Ulting: Tribute paid to farming stalwart Alan Doe ‘who had the ability to listen’
Tribute has been paid to a stalwart of the East Anglian farming community and successful business entrepreneur, who died last Saturday, aged 85.
Alan Ernest Doe, chairman of agricultural, construction and groundcare machinery dealership Ernest Doe & Sons, was described as an intelligent man who who loved the farming industry and had the ability to listen, absorb and then act.
He was grandson of the company’s founder, Ernest Doe, and remained dedicated to the business. Despite his age, he continued to attend its offices in Ulting, near Maldon, five days a week.
Under his leadership, the business diversified in the 1950s and 60s into supplying construction and groundcare equipment, and latterly with his son, Colin, further increased the company’s branch network. The company now employs over 500 people, trades from 19 locations across the whole of East Anglia, Kent, Surrey and Sussex and has a turnover of £115million.
As an eleven-year-old, he would rush home from school at harvest time to drive an Allis Chalmers tractor with his grandfather behind on the binder. He took a prominent role with his father in the late 1950s and 1960s in the development and production of the Doe Dual Drive (Triple D) tractor which brought a high horsepower four wheel drive tractor to the firm’s East Anglian customers and to farmers worldwide.
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In 1957, when Mr Doe was 28 years old, he and his father decided to sell Ford tractors to the exclusion of all other makes. Many of the tractors they then sold were made initially in Dagenham and from 1964 in Basildon, where the factory is currently celebrating its 50 years of tractor production. The company continues to this day to sell New Holland tractors made in Basildon.
In February 1960, the first Doe Show was held with Alan Doe putting in place all the foundations for what became a popular annual show. Today, the event continues to be attended by farmers and contractors and is the most important three days in the company’s trading year.
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He was also a church warden at St Andrews in Hatfield Peverel, a position he had held for many years before retiring from the post.
Mr Doe’s son-in-law, Derek Marriott, who is marketing manager at Ernest Doe & Sons, paid tribute to him.
“Beneath the quiet exterior of my father-in-law Alan Doe was an intelligent man who had the ability to listen, absorb and then act. Many was the time at family occasions and in business meetings when he was silent and one thought he had not really been paying attention to what was going on,” he recalled. “Eventually he would make a short statement which put all that went before into sharp focus and would point the way forward so clearly.
“He loved farms and farming and machinery. Some of his fondest memories were of his time as a schoolboy during wartime helping his grandfather bring in the harvest. He was acutely aware of the legacy that his grandfather and father had bestowed upon him in both the family farm and the family business. He continued, in his own modest way, to carefully nurture the farm and significantly expand the business enterprises they had left in his charge.
“Alan Doe was a comparatively shy man but he did not let that stand in the way of him getting what he wanted. Something he wanted happened to be a member of Harlow Young Farmers Club called Jill. That lady became his wife and together they had three children: Diana, Colin and Marian. He loved his family deeply and always had the time to keep up to date with what all of us were doing and to offer a gentle word of advice or a helping hand whenever it was needed. He was the cornerstone of the family and we will all greatly miss his love, friendship and judgment.
“Being raised and trained as an engineer, he could always fix things properly and I believe he brought a lot of sound practical engineering sense into his business dealings. Decisions at times must have been hard but he always acted with fairness and everyone understood the reliability of his word.
“Never having retired, he still put in a five day week in the office until his death. In a lot of ways I believe he saw the company and its employees as an extension to his family. He made many hospital visits when employees were ill. He took an interest in their children. He took pride in the number of employees who received their long service gold watches.
“He had an early love of the wireless which developed into an enthusiasm for hi fi. Some of this was fuelled by his love of jazz, but also I suspect to satisfy his engineering skills. He loved to buy old radios and bring them back to life. He loved motor cars and motor sport. Having learnt to drive in his father’s 1938 Ford V8, during the 1990s he spent considerable time finding one still existing which he could purchase. He affectionately called her Bluebell.
“I will never be able to drink a glass of white Burgundy, especially if it is Meursault, without thinking of him. We are all grateful and thankful to have known him. And no one made a better gin and tonic.”
Alan Doe is survived by his wife Jill, children Diana, Colin and Marian, and seven grandchildren.