Let me begin by saying i do not consider myself to be THE Lakeland Auctioneer. There have been many over the years and there will be more to follow on in the future. It is the circle of rostrum life. As one gavel falls another gavel rises.
Where i am perhaps more fortunate than most Cumbrian Auctioneers is that my career defining Wembley moment has been achieved. You won’t ever see me selling those six figure sum, breed- leading, record- making cattle and sheep, at the highest echelons of the pedigree industry. I’ve never made it to that league. My proud moment is the knowledge that during my career i have been the official breed auctioneer of The Lake District’s three indigenous species, namely the Herdwick Sheep (16 years), the Rough Fell Sheep and the Fell Pony. I can only think of one other auctioneer with whom i may have shared this honour and of that i am not even certain.
On that basis i think i can justifiably call myself The Lakeland Auctioneer, proud to have worked amongst Cumbrian farming families, like many other auctioneers whose work i have admired and respected. It is a job built on confidence where good prices, good numbers and happy farmers leave you on the crest of wave and master of all you survey. Alternatively when there is pressure, poor prices, farmers supporting other markets and no money in the pot, it can be a struggle to walk through the market with head held high. I’ve been there and i suspect most other auctioneers have to, though the farmers might never know it!
Some of the best days, are those spent travelling through the valleys of the Lake District, visiting farms, sharing the farmers pride in his farm, appreciating the work, the commitment and of course that privilege of working and paid to do a job amongst Lakeland’s rare beauty. Many days have i taken a deep breath and given thanks. it is those times i choose to remember best.
I would like to take you back to July 1987 when a fresh faces youth straight out of college headed for the brand new mart premises at Junction 40 of the M6, Penrith Auction. Here is an account of my first day on the job as a trainee auctioneer and land agent. It was perhaps a good indication of the next thirty years to come!
THE FIRST DAY
It is July 1987. I am 22 years old, fresh from three years at The Royal Agricultural College and today I start my first proper job. The previous years of training and student employment are supposed to have prepared me for this very day. I am currently back at home, living with my parents near Cockermouth after a three year gap. I make the 30 minute journey to J40 of the M6 motorway at Penrith. So today after my student jobs, labouring on Cumbrian livestock farms, Gloucestershire arable farms, cleaning toilets in a Swindon Gym and hod- carrying on Wiltshire building sites, my professional career begins.
I pull in to the brand- new Auction Mart site at J40. I park up my trusty old Mini 1000, put on my new starchy cream coloured auction coat and walk in to the building as a trainee Land Agent/ Auctioneer for Penrith Farmers & Kidds, on a starting salary of £5,500. I feel on top of the world and very nervous. I am welcomed and introduced in the office and then instructed to make my way down to the calf ring which will be the first sale of the day.
I meet David Jackson for the first time, who from that day becomes a long- standing friend. He is the calf auctioneer and until my arrival was the junior. He is about two years older than me but has worked in the mart since leaving school. He tells me to pen the arriving calves in preparation for the sale.
Very soon there are no empty pens. In fact the whole mart is heaving. The wagons and trailers are queued right around the mart site and out on to the A66. It is bedlam. The new market has seen an upsurge in stock as local farmers are keen to try out the facilities.
I am approached by an aged farmer who is clearly disgruntled by the whole process. He has abandoned his Land rover in the queue waiting to unload his calves and we are fast approaching sale time. He looks me up and down. It is the first conversation with any farmer customer in my new career. Then he speaks.
“I don’t know who the bloody hell you are, but get out there boy and sort this mess out. This is just no good”. He turns tail and I am left standing with my mouth open. Less than 20 minutes in to the job and I have already been shouted at. It will be the first of many rollicking’s in this role, i quickly learn it comes with the territory….. The farmers name is Geoff Faulder from Ewan Close, Armathwaite. Over the years we become well aquainted and I sometimes remind him of our first meeting. He chuckles every time.
Livestock sales will always start and always finish. In the blink of an eye, the sale is over, Sheep and cattle have new owners, the vendors are supposed to go home happy with the price and having had an enjoyable day in the auction. It doesn’t always work like that. But as least for now, I am up and running. I’ve had an enjoyable day. I love the bustle of the market. I love the auctioneers banter and the smack of the falling hammer.
Later, I bounce back down the A66 in my old Mini and I think “this job is going to be alright”.