Filleigh farmer to be president of county show

ONE of the very few farmers who can genuinely be described as a legend in his own lifetime, Albert Cook, is the 2010 President of the Devon County Agricultural Association. Mr. Cook, of West Heddon farm, Filleigh, near South Molton, celebrated his 85th b

ONE of the very few farmers who can genuinely be described as a legend in his own lifetime, Albert Cook, is the 2010 President of the Devon County Agricultural Association.

Mr. Cook, of West Heddon farm, Filleigh, near South Molton, celebrated his 85th birthday in December and has been associated with the Devon County Show, over which he will preside in May, for more than 60 years.

He has been a Council member since 1948 and has been competing in the livestock classes with his Devon Closewool sheep since 1952, winning no fewer than 16 breed championships and four inter-breed championships.

He said that he was surprised and deeply honoured to have been asked to serve as President.

"I'm just an ordinary North Devon farmer, and the Devon County Show has been part of my life," he said.

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I have had wonderful times showing sheep there, and I am pleased to have been able to help out as a Steward over very many years, but I never looked for or expected anything like this. It's a great honour."

Outgoing President Sir John Cave said that he was delighted to be handing over the reins to such a popular and experienced successor.

"The words that come to mind when you think of Albert Cook are respect and affection, for he commands both in equal measure," he said.

"With his love of farming, his care for his animals and his commitment to his community, he epitomises everything that it best about Devon farming and the Devon County Show. I know he will make a superb President."

Mr. Cook retired from the show ring last year, and his grandson Stephen has taken over the nucleus of his pedigree flock. But he still takes an active interest in the family dairy and sheep farm in North Devon, run now by his son, John.

In his younger days, besides breeding and showing his pedigree Devon Closewools with his late wife, Ruth, he was also one of the finest sheep shearers in the country, winning the championship at the combined Devon County/Bath and West Show held in Plymouth in 1958, and going on to win third prize in the national shearing championships the following year.

When his farming commitments forced him to give up competitive shearing, he still maintained an active involvement through stewarding and judging at the sheep shearing competitions, and was Chairman of the National Sheep Shearing Committee for two years immediately after its formation in 1981.

Mr. Cook attended his first Devon County Show when it came to Pilton, near Barnstaple, in 1935. He became actively involved in the 1940s through his work with the Devon Federation of Young Farmers Clubs. In 1948, the DCAA asked Devon YFC to nominate four members to serve on its Council, and Albert Cook was one of them.

But although he has many happy memories of the time when the Devon County was a travelling show, and indeed of its years at Whipton, he believes that it is as enjoyable - and important - now as it has ever been.

"We went through some difficult times when we first moved to Westpoint, but in the last few years, I believe that the show has really found its feet. It is still very much a country show, but it offers something for everyone. Above all, it shows off Devon farming at its very best to a huge audience, and that's even more important now than it was in days gone by."

Mr. Cook has served for many years as a member of North Devon District Council and was its chairman in the millennium year of 1999/2000. He is also a former member of Devon County Council and served as Chairman of the South Molton Magistrates' bench.

Besides farming, sheep breeding and his community work, Albert Cook's other great enthusiasm is cricket. His great nephew is Alastair Cook, the England opening batsman who has just been named as captain of the England side for the forthcoming tour of Bangladesh.

"For Alastair to have taken over as Captain of England in the same year as I am taking over as President of the Devon County Show really is the dream family double", says a delighted Albert.

"It has all made for the best possible start to a year to which my companion, Lorna, and I are greatly looking forward, and of which the highlight will undoubtedly be another hugely enjoyable and successful Devon County Show.

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