Holt Young Farmers enjoy reunion

In their 'haydays', Young Farmers Clubs learned country skills, made robot cows, competed in sport, and found wives and husbands.

On a weekend for turning the clocks back, former members of a now folded club at Holt recalled fond memories of fun and friendship they harvested between 1954 and 2000.

The reunion saw more than 100 people from as far afield as Scotland the Lake District poring over old photos and press cuttings which captured the activities of the club for 14 to 26-year-olds before falling numbers saw its demise.

The Young Farmers Club has seen its Norfolk membership half from 1,200 to 600 between a peak in the late 1960s and early 70s, and took another dip in more recent years when the foot and mouth outbreak stopped clubs meeting and people found other things to do, said county organiser Ches Broom.

But there were signs of a revival, helped by increased interest in its Countrysiders section for youngsters down to 10, which was enabling closed clubs to reopen at places such as Aylsham, Reepham and Terrington, she added.

The first Young Farmers Club nationally was founded in Devon in 1921 to promote agricultural good practice in post war Britain, but did not take off in Norfolk until 1944.

After its formation 10 years later on November 3, 1954, the Holt Club saw its membership fluctuate from 40-plus to five at its death.

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During the good times - when it provided a rich social life in a rural area - it met weekly at the White Lion pub and had a range of activities that included classes in farm-related activities from ploughing and stock judging to gate-making and car mechanics - along with cooking and needlework for the women.

There were also dances, barbecues, tug of war competitions, drama productions, beauty contests and fun and games at the county rally.

Several members of the Filby farming family were at the reunion, including Brian whose year as chairman saw them build a 'mechanical cow' called Daisy that ate grass, had a motor-driven stomach and mouth and produced cans of condensed milk at the other end - an idea for the Norfolk Show hatched over beers at a club meeting.

'It as very sad to see the club close. It is a loss to young people of the area. It got us all together - and was a bit of a marriage bureau too,' he added.

Reunion co-organiser Helen Bailey met her late husband Gordon through the club too. She recalled him being knocked out and suffering a broken jaw during a 'competitive' game of musical chairs at a county event. Helen is also pictured with friend Alison Foster (now Peak) on a tandem sponsored bike ride in the 1970s, wearing the hot pants fashion of the time.

'I made friends for life from Young Farmers. Alison and I have been friends ever since, and were bridesmaids at each other's weddings,' she added.

She was pleased with the 100-strong turnout at the reunion, held at Pinewoods, Bodham, having had trouble tracking down former members.

The oldest ex member at the event was 90-year-old Ray Allen from Cley, who was a regular contributor on Anglia TV's Farming Diary.

Oldest surviving chairman Geoffrey Bailey from Aylmerton, who reigned in 1955, also met his wife Jean through the club, and recalled 'hockey games, dances and farm trips abroad to Holland and Jersey.'

Anyone interested in finding out more about the Young Farmers Club today can contact Ches Broom on 01603 731307 or visit www.norfolkfyc.org.uk