Son of the soil works on Norfolk farm for eight decades

A farm foreman, Wallie Botwright, who has died peacefully aged 93, worked for eight decades on a North Norfolk family farm.

Born at Gorleston in 1917, he moved to Smallburgh, near North Walsham, when Gavin Paterson's father, James, bought Church Farm in 1938. He had advertised for an experienced foreman, who could handle horses.

Mr Paterson hired Wallie's father, Billy, who had served in the first world war and a renowned horseman, who knew every wrinkle and how to present horses to advantage.

He persuaded Mr Paterson to take on his 21-year-old son, Wallie. And today, the family connection with the Paterson family's Worstead Farms continues because his son-in-law, Douglas Jordan, heads the arable operations.

When a difference of opinion with the boss several years later led to Billy's departure, his son took on the foreman's role at Smallburgh.


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Yesterday, Gavin Paterson, who took over the family farm at his father's death in 1970, recalled Wallie's role on the farm.

As the Suffolk Punch horses gave way to tractors in the 1950s and 1960s, Mr Botwright's encyclopaedic knowledge of every field and corner of the farm was invaluable.

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'Even when he was living in a home at Mundesley for the last three years, he was still able to advise Douglas about the bits of field to look out for. They would discuss the cropping,' said Mr Paterson.

'He knew everything about the farm but didn't want to go off the farm at all,' he added.

Mr Botwright, who never learned to drive a car but cycled everywhere, drove a tractor on the farm.

'When my father was at Smallburgh, he would talk to Wallie from the landing window every morning. Wallie would have been round the farm by 7am on the tractor just to see everything before starting the day's work,' said Mr Paterson.

Offered a chance to visit the Royal Norfolk Show to receive a 40-year long service award in 1978, he declined but his brother, Gordon, who died almost four years did go to Costessey.

'He just carried on and even when he was suppose to retire, he didn't. He was always around the farm with his gun keeping the pigeons off the peas and shooting rabbits,' said Mr Paterson. 'He was a real son of the soil and a real charmer.

'I was very sad to hear of his death because he always took such a lively interest in the farm and I thought that he'd be good for a few more years.'

Mr Botwright, who lived in the same cottage at Church Farm for 70 years, leaves a daughter, Shirley, who manages the Queen Elizabeth Hall at Worstead, three granddaughters, and two great grandsons.

A funeral service will be held at St Faith's Crematorium on Friday, December 24 at 11.45am.

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