AS a trainee auctioneer in my early twenties, I was fortunate that Norman Little took me under his wing at Lazonby Auction, writes Farmer columnist, Adam Day.

Some Thursday mornings Norman would give me some time in the rostrum, a tiny enclosed wooden box above the ring. It could be a bleak place in mid- winter. Frozen fingers and toes, and a stream of steam from the auctioneer’s mouth. Our buyers warmed their hands in front of a large gas heater.

We didn’t have too many buyers. Arthur Pooley was probably the largest and most influential of them. It didn’t do to fall out with Arthur.

In the box I kept my head down and made sure I didn’t try to be clever or cocky. Gordon Teasdale my Penrith colleague, and still today one of the best prime sheep auctioneers in the land, gave sage advice, “get ‘em up and get ‘em down”, meaning don’t start the bidding too low, and don’t hang on too long at the end!

One cold morning I was selling, and trade was sticky. Our buyers weren’t anxious, and it was hard going. I knocked a lot down to Arthur Pooley at £35.20.

Now it is true that Arthur was holding up a single finger to indicate a 10p bid, but none of the PFK auctioneers ever took a 10p bid. He spoke to me,

“I bid you 10p”! I couldn’t back down. I had to make a stand.

“Sorry Arthur, but we only take 20p bids”. My heart was in my mouth.

“Is that your last word”?

“Yes. I can’t take 10p”. Arthur shrugged his shoulders. “In that case good day to you”. He turned and walked out of the ring. By now my heart had sunk to my toes. What else could I do?

“Carry on” said Jared Faulder our local buyer, smiling broadly at me, “we’ll manage”! It was all I could do, all the while thinking this is going to finish me. I’ll never be allowed to sell again.

Unbeknown to me, Arthur Pooley had only gone to the office to make a telephone call, this being the era before mobiles. Five minutes later he returned to the ring, winking at me as he arrived. Off we went again, taking only 20p bids. Relief flooded through my veins.

In future years Arthur would become a friend and ally, particularly at Cockermouth mart. Of course, there were other good buyers such as John Stamper ensuring a competitive trade, but there were times when Arthur was the only buyer. He was very fair. If I pushed too hard, he would give me the hard stare, nothing more, and definitely no 10p bids!

During these difficult times I salute Cumbria’s auctioneers and their buyers, doing a fantastic job to keep the food chain rolling. Please don’t be frightened to give them, the office team, and drovers a pat on the back. Everyone needs it now and again. It is so important to keep the marts running, good times and bad!

n "I have spent 30 years working as a Land Agent and Auctioneer throughout Cumbria and beyond. I still enjoy auctioneering on a freelance basis, mostly at Penrith Mart, where I first started my career many years ago.

I Joined the Farmer Network in 2015 initially working 3 days per week but now working 4 days per week. I am involved in all facets of the Network working closely with the Board of Directors and the Management Council’s to ensure that the Network is delivering what members want and need. A priority in my role has been to raise awareness of the Farmer Network and increase membership. In doing so we have been able improve income streams and project funding. The Farmer Network is a sustainable business model and well placed to continue providing a range of services and support for farmers, their families and their businesses going forward.

Away from the Network I perform with a band called the Soul Survivors and we travel all over the North playing at weddings and functions. I also potter about in a vegetable allotment which in tandem with my garden remains a constant challenge."