THE funeral of a “remarkable man”, who was well respected as a stockman and adored by his family, took place today.

Alan Watson, market chairman and director of Northallerton Auction Mart, from Snilesworth, near Osmotherley, died suddenly on January 27.

Mr Watson was described as a “well-respected farmer” and “excellent diplomat” in his role as Northallerton Mart director; and a “remarkable man” by his family.

Mr Watson was born on September 23, 1954, at Preston House, Kirklevington, where he spent most of his childhood, and was one of seven children of Robert and Mary Watson.

His family said: “He had special childhood memories of popping round to the next door neighbours, George and Glad Hodgson, where he said they would spoil him with a bottle of fizzy pop and George would comb his hair to make him a ‘smart little boy’. They made a lasting impression on him as he always spoke fondly of his memories from there.

“As he grew up he would buy and sell rabbits to the local butcher for a tidy profit – he was always wheeling and dealing in something from a young age.”

The family moved to Heathwaithe Green, Swainby, near Northallerton, in 1968 where his love for moor sheep first began. At the age of 14, he would go to help an elderly farmer, George Smithson, with his moor sheep.

His family said: “Mr Smithson would gather the sheep on a white horse and Alan would go with his dog, Lass. He loved sheep and soon became a very popular lad with the elderly farmers who lived in Scugdale – Roly Garbutt, Burt Appleton and Louis Swainston – and they would call on him for help if they had a problem with their sheep.

“Alan had a great respect for his father and uncle Fred and he would often go to sheep sales with them as well as the local marts.

“Alan caught the eye of Francoise, the young girl who lived across the fields. For Alan it was inevitable that Francoise was the one for him but as a gentleman that he was, he waited until Francoise was 17 before he would take her out. For Francoise, those 730 days couldn’t pass quickly enough. From then on, they were inseparable and went on to marry on April 14, 1984, and moved to Birkwood in Snilesworth where it all began with half a dozen house cows and 56 sheep.

Alan Watson

Alan Watson in the ring at Northallerton mart

“In 1985, their first son Charles was born and in that year they took on Harfa Bank and the Whorlton and Snilesworth Moor Stray. In 1987, their second son Joseph was born, and in 1990 they moved to Low Cote Farm, where they welcomed their third son, Ashley.

“As years went by and the boys demonstrated a keen interest in the farm, the business went from strength to strength and expanded from the north, south, east to west of North Yorkshire.

“Alan loved going around all of the auction marts, from the bull sales in the spring to the sheep sales in the autumn. He lived for the sales and these days out were like a holiday to him.

“In 2005 Alan was honoured to be asked to be a director for Northallerton Auction Mart and in 2016 he became chairman.

“Family meant everything to Alan and he was very proud of his sons and what they had achieved. He adored his grandchildren – George, William, Freddie and Oliver – and he was very much looking forward to doing things with them and taking them places in the summer.

“Alan loved the seasons. He loved the migrating birds returning as he knew spring was on the way.

The horse drawn carriage travels across Snilesworth Moor carrying Alan Watson to his funeral Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

The horse drawn carriage travels across Snilesworth Moor carrying Alan Watson to his funeral Picture: SARAH CALDECOTT

“He loved the swallows and the cuckoo coming and would always turn his money over in his pocket when he heard him and he always knew the grouse count before the gamekeepers. However, sheep and lambing were his forte and there will never be a better shepherd than him so his family will take great comfort in knowing that he is now the Lord’s shepherd.

“All in all, Alan was true gentleman and a great stockman who will be missed greatly by so many. He always put his family first and has left a great legacy for his sons and grandsons.”

Northallerton Mart company secretary Brian Weighell said: “I have known Alan for more than 40 years and everyone at the mart will miss him greatly.

“He became a director of the mart in 2005, and it was a very proud moment for him. In 2016 he was appointed chairman – a role he excelled at. He was a very good diplomat, which is important for the job when dealing with buyers and sellers.

“He was well known and liked, not just at Northallerton Mart but at many others locally, and was a respected farmer too.”