Jack Bush

A real Norfolk “cattleman” known across the country for his gift of judging livestock, Jack Bush has died after a short illness aged 77.

A real Norfolk “cattleman” known across the country for his gift of judging livestock, Jack Bush has died after a short illness aged 77.

John Clarke Bush, known as Jack, built up the multi-species abattoir at Stalham over half a century, and gained a national reputation for buying livestock at markets.

He was the last of a rare breed who could judge the weight and condition of half-grown or finished cattle with great accuracy. He had no need to rely on a weighbridge to value a beast.

Sent to a private school at Bacton, close to the family's home at Walcott, Jack was no great scholar. At the age of 13, his father George decided that his son would obtain greater benefit from life outside the schoolroom. Throughout his long working life, he never relied on pen and paper but had a very accurate and retentive memory - vital in the hurly-burly of the livestock rings.


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His father bought the town's small abattoir in 1954 but it was Jack who built up the family business, George Bush & Son. With the ending of meat rationing on July 3, 1954, the livestock industry was deregulated and markets reopened.

A big man, Jack drove the business forward even faster after his father's death in 1964. Two decades of expansion followed andn in the 1990s, a boning plant was added to the slaughterhouse. At one stage, it was handling 200 cattle, 700 lambs and 500 pigs a week.

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He was a great supporter of livestock markets and especially Norwich. Auctioneer Michael Gamble, of Irelands, who ran the Saturday market for finished cattle until 2001, tried for years to get him to judge the annual Christmas show and sale.

He said he preferred to be on the other side of the ring buying good cattle.

He did judge at the Aylsham Show and was a great supporter, where a daughter, Jane, was also a successful exhibitor with beef cattle. He judged at several markets including at Colchester last Christmas.

Mr Bush was held in high regard at markets up and down the country and especially in Wales, where he was a regular buyer at St Asaph and Gaerwen, and across the Midlands at Banbury, Melton Mowbray, Rugby and Worcester.

Once a price had been agreed, it was as good as money in the bank, said a long-standing friend and former cattle farmer, Roger Beck, of Brumstead. “He was a straight and decent man but he didn't always pay the best price,” he recalled.

Mr Bush's memory stood him in good stead because he could remember the weights, colours and prices paid for up to 100 bullocks. Once when a market sent an account, he disputed the total. It was wrong by £10 because prices booked by the auctioneer's clerk had been misread in the office.

He was dedicated to his business and it was with great sadness that the business closed just three years ago making some 20 long-serving and loyal staff redundant.

He was married for 55 years to Joyce, and leaves a son, Peter, and two daughters, Sally and Jane, grandchildren and great-grandson. Another daughter, Susan, died four years ago.

The funeral takes place at All Saints, Walcott, on Monday, at 2.30pm.

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