Dedicated farming educator and broadcaster Bill Wheeler dies aged 99
PUBLISHED: 08:52 21 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:11 21 August 2020
A dedicated farming educator and broadcaster who was one of the early pioneers behind Norfolk’s agricultural college has died in New Zealand at the age of 99.
Bill Wheeler was one of the original lecturers at Easton Agricultural College when it was founded in 1951, and he served as vice principal there from 1955 to 1977 while extending his educational reach through TV and radio broadcasting.
A morning radio show was followed by TV appearances on the popular Farming Diary programme from the mid 1960s, and he covered farming topics for the BBC in the eastern region. He also made 30 farming education films which took him all over the country, focusing on dairy farming, pig production, mechanisation and farm management.
His son Robert said he was “a dedicated educationalist and family man with a wonderful sense of humour.”
“He obviously had a passion for agriculture and the development of agriculture,” he said.
“He was highly involved with the early life and development of Easton College. While he was there he was also highly involved with all the Young Farmers’ clubs and his work at Easton got him recognised as one of the leading agriculturalists in the area. That got him into broadcasting, initially in radio and then into TV work.”
Born in Sussex in 1921, Mr Wheeler graduated with an agricultural degree from Oxford University in 1941. During his wartime military service he was involved in the development of radar as part of the defence of the east coast, and he also met Margaret, who he married in 1945.
After the war the couple moved to Norfolk and, in 1948, Mr Wheeler joined a new educational establishment at Woodbastwick Hall, known as the Woodbastwick Farm Institute, which was set up to retrain former military personnel in the nation’s new priority of agriculture and food production.
He then moved to Easton in 1951 and, after retiring as vice principal in 1977, he was able to spend more time at Hill Farm in Welborne, near Mattishall, which he had bought in 1964 to set up a pig enterprise – his agricultural speciality.
He sold the farm in 1980 and moved to Dereham, from where he carried out consultancy work for leading farming families and groups. He moved to New Zealand in 1987, where his daughter Sue had already made a home.
Mr Wheeler died peacefully in New Zealand on August 15. He was described as a much-loved husband to his late wife Margaret, and father to Sue and Robert, leaving six grandchildren and nine great grandchildren in families spanning the UK and New Zealand.
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