Bill Kirk

ELISHA William Kirk, who farmed dairy cattle and later pigs and who was once an extra in television’s Heartbeat, has died aged 88.

Mr Kirk, who was always known as Bill, was a well respected member of a Yorkshire farming family, who farmed at Dunscroft, near Doncaster, and later at Yatts, near Pickering.

Hard working and cheerful, he was one of the old school who would just get on with things, could turn his hand to anything and was always willing to help other people. He was always smartly turned out, even wearing a collar and tie when working on the farm.

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He was born at Thorne, near Doncaster, the third of four brothers and a sister whose father had a dairy farm and milk round at Fishlake and Dunsville, which was later Kirk and Sons.

Educated at Thorne School, he left at 14 to join the family business where one of his jobs, with his brothers, was the local milk round carrying the milk in cans on their bicycle handlebars. Later, they had their own bottling plant using the then wide-necked bottles with cardboard tops.

Two of the milk round’s customers were later to become his in-laws after going out with their daughter, Kathleen Woodward, whom he married in 1950.

He eventually had his own business becoming the tenant of Abbey Farm, Dunscroft, a few miles from the family farm where he continued to help.

But in 1962 he was forced to move when the local authority put a compulsory purchase order on the agricultural land for building, so he bought Oak Tree Farm, near Pickering, and went into pigs, potatoes and arable farming.

He always took his pigs to Doncaster market on Tuesdays and Saturdays where he also judged at the local fatstock shows.

When the pig trade slumped in the 1970s, he also took a job at the local quarry to augment the family income where he worked until retiring at 65.

He then started market gardening at his home and had a weekly plant stall at Kirkbymoorside. This led to him running a nursery at the Inn on the Moor country house hotel at Goathland until he was 86.

While there, the television show Heartbeat started filming in the area with the crew and actors staying at the hotel, and one day he found himself being an extra in an episode.

Although he never had time to be formally involved in other activities, Mr Kirk always supported local events and causes. He helped St Catherine’s Hospice, in Scarborough, from its inception and contributed to the building of a much needed Over 60s’ club in Pickering, although he never saw himself as being old enough to use it.

He was also a good horse rider having learned to ride without a saddle in his youth when ploughing, before tractors were used on farms.

Mr Kirk, whose wife predeceased him in 2002, died two days short of his 89th birthday.

He is survived by his two daughters, Carolyn and Moira, three grandsons – one of whom continues the family farming tradition managing a pig farm at Sand Hutton, near York – three granddaughters, two great grandsons and two great granddaughters.