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Mr Zummerset – Home!

by Robin Wale

Life does not always go as you would like it.

Having gone through a settled period of my employment, suddenly it is announced by our parent company that they are closing our depot and distributing the staff to other centres, ie Portbury, Exeter and Blandford. That means we become part of the national company, BOCM (British Oil and Cake Mills).

Sadly, some of my closest colleagues and friends are made redundant. I am now 53 and not wanting to work for a national feed company. As a good friend who was made redundant said to me "There are not many rabbit holes to run down now". Meaning most of the privately own companies in the West Country had disappeared.

Well, I was transferred to the sales team at Blandford and I have to say they treated me with great respect. But I knew this was never going to be a job that I would be happy with long term. Then, as so often happened in my life before, I received a phone call from a company that I had never heard of called Crediton Milling inviting me to have a chat with them.

A small second generation business, I agreed to meet their Sales Manager in Taunton, a guy called Trevor Bedford, who was going to tell me about the company and the position they could offer me. Effectively, they were looking to bring their business to Somerset. Anybody who has met Trevor will know he is a guy you could not say no to and, after a great deal of soul searching at the thought of having to give up a large ledger, I agreed to accept the position and hand in three months notice.

Having worked 10 weeks of my notice, I had not had any instruction on handing over the accounts to other BOCM reps, which resulted in 70% of my customers opening an account with my new company. During the last two weeks I had five reps assigned to me for the hand over, which was all far too late (happy days!).

Not long into settling into my new employment Foot and Mouth hit the country. If we thought BSE was bad enough, Foot and Mouth was far worse. In the twelve months that the countryside was effectively shut down, over 6 million animals were destroyed. The images on the TV news were horrific. The heart-breaking stories from families that had their animals slaughtered on the farm was sometimes too hard to watch. The biggest loss of livestock was up in Cumbria. Eventually, on the 14th January 2002, it was announced that the country was free again and that all restrictions could be lifted.

Moving into happy times, with the good quality product and excellent service that the company gave, my ledger became bigger than I had ever enjoyed. The rewards came with extensive trips abroad, to California and Russia to name but a few, to see all the latest developments that the dairy industry was making. To say they were enjoyable would be an understatement, especially with the good company of Trevor and Andrew Pine, who will remain life long friends.

With no thoughts on retirement, at 63 I unexpectedly had a quadruple bypass, with no prior warning of heart problems. Thankfully, with the wonderful treatment from the NHS, I made a brilliant recovery and within 4 months was back on the road. I decided to give up the dairy business and just concentrated on beef and sheep and continued working until I was 70.

I then decided it was time to hang up my boots!

In conclusion, I would like to thank all the wonderful farmers and their wives for the courtesy and goodness they showed to me over the 50 years that I travelled around the lanes of Somerset to finally return to Curry Rivel, where it all began.

So it's goodbye from him, and it's goodbye from me, Mr Zummerset.

I met Robin atop the Burton Pynsent Monument one open day. Chatting there, I somehow managed to persuade him to write these informative glimpses into life in Curry Rivel at the mid to end of the last century – and of course up to his retirement in the 21st. As a man who had spent his life in Somerset and in agriculture, I thought it might be an interesting window into a (not too) bygone era. I don't think I was wrong.

Thank you Robin – your perseverance in penning these articles over the past nine months has been epic!

Now, who would like to be next?


If you would like to catch up on earlier editions, go to on your pc or laptop (not sure how it works on a mobile phone) and enter 'readers' lives' in the search bar. The whole series, plus a few others, is available.

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