THE FACES OF SHERBORNE
In our monthly series of “The Faces of Sherborne” we introduce you to the people behind the faces. This month (March 2012)
MEET BOB EDWARD
CHAIRMAN OF THE SHERBORNE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Bob Edward is nearing the end of his four-year stint as Chairman of the Historical Society, not bad for someone who had only joined the Society a few years previously and offered to help make the coffee! Bob is definitely someone who has always risen to a challenge and thought laterally. Just as you think you understand what ‘mould’ he comes from he completely shatters the illusion and surprises you again, illustrated magnificently by his very esoteric career path: from Lt. Commander in the Royal Navy to running a specialist London recruitment agency to being a farmer in Marston Magna. Really? Yes, really!
Read the full interview below:
Q: How did you become involved with the Historical Society?
BE: I like reading biographies and history books and when I came to Sherborne seven years ago I decided to join. Now, I had vowed that I wouldn’t get involved with any committees but after about a year I was asked to do the coffee and as that didn’t involve a committee I agreed. I was then told that the Treasurer was leaving and would I consider that, to which my answer was no. I was then asked again and as I had been Treasurer of a few minor things before I agreed to help out. Then the Chairman stepped down and I was nominated for that – at the time they could find another Treasurer but not a Chairman so instead of being Treasurer I became Chairman, hoisted by my own petard!
Q: Not bad, from coffee boy to Chairman in one fell swoop! Tell me about the Society and any changes you have had to make.
BE: Well I haven’t really made any changes because it runs beautifully and the secret of that is to surround yourself by enormously competent people! We have 385 members at present, all well read and well educated, and we meet 12 times a year: 6 times a fortnight on a Tuesday between September and December and then 6 times a fortnight on a Thursday from January to March. The lecturers are chosen by a sub-committee although members can put forward suggestions. In the summertime we run 4 or 5 visits, varying in length and distance, everything from HMS Trincomalee in Hartlepool to silk mills in Wiltshire.
Q: Are you planning to stand for another term as Chairman?
BE: No. All jobs in societies should keep rotating, otherwise you lose the dynamic. So I shall be standing down in March.
Q: What were you doing before you came to Sherborne?
BE: I ran a smallholding on the outskirts of Marston Magna where I raised a herd of pedigree Simmental cattle. I was raising them to sell the bulls on to dairy farmers who find the dairy cows can then produce good meat without jeopardising their milk production. We grew grass for feed and everything was done organically as I was a member of the Soil Association.
Q: How long did you do that?
BE: Well we had bought the house in the 1970s when I was in the Navy but I didn’t start farming properly until the early 1990s. Until then I had been working in London running an Appointments Service for Surveyors.
Q: But you mentioned you were in the Navy…
BE: Yes, I was in the Navy for nearly 30 years until 1983. When I was at school I joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and so I joined the Navy for my National Service. I was identified as having officer potential, volunteered to become a naval pilot and was sent to the United States Navy, for flying training under the Mutual Aid Defence programme, which was founded for the Korean war. Back in the UK, I did conversion training to Sea Hawks and Wyverns (made by Westlands at Yeovil) then Scimitars where I was part of the RN formation airobatic display at Farnborough 1962,then Buccaneers.
Q: Did your naval career take you around the world?
BE: Oh yes. I visited the Caribbean, the US, Australia, Japan and I was stationed in Hong Kong and Singapore. In Hong Kong, I was captain of a minesweeper with 38 crew on board; she was used as a patrol ship in the South China Sea and eventually I became a Lieutenant Commander.
Q: You have certainly experienced an enormously varied lifestyle from sailing the seas to working in the City to raising cattle. Is there anything at all that threads through this varying career?
BE: I would say it’s all about the people, finding the right people to work with, giving them a chance to perform and to produce. If you’ve got good people around you it’s easy, you just bask in their reflected glory!