Friday, 27 May 2011

Leg drenching on market day

IT was heartening to see this week that Axminster Young Farmers are still going strong and taking part in their traditional livestock shows.

Working for Pulman’s Weekly News in the 1970s I covered all the agriculural events in the district, although I knew precious little about farming or country life.

One of the first jobs I ever covered as a young reporter was a ploughing match at Colaton Raleigh, a great day out for the farming community with a well stocked beer tent thrown in as there always was with farmers around.

These were the days, of course, when the cattle markets in Axminster and Honiton, were in their prime with the farming community coming into town to sell and buy their stock and then enjoying each other’s company for the rest of the day. For many it was their only social contact of the week.

Some later appeared at our local magistrates’ court for being caught drinking and driving on the way home. It was before all-day opening but there were extended drinking hours on market days.

My favourite event was the Axminstrer Christmas Fatstock Show, which signalled the start of the festive season, followed by the annual dinner of the Axminster Agriculural Society, now sadly defunct.

I have one particular memory of the fatstock show. I had to clamber into the main ring when the best in show had been selected to interview the farmer with the winning beast. As I did so the champion proceeded to urinate down my leg. The farmer, of course, did not turn a hair and carried on answering my questions as if nothing had happened.

I had to make a quick dash back to the show office (now Cinnamons, the Indian restaurant) to dry out my trousers on the paraffin stove. Auctionneer Frank Rowe never let me forget the incident and often mentioned it whenever we met.

There were many other agriculutral events we used to cover in those days, including Honiton Show, the National Farmers’ Union and YFC dinners, frequented and supported by all the local farming families.

When I returned from London to take over running Pulman’s in the mid-1990s I recall how disappointed I was the cattle markets were in decline and of course foot and mouth finally put them out of business. I don’t think Axminster has been quite the same since.

But at least the young farmers’ movement are keeping up some of the traditions by continuing to stage their own livestock shows.

Not quite the end for theatre group?

HAVE we seen the last of the Alternative Company Theatre Unlimited, the Axminster stage group who have entertained so many people over the years?

I ask the question after attending their “celebration” night at Axminster Conservative Club on Saturday when the theatre group presented cheques totalling £6,000 to local worthy causes.

With no show being staged by the ACT Unlimited since 2009, and with its driving force, Michael Steer, not being in the best of health in recent years, I assumed the gathering represented a final curtain for the group.

But Michael is looking much perkier these days and he hinted that he and the company might just return to the stage again in the future, but with a little less ambitious show than their previous productions.

Over the years the ACT Unlimited raised thousands of pounds for charity, despite the increasing costs of staging theatre shows in recent years.

I’ve known Michael all my adult life and he is just as enthusaistic about all things Axminster now as he ever was.

There are many who would like to see him and his troupers back on the Guildhall stage.
I’ll keep you posted.

WHAT do you call a person from Axminster (polite answers only please)? Honitonian, Colytonian and Seatonian all roll off the tongue. One of my reporters this week came up with Axminstarian. Mind you he does come from Norfolk!

I’ve never come across this before but none of us in the office could come up with anything better so I kept it in the story.

If any of you locals out there have any alternatives, please let me know.

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