How beloved Evelyn inspired Powys farmer Emyr's incredible fundraising mission
Like all retiring couples, when dairy farmers Emyr and Evelyn Wigley decided the time was right to stop working, they had hopes and dreams.
They planned to travel, spend holidays in their caravan and go on walking adventures in the British countryside.
The world was their oyster – a chance to do all the things the dedicated couple had put off while devoting their time to farming.
Tragically, soon into their retirement, Evelyn was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She passed away aged 69 in 2015.
“Evelyn and I built up a dairy herd and we managed to be successful only by hard work and much self-sacrifice, with the business needs always coming first,” Emyr said.
"Our plans to travel and to enjoy caravan holidays and walking in the beautiful British countryside, which we both loved, were put on hold until our retirement.
"It was a devastating blow to learn in the first few years of our retirement that Evelyn had ovarian cancer.
“She was a very special lady, kind, caring and multi-talented. After a lifetime of work, the majority of her retirement years were stolen from her."
Emyr, who lives at Deytheur, Llansantffraid, on the Powys-Shropshire border, immediately pledged to do something positive to combat ovarian cancer.
It was an “evil disease” and he vowed to make a difference to others inflicted by cancer as a tribute to Evelyn.
It made sense, with the couple’s long connection to the rural community, to support farmers in need.
As a result, he established The Old Stackyard British Blues, a small, closed breeding herd of pedigree British Blue cattle, in 2016.
It’s the only charity herd of its type in the UK, with money raised from the sale of the cattle shared between Ovarian Cancer Action and the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI).
To date, that money has amounted to more than £121,000. The incredible result of selling cattle from the herd.
He has written books too, raising awareness and educating people about ovarian cancer and supporting farmers in their time of need.
As the Shropshire Star reported recently, Emyr 78, was seriously injured by one of his bulls whilst preparing it for a sale in Carlisle last month. He is lucky to be alive after the “spooked” bull crushed and trampled him, leaving him with a badly injured leg and broken ribs.
Niece, Laura Pritchard, who has helped with admin since the herd was established, rescued Emyr from the pen where he was attacked.
The time, therefore, seems right, Emyr says, to sell his herd of 33 cattle.
He has described it "a small initiative with a big ambition to fulfil a dream".
At Shrewsbury Auction Centre on March 4, auctioneers Halls will sell the herd in the company’s annual sale of British Blue Cattle. Emyr hopes to raise £100,000 for the charities.
Ovarian Cancer Action and RABI have paid tribute to Emyr’s “exceptional” generosity and the “astounding” sum of money raised for the charities.
Claire Lubbock, Ovarian Cancer Action’s community and events manager, said: “We are extremely grateful for the incredible funds Mr Wigley has raised for our charity with over the years.
“This amazing and generous support has allowed us to focus on fuelling the breakthroughs we need in order to save the lives of more women – mothers, daughters, sisters and wives.
“Mr Wigley is possibly our first and last supporter who has sold pedigree cows to raise funds, but his incredible inventiveness, enthusiasm and sheer hard work has made a big difference to what we do.
“To have raised such money to support both our charity and RABI is exceptional, and it is with sadness and huge gratitude that we approach this final sale. This sale is hoped to raise enough to fund a specialist researcher for an entire year.
“It represents a big step closer to our goal of making ovarian cancer survivable for all women. We cannot thank Mr Wigley enough for everything he has done for us."
RABI offers guidance, financial support, practical care to farming people of all ages for generations and mental health counselling either face-to-face or over the telephone.
Kate Jones, RABI’s regional manager for the West Midlands, said: “RABI is so fortunate to have such wonderful supporters, especially Emyr.
"The money Emyr has raised is being used to support the farming community when they need it most. The sale will mark the end of an astounding chapter – such an amazing achievement. The positive impact the money he has raised has made and will continue to make on those struggling in the farming community is beyond comprehension.”