'Church clock stops following the death of the local doctor who looked after it'

Dr John Anson Farrer 'another good 'un gone,' said one mourner

Dr John Anson Farrer 'another good 'un gone,' said one mourner

First published in News
Last updated

A CHURCH clock - attended to for many years by a local doctor - stopped at the minute of his death, say his family.

The clock at St James's Church in Clapham, North Yorkshire, stopped on the death of Dr John Anson Farrer, affectionately known as Dr F.

Dr Farrer died at his home aged 92 - just a few weeks after the 60th anniversary of his arrival in the village to take over the Ingleborough family estate.

Born in Sydney, Australia in 1921, his family later moved to Melbourne and he was educated at Geelong Grammar, one of Australia's oldest public schools.

Later 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 a suburb of Melbourne, sub-specializing in paediatrics, and had two children John and Annie in 1948 and 1950.

As his life seemed to be set on an uneventful 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 1700's.

After a visit on his own, he decided to take it on and in November 1953 the family arrived to take up residence at Hall Garth, Clapham.

Experienced only as a family doctor, relatives say he had to learn a bewildering variety of new things.

There were farms, rental cottages, commercial woodland and a grouse moor, all fairly standard for a rural estate also many caves and potholes with obscure and fanciful names.

People wanted to explore them and he had to learn the underground geography of each one so that bookings did not conflict. The Gaping Ghyll system is probably the best known.

The estate books were said to be a mess as were many of the cottages and it was difficult to fix a leaking roof and still have money to install an indoor toilet when the controlled rent was ten shillings a week.

Over the years, John and Joan gradually put matters to rights and 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.

At the same time he was looking after administrative duties in the office and since the estate was far from making a profit, he did part time medical work that fed and clothed the family.

His medical work included locum work for general practices, several years of public health (it was during this time that he sometimes travelled 33 miles from Clapham to Accrington on a bicycle), accident and emergency work at Lancaster Infirmary and performing nerve conduction tests in Lancaster (he used to diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome and similar conditions).

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

He was one of a small team among the first to convert accident and emergency records to a form that could be analysed by computer.

Through this they were able to identify many important issues such as instances of abused children. While obtaining his Diploma in Public Health he wrote a paper that identified changes in mortality in Clapham over the years.

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

Throughout his time in the village, he has 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 others are closing their schools for lack of attendance, the highly-rated Clapham school has expanded, said his family.

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

Dr Farrer became ill in November 2013 and received excellent care at Airdale and Castlebergh Hospitals and later from public and district nurses, as well Dr Renwick and private caregivers.

He returned to his home of 60 years when it became clear that he was not going to recover further and passed away on the morning of New Year's Day.

Many caring friends and neighbours visited and he passed away peacefully surrounded by his family and caregivers.

From one of many letters of sympathy, one wrote: “Another good 'un gone”.

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

His favourite charities included Clapham Church, Clapham Village Hall and The Cave Rescue.

Comments (1)

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5:26pm Tue 4 Feb 14

hogheaven says...

What an amazing man, a lot can be learnt from him and his care of local people,a Good man indeed.
What an amazing man, a lot can be learnt from him and his care of local people,a Good man indeed. hogheaven
  • Score: 6

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