A LEADING member of the Hampshire-based Wessex Historic Tractor and Implement Club (WHTIC) was given a fitting farewell last week – John Richards’ coffin was taken to his funeral on a Massey Ferguson drop sided trailer he helped restore.

It was pulled by the vintage Ferguson tractor he meticulously restored and affectionately named Maggie in honour of his beloved wife.

His friend and fellow club member John Newbury drove the tractor and trailer to the Wessex Vale crematorium, Fair Oak from his home at Woodlea Nursery, Wintershill, Durley, where the pair had spent many hours together fixing up old farm machinery, including the trailer.

He was followed by a procession of classic farm vehicles, organised by WHTIC friend Ross Bartlett who was driving a Minneapolis Moline ZTS, which included Ian Watts driving an International B250 and Ray West driving a David Brown 1212.

John, 85, of Provene Gardens, Waltham Chase enjoyed a life-long love of all things agricultural, enjoying nothing more than repairing farm machinery and implements in his spare time and weekends with his wife Margaret and her namesake Maggie - a 1959 Ferguson TEF20 - at country shows and ploughing matches around the South of England.

He was among the first members of WHTIC, founded 50 years ago, and which has members across the South from the Winchester, Alresford, Romsey, the New Forest, Southampton, Portsmouth, Fareham and Gosport and regularly stages meets at Alresford and, in the past, at Winchester, Romsey and Upham.

Born in Wickham, John started an apprenticeship, aged 16, as an agricultural engineer at nearby Wheatley’s of Wickham, then a business selling mechanised agricultural goods across Hampshire and West Sussex. After leaving for two years’ national service, he returned to finish his training, working his way up to become manager.

During more than 20 years with Wheatley’s, John trained many young apprentices and kept in touch with them, many attending his funeral (on Tuesday September 24) along with other representatives from Wheatley’s, which now sells construction and mining equipment across the world from its base in Bishop's Waltham.

He left Wheatley’s in the early 1970s to set up on his own, maintaining, repairing and restoring all kinds of agricultural paraphernalia and servicing lawnmowers and sharpening blades, earning a wonderful reputation for his work. Later he took up a role with Havant Borough Council, retiring aged 64 in 1998.

But John was soon drawn back to his love of farm machinery, taking on maintenance, repair and restoration projects for himself and a wide range of customers.

Despite a two year battle against cancer, he continued to attend agricultural events, contesting his last ploughing match in 2018.

Ill health forced him to sell his treasured and extensive agricultural collection but fortunately much of it was brought by WHTIC friends, so he could see it whenever he wanted.

One of his daughters, Kay said: "We wanted the funeral to reflect Dad’s lifelong love of the countryside and agriculture and for us this was fitting tribute to a wonderful man, and a celebration of the life he lived and loved. He was very clever, kind, loving and popular and had an extensive knowledge of the countryside. He would never give up when asked to repair something and liked nothing more than to discuss possible solutions with his many friends, debating the best way to fix something. He will be much missed by so many."

John leaves Margaret, his wife of 36 years, son Mark, daughters Kay and Sue and stepdaughter Mandy.