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Obituary: Tony Randell, agricultural engineer and businessman, has died at the age of 79

PUBLISHED: 06:00 02 May 2015

Tony Randell (second left) meeting Prince Edward (left) at the 2014 Royal Norfolk Show. Also pictured are Mr Randell's son William (third right) grandson Harry (second right) and wife Elizabeth (right). In the background is son-in-law Richard Hirst.

Tony Randell (second left) meeting Prince Edward (left) at the 2014 Royal Norfolk Show. Also pictured are Mr Randell's son William (third right) grandson Harry (second right) and wife Elizabeth (right). In the background is son-in-law Richard Hirst.

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A shrewd businessman and inspirational agricultural engineer who steered his family firm through a generation of change has died at the age of 79.

Anthony John Randell, known as Tony, was born in North Walsham, where he lived all his life.

Determined to continue a family tradition of agricultural engineering going back to 1820, he went to Ransomes in Ipswich as an apprentice before joining Randells, heading up the crop storage division, building silos, grain and potato stores all over East Anglia.

In 1978, he left the old family business, which by this time had become part of Dalgety Spillers under Australian ownership, and bought Norgate Bros builders from its retiring owner, Robert Norgate.

The site at Horstead was large enough to enable him to start up a new agricultural engineering business, Randell Agriculture Ltd, in competition with the old family firm. For the first couple of years he focused on crop storage but soon he found an opportunity to become England’s first dealer for the Norwegian plough manufacturer, Kverneland.

His son William said: “With a sharp eye for good engineering and design, Tony set about proving the quality of these strange ploughs with a name that nobody could pronounce and one by one farmers bought them, and then their neighbours bought them, and so it went on until they became market leaders and almost the only ploughs you saw in Norfolk.

“With these sales came a huge potential for parts business and Tony invested heavily to buy in large quantities to enable him to give customers big discounts – a move which eventually saw him supplying parts throughout Great Britain.

“As time went on, Randells acquired various other tractor and machinery agencies such as Same tractors and later Valtra tractors, Amazone drills and fertiliser spreaders, Juko sugarbeet harvesters and by the early nineties the ‘jewel in the crown’ when they gained the Vaderstad dealership for Norfolk.”

In the 1980s, Mr Randell took on the dealership for Laser garden tractors, prompting the development of a thriving garden machinery business. Laser were taken over, but by the early 1990s the new Countax garden tractor company was born and was to become another of Mr Randell’s success stories. Randells are today one of the largest Countax dealers in the country.

By the mid 1990s the agricultural business had expanded to such an extent that Mr Randell decided to close the Norgate building business, giving the Randells business more storage space and more yard area to accommodate larger machinery.

He also decided to buy a second site in Dereham and set about building a new depot on the main North Walsham Road in Horstead, which offered an opportunity to expand the garden machinery business.

Mr Randell leaves the business in the hands of his son William who has run the business since the mid-1990s and today operates from Horstead, Dereham and Little Ellingham.

“I would hope people will remember Dad as a good engineer, a good businessman and a determined man,” he said. “He knew what he wanted to achieve in life, and he did it. He was fairly straightforward, but he was always a great one for a practical joke and a laugh. He had a great sense of fun about him.”

Mr Randell leaves a widow, Elizabeth, their two children William and Katrina and son-in law Richard Hirst and six grand children, Fiona, Letitia, Robert, James, Eleanor and Harry.

There will be service of thanksgiving at St Nicholas Church, North Walsham at 2.30pm on Monday May 11.

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