Obituary: Pat Knock − who shocked her parents by wanting to work on a farm
PUBLISHED: 20:51 04 July 2019 | UPDATED: 17:41 05 July 2019
Pat went on to make history with Young Farmers' Clubs and was a cornerstone of her Suffolk village. She's died at 88
It was in 1950 that a young lady called Pat applied for the job of East Suffolk Young Farmers' Clubs organiser. She got it - the first woman ever appointed.
"My father (John) used to proudly tell us this, and then quietly let us know that he was one of the 13 on the approval panel," says son Chris. "They were soon going out - and together in their Austin 7 and Morris Eight cars buzzed about the county, setting up new clubs and organising competitions.
"This really was the heyday of Young Farmers, and with father as county chairman they rode the wave of post-war optimism in truly valuing what farming provided."
'Shocked her parents'
Pat, remembered among many other qualities for her dedication to her family and the village near Stowmarket where she lived, has died at the age of 88.
Born in 1930, she grew up in West Horsley in Surrey, in a house called Meadowsweet that parents Hal and Daisy had built themselves. Life was idyllic, with her mother keeping goats and her father bees - when he came home from his architect's job in London.
War broke out, but life went on. Pat took the train to Guildford to school, and then at weekends started a Young Farmers' Club in the village to help grow veg for the war effort.
"She was a great writer, and at the age of 14 wrote a pantomime which she and her friends performed to the assembled village," says Chris. "After leaving school she shocked her parents by saying she wanted to work on a farm, so off to Somerset she went, and used to recount stories of derring-do on the Raikes' farm down there."
Met Princess Elizabeth
When Pat was 18 her Young Farmers' Club came third in a national efficiency contest and was presented with her prize by a very young and shy Princess Elizabeth - "something she was keen to remind the Queen of when she went to a Buckingham Palace garden party in 2009. Needless to say, she didn't get close enough that day to have that catch-up conversation!"
Next, off to Sutton Bonington College (now part of Nottingham University), which provided tales of sneaking out of dormitories at night to cycle off to the pub.
Then Suffolk, and meeting John.
"They married in 1953, and along came Eddie in 1955 and me two years later," says Chris. "I remember so much fun growing up with a huge amount of freedom - we'd disappear off down the fields for hours, coming back only when we were hungry.
"A few years later (1968) the twins, Sarah and Penny, arrived and her life got busier - but we hardly noticed. Pat the capable organiser just adjusted and delegated."
In the 1950s she was a founder member of the Battisford Elder Club, which picked up older people in the village and took them to games afternoons and evening events, and on trips to open gardens and the coast.
The Elder Club ran for 50 years until Pat felt too old to carry on. "Hundreds of villagers gained from the club, which added so much enjoyment to those in their golden years."
The family says the Church was always important to Pat. She had spells on the deanery synod, as well as being a lay reader and churchwarden at St Mary's, Battisford, where she was a regular attendee.
If there were no services in Battisford, she was off to Barking or Ringshall, Offton or Great Bricett to join in with them, so strong was her faith.
'Momentous piece of detective work'
When Pat and John married, home became Hall Farm House, Battisford. The Knock family owned Manor Farm - and as well as farming the Manor land, John was farm manager at Battisford Hall.
"When father retired from managing Battisford Hall, they moved up to the Manor" - St John's Manor, in the family for 120 years - "and the two of them spent 10 years researching the history of the house and the families who have lived there."
It was "a momentous piece of detective work spent in the county archives and at St John's Gate in Clerkenwell, which resulted in a thousand years of documented history for the farm site", says Chris.
"At the turn of the century father fell ill and she became his carer, looking after him for six years until he peacefully passed away 13 years ago.
"Three years later and Pat had to cope with the early death of our brother Edward, a passing she felt keenly, such was her dedication to her children.
"With the house being too large for her on her own, she decided to move up the road to Manor Cottages, where she enjoyed living independently until just a few days before she went into hospital."
Pat took a keen interest in her six grandchildren and was always asking about what they were up to! She also kept up a regular correspondence with relatives around the world.
Always a keen grower, Pat kept a huge greenhouse when living at the hall. This year, in her greenhouse at the cottage, she was growing plants for the church's summer plant sale.
"She used this knowledge to help with the conservation work on the farm, bringing on young trees - some grown from seed - which we have planted out over the last 30 years.
"In both 2007 and 2013 the farm did well in the county conservation competition, due in no small part to the hundreds of trees Pat nurtured."
'Happy autumn evenings making crackers'
Daughter Sarah says "we as children on the farm in Battisford had plenty of freedom to roam the countryside, but we also were roped into plenty of Mum's enterprises: from delivering the parish newsletters and the bedding plants she grew in the garden to helping with church and Elder Club jumble sales, Christmas bazaars and summer fetes.
"I spent many happy autumn evenings making crackers with a group of ladies to sell at Christmas fundraisers. Mum also involved my sister and I in singing in the church choir and carol-singing duties.
"I remember one particular snowy winter evening, wading through deep snow to try to reach a carol service. Mum eventually admitted defeat after her young daughters disappeared into a snowdrift one too many times!
"A highlight for me as a child was accompanying the Elder Club on their annual trip to Felixstowe, boarding a coach and hoping it got up Hascot Hill out of the village.
"The trip to Felixstowe always ended with a visit to a restaurant for high tea, for which my sister and I had to be on our best behaviour - even if we were covered in sand from a day at the beach.
"Mum faithfully took Penny and I to gymkhanas for years after we were given a pony for our fifth birthday and she also took me to ballet classes every week for five years.
"After I left home for university, Mum got involved in a scheme to bring children from London out to the countryside for a summer holiday. Mum and Dad welcomed the same family of girls from the Isle of Dogs annually for several years.
"Mum had a wide variety of interests and organisations she was involved with. One such was The Friends of St Edmundsbury Cathedral. Last July I accompanied Mum to their annual general meeting and service in the cathedral and we spent a lovely time worshipping, enjoying afternoon tea and listening to an organ recital.
"Mum loved to grow things, especially trees outside and, in her beloved greenhouse, geraniums and chrysanthemums in particular. We have an oak tree she had grown from an acorn which we are planning to plant in Mum's memory in the grounds of St John's Manor.
"Inside the greenhouse at the time of her death she had one geranium variety she had taken cuttings from for 50 years. The granddaughter of the lady who had originally given her the plant has been given one of its descendants.
"I have also come across plenty of Mum's writings. She was a great writer-down of things. She took notes from television programmes she watched. Michael Portillo's railway journey programmes were a particular favourite. She showed so much interest in the world around her.
"I also found an account of when she left home in Surrey at 18 to go to work on a dairy farm in Somerset. She wrote: 'I felt adventurous. The time had come for the fledgling to leave the nest and find her wings and I thought I would enjoy my first flutter.'"
'Loved to find out about everyone'
"My childhood spent exploring the farm led to a love of the countryside and ultimately to a career in forestry," says Penny - "a passion which Mum shared; and soon she was collecting cones and seeds from her and Dad's visits to the forests I was based in, from the Chilterns to Kielder to the Lake District.
"She added these specimens to her small tree nursery on the farm, which were used in conservation projects on the farm and in the village. She served for many years on the Suffolk FWAG Council (Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group).
"She was very proud of my work for the Forestry Commission, regaling this to all we met on our trips when visiting.
"She loved to find out about everyone she met, and when collecting her from the train there would always be tales to tell about those she had met; and, in turn, those passing her suitcase to me had obviously heard about all the family, manor and farm!"