Farmer, coal merchant and agricultural contractor

Date: Monday 22nd January 2018

THE Cumbrian farming community lost a well known figure with the death at his home in Kirkby Stephen of retired farmer, coal merchant and agricultural contractor John Joseph Hird, aged 80.

JJ, as he was known, was one of two sons of the late Thomas and Mary Hird, of Ash Pot, Fell End, Ravenstonedale. His brother was William, and he also had a sister, Elizabeth.

The young JJ attended the old school at Fell End — which closed one winter because of bad weather while he was a pupil there, never to reopen — and completed his education in Kirkby Stephen.

After leaving school he worked at home for his father, who kept sheep, a few beef cattle and at one time a small dairy herd. He also did work for other farmers in the area.

In 1959 JJ met his future wife, Miss Pat Lambert, at a social evening in Kirkby Lonsdale, and the couple married in 1961. They initially lived at Ash Pot but soon moved to the neighbouring Elm Pot. They went on to have three children, Stephen — known as Sam — Anne and Deborah.

During the mid-1960s he started working for Upper Eden haulier T. R. Handley, driving tippers, delivering coal and moving building materials, including some used in the construction of the M6.

The firm opted to sell its coal business in 1969 and, having talked the matter over with Pat, JJ took the decision to buy it for the sum of £50. He went on to operate the coal business for the next 25 years, delivering over a wide area of south Cumbria while continuing to run his farm. Later on, he did contracting work for other farmers in the area, particularly with silage.

Sam joined the business after leaving school in 1978, and finally took it over when JJ retired in 2003. JJ and Pat then moved into Kirkby Stephen, but he continued to take an interest in farming matters and attended auction sales for many years.

In his younger days JJ rode a motorbike, but sold his machine in 1956 and acquired a van in its place. He liked watching sport on television, especially racing, and also enjoyed playing pool and dominoes, often at the Kings Head, Ravenstonedale.

He is survived by his wife Pat; son Sam, Ravenstonedale; daughters Mrs. Anne Curr, Newbiggin-on-Lune; and Mrs. Deborah Earl, Kendal; and sister Mrs. Elizabeth Blenkharn, Penrith. He had seven grandchildren, one step- grandchild and four great-grandchildren.