Dr John Farrer, of Clapham, dies aged 92

Craven Herald: Dr John Farrer Dr John Farrer

Dr John Anson Farrer, of Clapham, died aged 92, just a few weeks past the 60th anniversary of his arrival in the village to take over the Ingleborough family estate.

The church clock, whose ancient mechanism he had tended for many years, stopped at the minute of his death.

Dr Farrer – known locally as Dr F – was born in Sydney in 1921. His family later moved to Melbourne and he was educated at Geelong Grammar, one of Australia’s oldest public schools.

He went to medical school and trained as a family doctor. While at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, he met Joan, an operating theatre nurse, and they were married in 1947.

He joined a family medical practice in Moonee Ponds, a suburb of Melbourne, and two children arrived, John and Annie, in 1948 and 1950.

As his life seemed to be set on a smooth course, a telegram arrived to say that his uncle Roland Farrer had died in England. The death was unexpected, but the implications were not. He was faced with the choice of taking over the Yorkshire estate that had been in the family since the 1700s.

He decided to take it on and in November 1953 he, Joan, John and Annie arrived to take up residence at Hall Garth. Experienced only as a family doctor, he had to learn a bewildering variety of new things.

There were farms, rental cottages, commercial woodland and a grouse moor, as well as many caves and potholes with obscure and fanciful names.

The estate books were a mess, as were many of the cottages. Over the years John and Joan gradually put matters to rights and brought the books into the black.

Dr F did much of the heavy work himself and he was often seen up on a roof fixing a slate, wielding a chainsaw, planting trees or mending a gap in a stone wall.

Since the estate was far from profitable, he did part-time medical work to feed and clothe the family. It included locum work for general practices, public health work, accident and emergency work at Lancaster Infirmary and performing nerve conduction tests in Lancaster.

He was doing these aged 65 when the NHS wanted him to retire, but there was no-one available to run the machine and he ended up continuing to the age of 70.

Soon after his arrival in the Dales, he started to keep a record of rainfall in Clapham and this is now almost unbroken for 60 years.

Throughout his time in the village, he had a policy of providing affordable rents with an emphasis on young families.

This has had the effect of keeping the village active seven days a week and while other schools closed for lack of attendance, the highly rated Clapham School has expanded.

He was justifiably proud of his contribution to primary education, the village, the local playground, the church, the Cave Rescue Organisation and the exceptional farming community.

There will be a celebration of his life at St James’ Church, Clapham, on Tuesday, February 18, at 2pm.

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