'A character and a legend': Tributes pour in for 'Mr Burwarton Show' Henry Yates

Tributes have poured in following the death of one of the county's most distinguished farmers and a stalwart of the Burwarton Show.

Henry Yates
Henry Yates

Henry Yates died at his home in Middleton Scriven, aged 83, in the early hours of Sunday.

He had been suffering from cancer and died surrounded by his loved ones.

Born in Westbury into a farming family before moving to Malinslee, he left school at 14 and became a leading light in the Young Farmers Club movement around the county.

Known throughout Shropshire for his insight and knowledge of the agricultural scene, his tireless work promoting the region's farming put him at the forefront of rural communities up and down the region.

Henry Yates

Rightly known as 'Mr Burwarton Show', Henry was pivotal in revitalising the event after it was wound up in 1971.

He cemented its legacy as the biggest one-day event in the county and one of the largest of its kind in the UK.

Mary Williams has this year stepped down as chairman of the organising committee after three years at the helm.

Having been involved with the Burwarton & District Agricultural Society for more than 30 years, she said Henry spent 2019's show enjoying every minute.

She said: "He was a true stalwart of the Burwarton Show. He was the founder of re-instating it many years ago.

"Him and his committee have always been passionately involved right up until very recently.

"He always met all the livestock judges on the morning of the event. He would greet them and make them feel welcome and up until about two or three years ago he would do the commentating in the livestock ring.

Henry Yates with his son Richard

"He was always very knowledgeable and competitive.

"Last year he didn't do so much, but said he was able to go around on his buggy and see more of the actual show than he had ever done before – he enjoyed it very much.

"He's been a tremendous part of it year on year. He was Mr Burwarton Show."

A keen cricketer with a top score of 124 not out while playing for Ludlow, close friend Eddie Downes, who has since moved from the area to Colwyn Bay, recalled playing cricket with him 66 years ago for Worfield Cricket Club.

"He was always a very positive man and forthright in his opinions. He didn't drink so he tended to end up being the driver for away games," said Eddie, who is a former president of Worfield CC.

"I remember one game where the captain decided to open the bowling with Henry and he took a wicket. Then he brought me on and I took the next nine – I might have had all 10 if it hadn't have been for Henry."

With his byline etched into the editions of the various weekly titles he wrote on before finding a regular berth on the Bridgnorth Journal, Henry put more than half a century into reporting as a farming correspondent.

Henry Yates

Jon Griffiths, former editor of the Bridgnorth Journal, described Henry as the most hardworking man he has ever met.

"I've known Henry for over 40 years and he was always very entertaining, always the centre of any social gathering," he said.

"He was lively and witty and never seemed to be in a bad mood, although some things seemed to make him a bit angry, mainly governments.

"He was also a tremendously hard worker. He'd run farms since his early 20s around the Ludlow area and later in Bridgnorth.

"He thought nothing of waking up at 5am everyday to milk the cows even in his 70s – I've never met a man who worked as hard as he did.

"He was involved in so many things. Even into his 70s he had a tremendous amount of energy and he put that into things he believed in. He was a thoroughly nice man in every manner."

Henry Yates

The Journal's current editor, Peter Carroll, added: "Aside from his notable farming achievements, Henry has been a fixture in the Journal for five decades and his columns were always incisive and readable.

"He will be a great loss, not only to his family but also to the Journal readers."

Henry leaves his wife Brenda, two children and four grandchildren.

In a moving eulogy published in this week's Bridgnorth Journal, his son Richard said the family will "take solace that he had a fantastic life and is free from pain".

He said: "Quite simply, my father was a character and a legend in our rural community, and words cannot convey my sorrow at his passing.

"We are comforted by the support we have received this week and plan his funeral which will be a celebration of his outstanding life."

The funeral will take place at St Mary's Church in Stottesdon at 11.30am on Friday, February 28.

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