile phone because of keeping in touch during baling time. It was switched on last week and it will be switched off at the end of October when we’ve finished baling down near Eden Camp.”
That’s pretty much the limit of Doug’s travels apart from an occasional trip to Hexham Mart. You might see a smile on his face on show day – no doubt when he approaches the sheep pens!
Doug farmed with his parents John and Hilda Ward in Egton before marrying Phyllis in 1962.
They have three daughters Pamela, Stephanie and Vanessa and two grandsons and one granddaughter. Moorside Farm is where Phyllis was born. Her maiden name is Williamson. Doug farmed in partnership with Phyllis’ brother until Arnold took up wagon driving.
They had a dairy herd before switching to sucklers, but sheep have always been part of the enterprise.
The 127th Egton Show, next Wednesday, August 24, is one of the largest village shows in the county, and is run by the Egton Horse & Agricultural Society.