Dale hero who was one of the people

In 1935 colourful Dales character Kit Calvert rescued Wensleydale Creamery after it was threatened with closure. As the company applies to the EU for protection against poor imitations of Wensleydale cheese, Lizzie Murphy spoke to his daughter.

Although Florence Garnett was not even born when her father was hailed the saviour of Wensleydale cheese, his achievement has stayed with her throughout her life.

Living in the bungalow that Mr Calvert had built for himself and his large collection of Yorkshire books, for Mrs Garnett reminders of his life are everywhere.

Photographs of her father smoking his beloved pipe decorate walls and mantlepieces and a book of his life made by a friend after Mr Calvert died is fondly kept in a drawer.

Even the playground at the front of Mrs Garnett's home in Hawes, North Yorkshire, is a continual reminder of her father. He established the park in 1948 in memory of his own father, John Calvert, who died two years before.

"He was always keen on children and doing things for Hawes," said Mrs Garnett, who runs a B&B business at the home she shares with her husband Harry.

The extent of Mr Calvert's commitment to his town was highlighted when he turned the Wensleydale Creamery at Hawes into a farmers' cooperative after it was threatened with closure in the 1930s.

Poor trading conditions meant the milk producers were no longer being paid and the newly established Milk Marketing Board offered milk contracts to the upper-dale farmers whose milk would no longer be used for local cheesemaking.

But Mr Calvert was having none of it. In 1935 he called a meeting in Hawes town hall and the Dalesmen formed their own company with capital of 1,085.

Mr Calvert, who had put 200 into the scheme, was appointed managing director. Over the next years he used his vast knowledge of Wensleydale cheese production successfully to promote Dales cheese.

In 1953 he built a new creamery in Hawes. He introduced the "baby Wensleydale", a llb cheese which the average household might buy weekly. About 50,000 were sold in the first year; production rose to 250,000 per year by the 1960s.

The Milk Marketing Board purchased Wensleydale Creamery for 500,000 in 1966 but persuaded Mr Calvert to continue to run it. In 1967 he retired.

But although Mr Calvert achieved hero status in the local community, Mrs Garnett said she did not grow up aware of what her father had done.

"I didn't take any notice really," she said. "He didn't say so much to us. He kept his work to himself."

A huge part of Mr Calvert's success was his ability to get on with people.

Mrs Garnett, 68, added: "He got on with everyone. He could speak to a tramp or the Queen Mother and he wouldn't alter himself – he was the same chap all the time but people found it easy to talk to him. He was one of the people. He hated wearing a collar and tie and liked to get involved."

But at the same time she said her father was not easily persuaded to change his mind. "When he said something you knew he meant it. He didn't back down. He was a real Yorkshireman, he said it like it was," she said.

After leaving school Mrs Garnett herself worked in the Creamery's laboratory as a milk tester and remained there on and off until she retired at the age of 65.

After he sold Wensleydale Dairy Products, Mr Calvert opened a second-hand book shop which he frequently left unstaffed – trusting the public to put money into a cash box.

The former bookshop in Hawes now has a Yorkshire Society plaque dedicated to him.

Mr Calvert, who was also a local preacher and translator of parts of the Bible into local dialect, received the MBE insignia from the Queen in 1977. He died in 1984 at the age of 80 and was taken to his grave on a cart drawn by his pony, Dolly.

The Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes, which maintained traditional cheese-making for a second time when a management buyout ensured its future in 1992, still sells its products with a picture of Mr Calvert on packaging.

Today 147 people make 3,000 tonnes of cheese and still use vats installed by Mr Calvert in 1953.

Mrs Garnett has added her name to the growing list of supporters of the Yorkshire Post's Uniquely Yorkshire campaign to protect real Wensleydale cheese.

Wensleydale Dairy Products is applying to the EU for Protected Designation of Origin for its cheese. If granted, it would mean that no other manufacturer could make a cheese and call it Real Yorkshire Wensleydale.

More than 2,000 people have already signed our petitions which are at the Creamery, in the paper, on our website and at Castle Howard's farm shop.

lizzie.murphy@ypn.co.uk

JOIN THE CAMPAIGN

To add your support to the Uniquely Yorkshire campaign fill in the coupon below and send it to Yorkshire Post Newsdesk, Uniquely Yorkshire, Wellington Street, Leeds LS1 1RF,

or visit our online petition at www.yorkshireposttoday.co.uk

You will also be able to sign our petition at Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes.

What is your favourite Wensleydale recipe? Send the details to uniquely.yorkshire@ypn.co.uk including your name and address.