Cash purchase of three farms in a single day

Date: Friday 23rd March 2018

ERIC Hall was the speaker at the March meeting of the Toppins group at Skelton. This talk was of particular interest to the local farming community, landowners and those whose families have lived in this area for several generations. In fact the meeting attracted four extra visitors, which was fairly unusual. His talk was called “My Great Grandfather and his Family”.

Thomas Graham Holliday — widely known as TG — was born at Cumrew in 1858. The family moved to Grassknop, Hutton-in-the-Forest, when he was 15 years old. He must have been a very able and charismatic youngster for, at 21, when his father died, he was helping to run two farms employing 20 men. Later he married Jane Harrington at Dacre and the couple lived at Whitrigg, also in the Hutton area.

TG must have been a shrewd businessman — he fattened sheep and cattle, owned property in Penrith, was active on the Stock Exchange and was one of the founders of Penrith Farmers’ and Kidd’s auction. Once, at the age of 50, he bought three farms in a single day, paying for them in cash from a suitcase!

Another good story concerns his first car. He was one of the early owners of a Model T Ford. On the way home, having collected it, he knocked a postman off his bicycle and then found he did not know how to stop the car. He had to drive round in circles until one of his sons, with a little more relevant knowledge, came to his rescue.

The car proved to be one of his hobbies. During the war he used to strap a crate of chickens to the back so that if stopped by the police when out on a drive he was either delivering or collecting the birds, which was permitted business use.

Seven of his nine children survived to reach adulthood. All but one (who ran a B&B in Penrith) were landowners/farmers or married to one and living and working locally. Skelton Pastures (later the BBC station) and the Blencowe limeworks were both associated with TG and his family at some point.

He died in 1934 leaving a large family fortune. His wife Jane died six years later. Both are buried in the family plot at Hutton-in-the-Forest but his spirit and legends live on.

Stella Jackson thanked Eric for a fascinating and entertaining talk, and also Jean Scott-Smith who was the projectionist for the evening and had done some research for the talk.