It was the year East Germany erected the Berlin Wall, Britain had a female Wimbledon champion and West Side Story was adapted for the big screen.
But 1961 was also the year that north Dorset stockman Mervyn Wills began working at Launceston Farm, Tarrant Launceston and he hasn’t stopped since.
His love of livestock, professionalism and dedication to his work will result in Mervyn being presented with the Dorchester Agricultural Society long service tankard and certificate at next month’s Dorset County Show.
Mervyn was born in a farm cottage in the village in January 1947 and attended school at Pimperne and then Blandford Forum, finding time to play football for Handley, Farnham and Blandford.
He remembers his first day of work in November 1961 when he had an urgent call to help out on the farm’s dairy: “Everybody had gone down with the flu and we had blizzard conditions and I was asked to milk the cows. I’ve been here ever since.
“There were 17 of us when I first started and now it is just three. It was hard work with lots of shovelling and brushing,” he says.
Like many farms then, Launceston Farm was a mixed enterprise with a dairy, beef animals, wheat, barley and oats although the flock of sheep had gone a few years earlier.
“My role was always to look after the livestock and I did that day in day out and for most of my life I have worked every Saturday and Sunday. I love animals – its been my way of life and long may it continue.”
Times moved forward and the dairy herd was eventually sold on 22 September 1987 – a day that is etched in Mervyn’s brain. Current owner Sarah Worrall says her father Jim had reached 70 and had milked British Friesians all his life and had decided enough was enough.
The farm is now spread over 2,000 acres of the Cranborne Chase and is home to more than 500 Aberdeen Angus x suckler beef cows. It has been organic for the past eight years and generates renewable energy on site from solar PV panels and a biomass boiler, which heats the farmhouse bed and breakfast and self-catering cottages.
Mervyn, who has been with his partner Anne for 47 years, says the biggest differences have been the advances in technology.
“It is all down to paperwork and computers – the money is made in the office. If you don’t do the paperwork, you don’t get paid. The large farms get bigger and are bought with people with big money. Land values never go down.
“What worries me is that agriculture is not taught in schools and so fewer people want to go into farming. Many want a nine to five job, but I think being a stockman has been a wonderful life.”
Mervyn, who apart from a three day trip to Germany, has never been out of the UK, has received one other long service award. I went up to the Royal Show after I had completed 40 years and won a medal from the Duke of Gloucester, which I then dropped on the red carpet.
“I am looking forward to award at the Dorset County Show. It’s always a good day out,” he adds.
15th Aug 2016 10:24:00