Island Life Magazine Ltd October/November 2011 - Page 67

COUNTRY LIFE Fred age 10 years, God Brickfields Autumn Sale 2011 (Fred pictured centre) shill Schoo l Right said Fred: 'I am the village idiot'. But oh, no he isn't! By Peter White The front door of the farm house swung open and there to greet me was a man with his unkempt hair hanging down over his ruddy face. “Hello,” he says. “They call me the village idiot.” But even after that somewhat surprise introduction, it didn’t take me long to discover that Fred Colson might live in a village, but he is far from the idiot he, and maybe others, like to make him out. Island born and bred, he lives in Chale Green, and not only farms a total of 1,000 acres in various areas, but is also a cattle dealer, property landlord and owns three fishing lakes with nephew Colin. He can also tell a tale or few, and quickly pointed out to me that when he married Lesley, his wife of 40 years, they slept on a mattress on the floor, because he could buy a cow for what it would cost him to buy a bed. He finally relented under pressure from his father-in-law. Fred admits: “I like to do things a bit differently. If everyone is going in one direction, then I go the other. That’s the best way to survive. If everyone goes the same way why would people want to come to me to buy cattle when they could go to anyone else? But if you have something different, then people will come to you.” That’s why he decided on a change of direction in his farming career many years ago and introduced shorthorn cattle to his land. Now he has the biggest shorthorn herd in the country, numbering more than 500. Fred has had an interesting life, and continues to do so while helping many who are not as fortunate as him. Although a heart scare a few years ago slowed him down a bit, he still likes to put in his shift on his farm – especially if there is a few bob to be made! Born at Pale Farm in Ryde where his father had the tenancy from 1939, the family moved to Bridge Farm, Godshill in 1952, paying £8,000 for a 150-acre farm and two cottages. Fred attended Godshill and Ventnor Schools, leaving on his 15th birthday, and admitting: “I wasn’t very bright at school – below average. “But I wasn’t interested in school; the only thing I wanted to do was be in the countryside. So I worked in the family farm for nine years. We had a mixed herd of cattle, but I have never been a fan of black and white cattle so initially I changed it over to Jerseys and Guernseys, because we got an extra 10p a gallon for the milk.” When the next door neighbour’s farm came up for sale in 1967, Fred wanted his father to buy it, but was told by his dad ‘you buy it’ even though he had only £100 in the bank, and it was on the market for £9,600. So to try to raise money Fred left his father’s farm and went around many dairy farms on the Island working as a relief milker. Despite a few knockbacks persistence paid of