A RETIRED bank manager with long farming connections is the 2014 president of the Westmorland County Agricultural Society.

Robert ‘Bob’ Bond, from Bolton-le-Sands, was unanimously voted in at the society’s annual general meeting, held at its Lane Farm headquarters at Crooklands, on Saturday February 8.

Mr Bond joked that he had only joined the society as a member when he worked for the bank and had intended to leave it as ‘soon as he retired’.

“The problem is,” Mr Bond explained, “once you join the society you only leave in a box.” But he praised it for offering ‘fun, pleasure and friendship’ and said he would do all he could to uphold its aims and ambitions.

He takes over from outgoing president, Tom Gorst, who said the role had been an ‘honour and a privilege’.

“I’d like to pay a special thanks to the chief executive, Christine Knipe, for her encouragement and advice; and the girls here past and present for all you do,” said Mr Gorst, who was later made a life member and praised for being a ‘great figurehead’.

As part of his presidential year, St John’s Hospice in Lancaster was presented with a £2,000 cheque - raised from a summer barbecue.

It was presented to Jill Santamera, the South Lakes and Kendal community fund-raiser for the hospice, by David Martin, one of the social committee members. Mrs Santamera thanked the audience and said that two thirds of the hospice’s operating costs needed to be raised from the community and the donation represented a full shift for the hospice to run.

Chairman for 2014 is the long-serving vice-chair and pedigree Ayrshire farmer, David Galbraith, of Sunny Bank Farm, Grayrigg. He was commended for his ‘level-headed, sensible, approach’ with nominators suggesting he would make a ‘superb’ chairman. He takes over from farmer Jonathan Mason, of Levens.

Mr Mason held the chairmanship for three years after previously being vice-chair. “I’ve tried to do my best for the society,” said Mr Mason. “I hope it’s been good enough. It has taken over my life for the last three years and I’ll miss it,” he said.

New chairman Mr Galbraith joked that he had served a 30-year apprenticeship having joined the society 26 years ago. “Then the show was very much different. It was on a 10-acre site whereas now it’s about 40, and the crowd was 15,000 and it’s now upto 30,000.

"I’’ll try and move the society forward as best as I can, but I’ll need everybody’s help,” said Mr Galbraith.

The positions of President-elect went to leading sheep breeder, Wilson Garnett; vice-chairman and showfield director went to Stephen Procter, treasurer will be Karen Barnes and publicity officer will be David Knipe. A total of 24 people were also elected as management committee members.