People from Kingsland

A new page for contributions about people from Kingsland who have achieved success. If you know of someone we will be pleased to accept contributions. The first about John James is from Gordon Roberts.

ERIC WALL by Gordon Roberts

Eric was born and raised in Kingsland at the house known as Saltash along with two sisters, Barbara and Sheila, both of whom made their mark at the Leominster Grammar  School.   Eric’s father Tom was the manager of the Leominster office of J M Stokes Limited, wholesalers of farm produce and in fact my brother was his office clerk for a time, on leaving school.   Eric went to Lucton School as did most off the village boys at that time who went on to further education.   Before that, he went to the village school under the tutelage of the two Miss Morgans, Mrs Davies and the wonderful Head Teacher, Mr. C. T. Jones.   Eric says that the boys from Kingsland were always better prepared for the rigours of Lucton School than the boys from other villages.  Eric cycled to Lucton School every day with other boys from the village which sometimes turned out to be challenging because of the weather and for other reasons which we will not go into.   After eight years at Lucton, Eric went to Aberystwyth University and graduated in 1959 with a BscHons in agricultural botany.

After graduation, he returned to Aberystwyth to work in the clover breeding department of the Welsh plant breeding station.   Three years later, he moved to the Atomic Energy’s research station at Wantage where he investigated the possible use of atomic radiation two induce mutation as a tool for plant breeding.   His next move in 1961 was to the island of Guernsey where an experimental station was being set up to support the island’s vital glasshouse industry which supplied about a quarter of the UK’s consumption of tomatoes.   Eric’s roll was to to run the experiments in the new facility and in 1966, he became the head of the facility.   He could see that growing tomatoes in Guernsey on the scale required for the future would be difficult.   The island’s growers were mainly family nurseries with single thirty feet structures, high energy costs and little land available to to build larger and more economic structures and contraction of the industry was inevitable.

With this in mind, Eric decided to invest in glass in England and to put his knowledge into practice by buying a share in a nursery in West Sussex.   Eric Wall Ltd. was formed in 1977 and over time the company acquired the entire site and with the acquisition of more land and the business has grown from its original two and a half acres to twenty-eight today.   The company is now one of the largest, if not the largest tomato nurseries in the UK with thirty-three miles of rows with five different types of tomatoes.   The company supplies the likes of Sainsburys and Waitrose.

Addendum: During research for a picture for this article a link to the website for Eric Wall Ltd was found. You can see it by clicking here.

JOHN JAMES by Gordon Roberts

I have often thought how interesting it would be to have details on the website of people born and raised in Kingsland who have gone on to make their mark in the country or perhaps overseas, in one way or another.   Near the top of my list or perhaps at the very top would be John James of Shirlheath.   He was born at Shirlheath Farm in 1922 and although being an Englishman by birth, was very much of Welsh blood.   John’s father bought the farm by auction in December 1921 for the princely sum of £4,700 or approximately £180,000 in today’s money.   It had about one hundred and thirteen acres of mixed farming.   Mr. James senior was the son of Welsh speaking hill farmers in the Cwmdauddwr hills who moved on later to a farm near Rhayader.   When John’s parents married, they did what many Welsh hill farmers have done before and that is to buy a farm over the border in Herefordshire which would provide a reasonable all-round income rather than the uncertainty of and the hardships of hill farming.   John attended Lucton School until the age of sixteen, by which time he had already mastered many  aspects of farming.

John never forgot his Welsh background.   In fact it was encouraged by sending him during his school holidays to his grandparents, catching the Associated Motorways Black and White coach which ran from Cheltenham to Aberystwyth through Leominster.   It was there that he first became fascinated with the Border Collie and after a few years he acquired his first pup.   This dog grew up to be a natural at herding and driving cattle by road to Leominster market.   If we go forward a few years we will see how John became involved with sheep dog trials and by watching the experts, acquired great skills himself at sheep dog trialing.   This then opened up considerable opportunities for sheep dog training and then breeding at which he became one of the most successful breeders in the country and often obtained a record price for his dogs.   John was a member of the English Sheep Dog trials team ten times and was once captain after he had won the Championship in 1975 with his dog Mirk   He was English Driving Champion with Mirk the following year, and in 1986 Reserve English Champion with Ben.  For thirty years he was an English director of the International Sheep Dog Society.

John was a founder member of The Luctonians and a very quick and clever half-back.   The Club’s 1948 team photograph shows him at the centre of the front row, holding a rugby ball.   He and his wife Jean whom he married in 1953 were staunch members of the Kingsland Baptist Chapel.   John was a modest, kind and generous man whom I would have liked to have got to know better.   After retirement, he and Jean bought a small farm in Mid-Wales.

Perhaps this article will inspire others to send a profile to Kingsland Life of people they know who were born and raised in Kingsland and who have achieved the same degree of success.

Addendum: During research for pictures for this article the following film showing John at his farm and sheepdog  trialing, and an article including a conversation with John James were found. We hope you find them of interest

Film of John James at Shirlheath farm and Sheepdog trialing

A conversation with John James just click here