TOUCHING tributes have been paid to one of the leading figures in Cumbria’s farming community after his death following an accident on his farm.

David Thomlinson, who had worked for leading livestock auctioneers Harrison & Hetherington for 57 years, passed away on Saturday.

The Health and Safety Executive has confirmed that it investigating the circumstances surrounding his death.

A spokeswoman confirmed the 73-year-old had been working with a newborn calf in a pen on his farm at Scaleby, near Carlisle, when the accident happened.

His sudden death has sent shockwaves through the farming community, with warm tributes paid from across the UK and beyond to the renowned auctioneer, who had been a pivotal player in the farming and wider community of north Cumbria, both in his work as an auctioneer and as a former managing director of the Carlisle-based H&H Group.

Across the globe he was highly regarded in both the livestock auctioneering world as expert of pedigree livestock and as a judge of pedigree cattle at major shows and sales.

His former colleagues at H&H led tributes to him.

In a statement, the company said: “We are deeply saddened with the news of the loss of a legend within our auctioneering industry, our very own David Thomlinson, who was sadly taken from us under tragic circumstances.

“He will be remembered for his outstanding dedication to the livestock auctioneering world, within H&H, throughout the UK and across the world.”

They added: “Fellow auctioneers have paid heartfelt tributes to David, which has shown the impact he has made within the livestock auctioneering business.

“He had a great attribute to develop and mentor the next generation of auctioneers and today we see and hear some of his skills which have been passed on to them to allow them to become the great people they are standing in the rostrum.”

Managing director of Penrith-based The Farmer Network, Adam Day, recalled in his tribute Mr Thomlinson’s ‘other job’ that few people would remember.

“Having to run the largest auction company in the country through the carnage of BSE, foot and mouth and all the other hard times must have been immense pressure.

“Around the auction he always had time for a word and some banter, even with visiting auctioneers.”

Mr Day added: “David always spoke with great conviction, great knowledge and great common sense.

“He was inspirational in his support of the auction system and the wider industry.

“I’m sure it was he that coined the phrase ‘use us or lose us’.

“As a young auctioneer, I and quite a few others, aspired to be like David Thomlinson.”

Mr Thomlinson was a past president of the British Limousin Cattle Society (BLCS) and the breed society paid their respects by describing the role he played in the livestock industry, and development of the Limousin breed, as ‘huge and important’.

A statement from the BLCS said: “Through his work with Harrison and Hetherington, and with his affinity to Limousin cattle, David’s mark on British Limousin extends the mantle of him being a true legend of the breed.”

They added: “He was always happy selling cattle well on behalf of vendors and to new entrants as they got a start.

“At every level he would give ready advice, help and encouragement to breeders and buyers and his words were always with knowledge, experience and wisdom.

“His work in 2001 during the foot and mouth crisis is something that will never be forgotten in the industry and work that he undertook with ability, dignity and great empathy.

“With a great knowledge of stock David judged many pedigree cattle shows and sales, including the majors and blue riband interbreeds.”

Many more tributes were paid on social media.

Ainstable dairy farmer, Robert Craig was among those paying their respects and said: “David always had time for a chat, always a welcoming smile for yard staff and farmers alike, we’ve lost a very genuine gentleman’.

Gilsland farmer, Jonathan Woodmass, meanwhile, posted: “Such sad news to hear of the loss of David Thomlinson, known throughout the country as a top auctioneer and for his love and passion of Limousin cattle. A grand man who will be sadly missed.”

Auctioneer Lewis Martin wrote on Facebook: “He taught me a few tricks of the trade and I wouldn’t be an auctioneer today it it wasn’t for David and his words of wisdom.”

Cumbria police confirmed that officers were called to the Cumberland Infirmary the report of a 73-year-old man’s sudden death on Saturday, adding: “This is being treated as non-suspicious. The coroner has been informed.”