Farming Breeds: Neville – the batchelor farmer

Join us for a funny, irreverent look at some of the characters that make the British countryside what it is. Our tongue-in-cheek guide puts characters such as the retired Major, the “perfect” next-door farmer and the young tearaway under the microscope. Here we meet the unlucky-in-love batchelor farmer Neville…

With a set of teeth that resembled Stonehenge and a dress sense that could, at best, be described as “shabby-retro”, most had assumed Neville was resigned to the single life.

In fact, many thought he prized his independence even more than his treasured collection of rare farming bygones. With his loyal collie as his best friend, he was a prime, hearty (and occasionally smelly) example of that breed known as “the bachelor farmer”.

As he approached his 50s, living alone meant that some of the trivia of life such as table manners and personal hygiene had become optional. The village chemist’s shop remained an unknown territory. Solo-habitation, he explained in the public bar over pints of Smithers Ale, had clear advantages. No need to close the toilet door when in occupation. Washing up could be minimised by licking plates clean so they were ready for re-use, (and if he didn’t, his trusty hound would always oblige). Being able to watch what you liked on the telly no matter how “exotic” the choice of late-night programme might be. The list went on and on.

With no known fruit from his loins, there was the issue of who was to inherit his 300ha of good dale land.

Neville’s only nephew, young George, had started to fine-tune a style of unremitting helpfulness when it came to his middle-aged uncle. George was always popping round, although the future of the farm was never discussed. As he stamped across the verdant acres, the young nephew plotted to one day get his grubby little mitts on the land by keeping the fairer sex beyond the grasp of his unhitched uncle.

Despite his singleton ways, Neville did have a roving eye for the ladies, but his endeavours usually ended in disaster. When Antiques Roadshow visited the local market town, he had made a beeline for Fiona Bruce. By the time he had demonstrated rather too graphically the workings of his Victorian raddle harness by wearing it himself, Ms Bruce had decided to alert security. Ten minutes later, things got even uglier when the programme’s “curiosities” expert had valued Neville’s entire collection of artefacts at less than £30.

Antiques Roadshow is usually one of the quieter programmes for the security staff at the BBC, but this episode proved busier than a live outdoor broadcast of Crimewatch, all thanks to the presence of one very single sheep and beef farmer.

More recently Neville had stumbled upon a new concept called “speed dating for the young at heart” organised by the Women’s Institute in the village hall. On hearing of his uncle’s plans to attend the event, young George suggested the process would be much the same as grading beef fatteners.

Neville took his nephew’s advice a little too literally by telling his first speedy dater that she was over-muscled in the rear quarter. Even his subsequent “victims” who had slimmer figures did not seem to appreciate being immediately told they would make good milkers or that they had good conformation in the brisket.

So many women were upset by his remarks, in fact, that they complained to the facilitator who asked him to leave.

Undeterred by another disastrous foray into the mysterious world of the opposite sex, Neville decided upon another throw of the dice. He would place an ad in the lonely hearts column of the local paper. Not being the literary type, he called upon his ever helpful nephew to come up with some appropriate words.

And that is how the following got to be placed in the Echo.

“Single farmer WLTM flexible woman wanted for duties in all rooms of large farmhouse (including spacious attic). GSOH. Feminists need not apply.’

On reading it through, Neville didn’t want to show his ignorance by asking George what GSOH stood for. He concluded it was probably “Good Stack of Hay”.

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