JOHN Chapman Brown, died aged 89 on May 31 after a short illness. He was a respected local character and community man, with a big, booming voice. A farmer, family man and friend.

John's family moved from East Scrafton Farm to Waterloo Farm, in 1937 when he was five and a half. He attended East Witton school then Yorebridge Grammar school. Up until the age of 14, he boarded from Monday to Friday at Askrigg. Later he would do the morning milking at Waterloo, then bike up to Leyburn, to catch the train up the dale to school.

John passed all his exams, receiving his school certificate. The headmaster wanted him to stay on, but he was needed back at the farm. He later said he never wanted to be a farmer, but he never regretted it.

He was very active in the Lower Wensleydale Young Farmers Club. At that time, these clubs were responsible for all agricultural education in the area. He learned a lot of new skills, like public speaking, which would serve him well in later life, when he was always happy to say a few words, or give a vote of thanks.

Back on the farm, money was tight. But his biggest problem was persuading his father to modernise. His father died when John was only 26, and he was suddenly head of the family and responsible for the farm, working with his younger brother David.

After his father’s death, John was asked to stand as director of Leyburn Auction Mart, which he did for over 30 years and as chairman for 12 years. He helped take it from a little auction mart with small wooden pens and very little cover, to a large, covered mart with metal pens, which was an asset both to local farmers and those further afield. Up until recently, he still visited, keeping in touch with the farming community, and had a keen interest in how well the mart was doing.

In 1961, John married Jean Lambert from Bainbridge, who he’d known from his school days at Yorebridge. They had two children, Nick and Elizabeth.

John was always very forward thinking on the farm, being one of the first in the area to make silage. When their big old barn blew down, he entered and won a competition to get a new modern building. He started milking in a parlour in 1965, and was one of the first farmers locally to go onto the bulk tank milk collection in 1966. He started with bulk feeds from I’Ansons and worked to improve grass land with help from ICI.

John’s interest in the NFU started young. He became chairman of the Coverdale branch, and then County Chairman in 1980. He had a strong ethos of farmer cooperation, believing they were stronger together, and didn’t like to see injustices in farming. He became NFU County delegate, travelling regularly to London, to sit on the hill farming and other committees.

In what little free time he had, he always had an interest in sport. After the war he played cricket for Cover Bridge. Later, he took up golf and was a founding member of the Upper Wensleydale Golfing Society, and a member at Catterick for over 40 years. He enjoyed shooting, and was part of several local syndicates, including one in Bishopdale, which involved clipping sheep as part payment.

Friends were always a really important to him and Jean, with lifelong friendships from school, young farmers, committees and farming.

He was active in the local Rotary Club, was a member of Thornborough Lodge for more than 50 years and attended Leyburn Market Club.

Faith was a large part of his life, and he served for 34 years as church warden at Saint John’s. He also served on East Witton Parish council for 30 years.

Family was especially important to him. He was proud of his daughter Liz’s career in London and pleased that his son had continued in running the family farm. He had five grandchildren and was always very interested in how they were getting on in life.

In 2005, John’s life changed dramatically when he suddenly suffered a stroke, on his way to play golf. He was in hospital for two months, but with the care of Jean, and his dogged determination, he pushed himself to exercise and get himself as strong as he could, to continue to enjoy life for a further 16 years.

He never lost his interest in life, and even on his last day, he was asking about how things were going on the farm.

John had a really full, busy, happy life, full of farming, family, friends and community. He was well known, and well respected. And as one of the comments in the many, many cards the family received said: “If John Brown ever walked into a room, everyone knew it – including those in the next room."