Not many people combine a career in farming with one in singing. But RWAS president Trebor Edwards has done just that.
He’s a successful farmer and a popular tenor, who has won gold discs for selling more than 100,000 copies of five of the nine CDs he has recorded. And for many years he was the top-selling Welsh language recording artiste.
The latest compilation of 12 hymns, eight sung in Welsh and four in English, will be launched during the Royal Welsh Show, which runs from July 21-24. Trebor will also sing at the traditional church service held the evening before the event opens.
Trebor, 68, started farming at 16 when, with the help of his mother, he persuaded his maternal grandfather to grant him the tenancy of his 160-acre farm. Then a far-sighted bank manager agreed to lend him £500. That was in 1956, two years after the sale of the mixed unit’s stock and equipment. No buyer could be found for the land and buildings at Pen-y-Bryniau in Denbighshire, which had been on the market with a £5000 price tag.
Trebor’s parents, who lived in the nearby village of Bettws Gwerfyl Goch, could not find the money to help their schoolboy son, who had spent every spare hour working on the farm, buy the farm to realise his dream of working in agriculture. But they backed him to the hilt when the farm was still empty after he finished his GCSE exams. The bank loan was spent on hens and pigs and the fledgling farmer worked hard to build the capital needed to start producing milk.
“My aim was to have enough cows to sell 100 gallons of milk a day,” Trebor recalls. “Gradually, the target became more ambitious and I started thinking about installing new cubicles and a parlour.”
The cubicles went in, but fate and his family’s interest in singing took a hand. He, his father Robert, who worked as a ministry soil sampler, grandfather and three sisters travelled far and wide to sing at concerts. While he had no musical training and was not enthusiastic about entering solo competitions, he participated in several, including one where the prize was the opportunity to make a demo record. The rest, as they say, is history. He made his first commercial disc in the mid-1960s. This featured his translations into Welsh of the lyrics of popular songs and it proved to be a huge hit.
“By the late 1960s, the singing side had developed to the point where it became impossible to go on producing milk from our 40 cows,” he recalls.
His wife Ann, whom he met when he sang at a church fund-raising event, had their four children to care for and could not be responsible for running the dairy herd when he was away.
“My boys Gwyn and Erfyl were keen on farming, but were too young, so the cows went in the early 1970s, unfortunately just before a European grant became available for those prepared to get out of milk. We started concentrating on beef and sheep production, which we continue to do today.”
His success at combining farming, latterly with the help of his sons, and singing, is evident in the fact that the family partnership now farms close to 1000 acres and runs 120 Limousin and Limousin x suckler cows, 1200 Beulah and Mule breeding ewes and 200 ewe lambs.
At a time when many livestock auctions are struggling, the Edwards family remain committed to supporting on-the-hoof selling at local markets.
The farming wheel turned full circle when Trebor made both sons partners in the business as soon as they reached 16, mirroring the timing of his own start in farming. They share his enthusiasm for commercial rather than pedigree livestock production and for showing enthusiasm that was nurtured by years of YFC competitions. The well-filled trophy cabinet includes the cherished rosette for exhibiting the supreme cattle champion at the 2000 Royal Welsh Winter Fair.
One season they also won a livestock trailer for accumulating points for successes at several county shows. To date, the biggest wins have involved bought-in cattle selected for their show potential and meticulously prepared to express their superior genetics.
“Naturally, we live in hope of picking up a really big championship with a beast we have bred ourselves, but the competition is very tough,” he says.
Few things would please Trebor more than being able to present an award to his sons at the Royal Welsh Show wearing his president’s badge. He would also get a kick out of presenting a healthy cheque to the RWAS for the money raised by a fund-raising committee set up in his home county, Clwyd, which is this year’s feature county at the show.
Each year since the once peripatetic event settled at its Builth Wells site, the county that would have hosted it is featured at the show and raises money to develop the permanent showground. Clwyd’s contribution, which Trebor hopes will top £200,000, will go towards a new food hall.
“The Royal Welsh Show is the industry’s top shop window and it is essential that we use it to encourage consumers to buy the high-quality food we produce.”
Trebor’s musical talents mean he has been involved in the front line of fund-raising activities in the county. These included the spectacular three-day event at Lord Newborough’s Rhug Estate, and Proms in the Park staged at the home of Royal Welsh Show director Harry Fetherstonhaugh.
“I am proud to be RWAS president, as I never expected to be given such a big honour, and to live in this year’s feature county. Everyone involved with the July show is determined to put last year’s weather problems behind them and make the 2008 event the best ever.”
He hopes that the work he does on the farm makes him fit enough to face the rigours of the presidential timetable of a four-day event. Certainly the concert platform and starring in his own television series have given him the confidence to meet and greet all types of showgoers.
Trebor’s presidential duties end at the Winter Fair after which he can look forward to a Caribbean cruise in January, a prospect made all the more attractive by the fact that he and Ann will not be paying for it.
It will be the 18th time he will sing for his cabin and supper entertaining Welsh passengers who book year after year because he is on the cabaret.