This year marks the 80th anniversary since the establishment of Coquetdale Young Farmers Club (YFC).
Serving an area surrounding Rothbury and beyond up the Coquet Valley, the club originally started life as a calf club, called the Whittingham Vale and Coquetdale Club.However, it was not until 1957 that Coquetdale YFC as it is known today came into existence.
Meetings were initially held at the Jubilee Hall in Rothbury, before moving on to the Studio Café until 1964. The Turks Head was to become base for a good number of years, but as a younger membership established, Thropton Village hall was felt more appropriate and remains as the club meeting place today.
Activities within the club have been wide and varied over the years. Earlier in the club’s history many of the meetings had a strong agricultural theme, but as time went on more members came from other backgrounds and the variety of meetings widened.
The likes of stock judging and shearing competitions still play a major role, however, visits to the Nissan car factory and especially Newcastle Breweries were to prove popular. Guest speakers were also popular, and often young farmers from other clubs would give a talk and slide show on agricultural exchange trips from all four corners of the globe.
The competitive nature of YFCs was to give members the opportunity to take part in everything from volleyball to baking and ploughing to public speaking. Coquetdale had particular success in entertainments, drama, stockjudging and the public speaking competitions.
In 1983, Coquetdale pulled off a dramatic victory in the entertainments final at the People’s Theatre, by beating some very strong performances from Stamfordham and Haltwhistle. Directed by Norman Luke, the Village Hallabuloo was set in a local village hall and starred Maurice Graham and Brian Slassor as the cleaning ladies, Minnie Mackay and Jenny Mackay, who reminisced about all that had happened over the previous year.
Then, in 1992, Robert Famelton carried off the award for best actor playing the lead role in George, a play about a deluded patient who has an imaginary friend George while in hospital. Abigail Beauchamp as Doctor Cholet with a fantastic French accent tried to get to the bottom of the case, but Robert was still convinced everyone else was mad but him.
The competition highlight of the year for all YFCs is the County Rally, which Coquetdale has hosted a number of times. In 1984, on a hot June Saturday, Flotterton was the venue, then more recently Scrainwood Farm has played host twice, in 2003 and 2014. Organising a County Rally is no mean feat and in 2014, not only did the club members excel themselves in the running of the day, but also raised £1,000 for the Great North Air Ambulance.
As well as enjoying themselves, members always looked towards putting something back into the community, be that organising a farm visit for the kids from Byker City Farm, log chopping for the elderly or, more recently, running a speed shear competition at Wagtail Farm which raised £1,000 for the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI).
In 1989, the National Garden Festival came to Gateshead and each club in the county was tasked with looking after the NFU display stand for a weekend. This consisted of three dairy cows, six calves, a pen of piggies and a rather large pet lamb called Stephen.
Coquetdale young farmers were only barely competent with mule ewes and suckler cows, so tasked with milking cows and feeding pigs while answering questions from the public seemed a tall order. Luckily, hill farmer Robert Famelton had spent some time down under on a dairy farm, so was immediately given the job of milking the cows; luckily again, the watching public seemed impressed.
Discos and Christmas parties at Thropton Village Hall were always popular and helped to raise a bit of money; however, running a dinner dance was initially seen as not the traditional thing that Coquetdale did. However, at a meeting to discuss the possibility of holding a dinner dance, one of the younger members who was not known for being very talkative rather profoundly stated that tradition had to start somewhere.
So in 1987, the club’s Golden Jubilee year, an event was arranged. The venue was Alnwick Castle, the band provided by Tommy Edmondson and Fordyce Maxwell was guest speaker. The night went well and now some 30 years later we find ourselves again organising a dinner dance to celebrate an anniversary year.
This time our venue is Linden Hall, and the date is Friday, June 23. We are hoping to contact as many past members as possible, to give them the opportunity to come along and meet old friends and catch up. So if you are an ‘old’ young farmer and would like to dust down that posh frock or DJ, contact Louise Robson on 01669 640255 for more.