The best of Dorset in words and pictures

Far from the bidding crowd

Written by Mark Lewis; artworks by Becky Blake


Far from the bidding crowd

From an early age, George Hayward had been working with his Uncle, Arthur Ingrams, a highly respected agricultural auctioneer and valuer.
George would join him at work in the school holidays at the livestock market, where everyone knew him as young Mr Hayward.
Being the boss’s nephew he was given an easy ride by staff, clients and buyers in the market. Arthur Ingrams decided George should be toughened up and sent him north to get a proper apprenticeship from people who would be less forgiving.
George was aged 23, fresh from agricultural college, and was sent for an interview at a well-established Yorkshire firm where Arthur happened to know one of the partners, Rob Waller. The decision to employ George had been made well before he arrived but he was keen to keep auctioneering [as he was selling sows in Dorset] so asked when he would start selling.
‘Soon enough, Hayward,’ said Rob, ‘but let’s see how good you are at simple stuff first.’
George secured digs in the spare room of an attractive 40-year-old divorcée and started his first morning at the livestock market at 6.00.     Dressed in a land agent’s unofficial uniform of corduroys and a sports jacket, he was keen to make a good first impression. He found the market manager and reported for duty.
The manager looked George up and down and asked:  ‘What have you come as?’
George looked puzzled and then his new boss stroked his chin and smirked ‘I think you can start on the goats.’
The goatw were well away from the main sale rings and, if you know how billy goats make themselves olfactorily attractive to nanny goats, you’ll understand why.
When the auctioneer started the sale with the words: ‘Good to see you all here today, this is our new apprentice, Mr Hayward, who has come all the way from Dorset and he thinks he might become an auctioneer, but we thought he might like to show off the goats in the ring rather than keeping them in the pens as normal,’ George realised he’d been conned. He felt like walking away but pride and not wanting to show his pique made him want to prove his worth. Moving goats, however, is very difficult without touching them and as they were unused to being handled they jumped and kicked. George was quicker than most, but one back-heeled muck all over his face.
‘Come on laddie turn the billy around again I couldn’t quite see it’ was a typical shout followed by laughter and back slapping.
After the sale Rob sought George out: ‘How was your first morning, George?’ he asked, suppressing a smile.
George, still wiping muck off his clothes was only able to respond: ‘A bit different to the market at home,’ as the taste of the muck that had flicked on his lips failed to dissipate.

'...his landlady’s laundry demands became something of a ritual.'

‘…his landlady’s laundry demands became something of a ritual.’

‘Your uncle told me to challenge you,’ said Rob gently, ‘so there may be a few days like this. You took it well enough, though. Go and familiarise yourself with the other parts of the market and then we’ll work out what you can do tomorrow’.
When George walked into the sheep section he heard the lovely melodious lilt of the auctioneer.
Every salesman has their own style but this was so tuneful. As he drew closer he could see the auctioneer walking on boards above pens containing sheep. He never stopped walking and his clerk did the same, writing and moving in harmony. George had never seen anything so smooth, effortless or fast and it was mesmerising.
When the auctioneer came to the end of the row, he jumped down and introduced himself. ‘Algy Owen – you the new lad? You can clerk for me now. But stand downwind, you smell terrible.’
George was suddenly next to the great man treading the boards. It felt a great privilege, but writing whilst walking and learning new buyers’ names is not easy and before long he had fallen behind. When he had finished the sale, Algy turned to him and said: ‘You can clerk again next week, but I won’t be going slowly for you. Keep up or keep out… and keep away from the goats next time!’
It was quite an introduction to life in a northern market and when George arrived back at his digs the landlady ordered him out as soon as he walked into the kitchen. ‘What have you been rolling in?’ she asked. He explained, to which she replied, ‘Right everything off and I mean everything. Peg your clothes on the line and then get upstairs for a shower.’
George did as he was told and his true education started and, although he never worked on the goats again, his landlady’s laundry demands became something of a ritual.

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