Norfolk marshman Bill preparing to celebrate landmark birthday

Billy Lacey,90, on Halvergate marshes . Billy is one of the last Marsh men that lived and worked on

Billy Lacey,90, on Halvergate marshes . Billy is one of the last Marsh men that lived and worked on the marshes of Cantley, Limpenhoe, Berney and Halvergate. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

It is a lonely profession, but also one that has become synonymous with Norfolk. However, over the years the sight of the marshman has become something of a rarity.

Billy Lacey,90, on Halvergate marshes . Billy is one of the last Marsh men that lived and worked on

Billy Lacey,90, on Halvergate marshes . Billy is one of the last Marsh men that lived and worked on the marshes of Cantley, Limpenhoe, Berney and Halvergate. Billy pictured during his time on Halvergate marshes. PHOTO: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

For Bill Lacey it was a job he dedicated more than four decades of his life to, devoting himself to maintaining marshland around Halvergate, Berney's Arms and the surrounding area.

Mr Lacey, known to some as Billy, turns 90 this month, and is now enjoying retirement in Acle, but for around 45 years he lived and worked on the marshlands near the Acle Straight.

He was born in Reedham, but growing up moved around Norfolk and north Suffolk, living in Cantley and Burgh St Peter, and was also evacuated to Barnham Broom during the war.

He started work in Cantley at 14-years-old, helping to look after cattle, but started when he was around 30 as a marshman in Halvergate.


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He said: 'I can't remember what made me decide to take the job on, but back then you would accept any job you could get. I've always been a very outdoorsy person, so it really suited me.

'I did not realise how lonely it would be, I lived in a house in the middle of the marsh and there were only two other houses anywhere near me. Then in the working day, you wouldn't tend to see too many people about, so you could very easily just get on with things.'

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Mr Lacey's days would consist of cleaning and removing weeds from dykes, tending to his cattle and generally maintaining the marshes of Cantley, Limpenhoe, Berney Arms and Halvergate.

'It was a good life,' he said. 'I really enjoyed the solitary nature of it - I worked for myself my entire life and didn't have to worry about what other people were doing.'

He recently visited the marshes for what he said was the first occasion in quite some time.

'Visiting certainly brings a lot of memories back,' he said. 'A lot has changed in the way they are kept, but these things evolve over time, that's just how it goes.'

The former marshman married twice. He had two children with his first wife, Mavis, who died when she was in her 30s. His second wife, Betty had one daughter of her own.

He now also has four grandchildren and eight great grandchildren, with who he will celebrate his birthday on March 14.

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