Philip Bolam: Former Norfolk county farm adviser became top Barclays banker

Philip Bolam, with his trademark shepherd's crook Philip Bolam, with his trademark shepherd's crook

Saturday, April 19, 2014
12:00 PM

A former county adviser for Norfolk, Philip Bolam, who has died aged 91, was a long-serving president of the National Sheep Association.

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In his 16-year career with Barclays Bank as the head of the newly-created agricultural division, it was the industry leading lender when he retired in 1989.

Mr Bolam, who always carried his trademark Northumberland shepherd’s crook, was also a co-founder of the Norfolk discussion group, the Mardlers, founded on March 3, 1965.

He succeeded John Mann on September 1, 1963 at the age of 40 having been deputy county adviser officer for Gloucester with the Ministry of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Advisory Service, NAAS.

Born in Newcastle, where his father was engaged in the fur trade, Philip Metcalf Bolam went to the city’s Royal Grammar School and in 1943 graduated from then King’s College, Durham – now the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. His family has a close connection with Newcastle. His daughter, Judith, who was at Norwich High School, did a degree there as did his mother, wife, uncle and a niece.

After working on a farm in Yorkshire, he became one of the founder members of the NAAS as a district adviser at Hexham in his native county, where he studied hill sheep farming and gained an external MSc in 1955.

In 1969, he was promoted to deputy regional director and transferred to London with responsibility for the south-west division of NAAS. Then in 1973, he joined Barclays Bank and partly because the bank had a substantial overseas division, he was asked to advise on agriculture in a number of Commonwealth countries.

His association with the Royal Agricultural Societies of the Commonwealth, a confederation of 51 agricultural show societies embracing 21 countries across the world, started in 1980.

After retiring from Barclays, he devoted more time to RASC affairs and became honorary press secretary in 1990. It was a post he held for the following 22 years until he stood down in December 2012. His tireless work to promote the RASC within the Commonwealth and the agricultural industry worldwide was recognised by the Queen, who appointed him LVO, Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order in the 2005 new year’s honours.

His support for the sheep sector was total and was elected president of the National Sheep Association in 1982, serving for a dozen years. He was a council member of council of the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers and also of the Royal Smithfield Club.

Michael Pollitt

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