Obituary: Farmer known as 'the Suffolk Ploughman' dies aged 82
- Credit: Supplied by family
A lifelong man of the land regarded as the ‘Suffolk Ploughman’ has died at the age of 82.
Barry Smith, of Bramfield, near Halesworth, was well-known within Norfolk and Suffolk’s farming communities and became a familiar face at many of the county’s furrow draws.
But it will be his sense of humour, good work ethic and smiling face that will be remembered by those who knew him best.
He was born on October 8, 1939, in Harleston – according to his birth certificate – despite telling his family he was born in Alburgh and his passport stating nearby Redenhall, in Norfolk. Wherever he was born, it is agreed that he was the youngest of two boys to Len and Olive Smith.
During his childhood the family moved around a lot, spending time in Wrentham, Carlton Colville, and Covehithe, before settling in Lowestoft overlooking the town’s lifting bridge, then known as the “swing bridge”.
Mr Smith began his working life looking after horses on a nearby farm and it was during this time, he met Mary Reed, a children’s home employee. Romance quickly blossomed and Mr Smith would regularly cycle the 26-mile round trip to visit her during their courting days.
They married at St Margaret Church in Mary’s home town of Ilketshall St Margaret, near Bungay, on March 19, 1960.
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By this time, Mr Smith was working for the landowner and politician, Earl Ferrers, on the Hedenham Estate near Bungay where the newlyweds had their first home – a small cottage opposite the churchyard. Here they welcomed their first son, Tony, in 1961.
In 1963, another farm worker job became available at Church Farm, Stockton, and with it an almost new house, so the family relocated again. They welcome their second son, Chris, in 1967.
This happy occasion triggered another move and Mr Smith became the farm foreman for Homer Young at Thorpe Hall Farm in Thorpe Abbotts, near Diss. Here the family living in a semi-detached cottage along the A143 where they remained until 1978.
During this time, he used his skills as a ploughman and entered furrow matches all over Norfolk and Suffolk.
His son, Tony, recalled these events and said: “The family would go with him in our V-Dub Beetle and he often won prize money, which just about covered the cost of fuel to go there in the first place.”
The farm also grew daffodils and the boys would pick them during most weekends in April and early May, for their parents to sell them on for some extra holiday money.
Suffering from itchy feet once more, the Smith family embarked on another move in 1978. Tony had joined the Royal Air Force earlier that year but the rest of the family moved to a farm at Walcott Green, near Happisburgh in north Norfolk.
This was a short-lived arrangement that resulted in Mr Smith becoming employed as a foreman for Mr and Mrs Townsend at Brook Hall Farm in Bramfield in 1979, where he remained with his wife living and working there for the next 43 years.
He retired in 2004.
Tony added: “He was a very quiet person but he would help anyone who asked. He also had a good sense of humour and always had a smile on his face.
“Honesty and a good work ethic have been an inspiration to many and he will be missed by all who knew him.”
Mr Smith, who always had a pet dog by his side, enjoyed countryside walks - “the hillier, the better”. In later life, it was campervan holidays with his wife to the Peak Distract, Ireland, Scotland, the Lake District and the Scottish Islands, as well as holidays to Austria and Germany with friends.
He was passionate about bowls and became a member of Peasenhall and Sibton Bowls Club for many years, taking up the role of captain too. His vegetable garden was another love and he would beam with pride as his loved ones tucked into his homegrown produce of potatoes, carrots, runner beans and rhubarb.
He was also good with his hands, teaching Tony to weld, as well as making furniture and becoming proficient in wood turning, selling his wares at Halesworth Farmers’ Market and Heveningham Country Fair.
Mr Smith died on April 29 at Highfield Care Home in Halesworth. He leaves behind his wife, sons and grandchildren. His funeral took place on Wednesday, May 25. Donations in his memory to Parkinson's UK Charity.
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