Maurice Adams (Passed away 23 Aug 2019)

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All Saints Church Lower Street Curry Mallet TA3 6TD
3rd Sep 2019
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Justin's tribute to Maurice at the Thanksgiving Service:

Maurice was born in 1928 in East Quantoxhead. He was the only child of Robert and Minnie Adams who were tenant farmers on the Dunster Estate. When he was two years old he presented himself to my grandmother and said he had a pea stuck up his nose. Granny couldn’t see anything there, but thought she would take him to the doctor. The doctor was a bit sceptical but granny said to him, ‘He is a truthful lad and if he says there is a pea stuck in his nose, then there will be.’ Investigations proceeded and in due course a pea was extracted and order restored. This little story illustrates two essential aspects of Maurice’s character that were to be a feature all the way through his long life; his straightforward honesty and a fairly casual approach to his personal wellbeing.

A couple of years later he survived a further misadventure when he had to be rescued from drowning in a vat of cider. He went to the village school in East Quantoxhead for a short while and was then sent to Palmers prep school in Taunton. He started off as one of four boarders but the others fell by the wayside and as the year progressed he became the only one remaining. In later life he attributed to this experience another less obvious aspect of his character – his extraordinary mental toughness. Whether it was physical discomfort, pain or personal setback he would absorb it all and just carry on.

He left Palmers after a year and went to Thone (as Taunton Junior School was then called) and then spent the war years at Taunton School where he finished a year early taking his A levels at 16. By then his parents had moved to a farm at Othery and Maurice started a course at Cannington College. The principal at Cannington quickly came to feel that this was not challenging enough for him and in spite of some reservations from my grandfather they got him a county scholarship to read Agriculture at Nottingham University.

This was taught at the Sutton Bonnington campus and one night when a certain amount of ale had been widely consumed he was woken by a commotion outside. Looking out he could see that there were two drunks on the tennis court underneath, playing tennis by firing the ball back and forwards across the net with a pair of shotguns. Maurice shouted out that it would be generally appreciated if they were to shut up whereupon one of them turned and shot the light out over his head. Recounting this incident later he said ‘I didn’t think much of it at the time, but in the morning it did make me feel a bit funny.’ This was another thing with him, everything was always understated.

Something else that he would always recall about Nottingham was being there through the winter of 1947. He always felt the cold; hot weather never bothered him, he could be stacking bales on a hot day under a corrugated iron roof quite happily but in cold weather he would appear in an enormous overcoat that weighed about 40 pounds and flailing his arms like a windmill to keep warm.

After Nottingham he went to Fitzwilliam College Cambridge to do a postgraduate diploma where he worked on a research project in Beef production. There was a period where he might have stayed in agricultural research and I think later his farming always had a hint of an academic approach; he was always willing to try something new and not just do things without ever questioning them.

Unfortunately this spell in the academic world meant that officialdom no longer regarded him as being in a reserved occupation so he was called up for National Service and he went into the Royal Engineers. The fact that he was older than the rest of his intake and his education marked him out for special treatment from the RSM and he quickly came to hate drill practice. In the engineers he worked with some of the last flail tanks in the British Army and was involved in the relief efforts for the terrible floods in East Anglia in 1953.

One weekend he was left in charge when a call came through that someone had found a Mills Bomb by the side of a road. He took his platoon to retrieve the bomb and did a sweep of the area to make sure there were no others and then returned to the base. As there was no-one about Maurice kept the bomb in his bedside locker and then plonked on the counter in the quartermasters stores first thing on Monday morning. All hell broke loose and it was immediately rushed down to the range to be blown up. He of course could not really see what the fuss was about.

One thing the Engineers were also responsible for was his driving. He was one of the last people to be just given a license without taking a test, and insurance companies and machinery repairers were grateful for the business ever afterwards. Maurice was notoriously heavy handed with machinery. He had a phrase ‘just touched it’, which was always delivered with a half apologetic grin. ‘Just touched it’ meant that the wheel rim, door, lintel, exhaust pipe, wall, guttering or roof sheets he had encountered had been completely obliterated. At Manor Farm if something was described as ‘Gaffer proof’ it meant it was indestructible.

It wasn’t just machinery that got this treatment. A lot of us manage to lose or sit on our glasses; Maurice dropped them in feeders and augers, stood on them and even sawed one pair in half with a chain saw. People too had to be wary, loading small bales on a trailer while Maurice was on the loader tractor was a form of Russian Roulette requiring split second decisions about evasive action. He of course would just grin if he saw one of us appearing indignantly from under the pile of bales he had just unloaded.

Just occasionally he would visit this destruction on himself. One time he really whacked his thumb with a hammer and his reaction was …ow. He almost never swore, but if some real disaster had occurred he might just say ‘Oh gawd’.
When he left the army Maurice decided to start practical farming and came to Curry Mallet in partnership with his uncle Edwin Glide. They had very different outlooks and philosophies so after four years Maurice approached Colonel Roberts the land steward of the Duchy and said that the partnership wasn’t really working. The colonel said that there was a farm becoming vacant in Farrington Gurney which would suit. The entire interview process was as follows; the colonel asked if he had enough money to run the farm, Maurice said ‘not really’ and it was settled. Of course Colonel Roberts was judging the man, which people often did with Maurice.

He first met Sylvia at the garage in Farrington. She thought initially that he seemed aloof and arrogant but actually he was just reserved and eventually they got together. They then had to embark on a Sunday afternoon ritual where she was introduced to his many aunts over tea, and she had a purple dress which she liked and thought suitable for the purpose. Later Maurice remarked that he didn’t like purple. I am just going to leave this bit hanging…
They married in 1960 and over the next few years four children came along to make up the family, myself, Rachel, Giles and Lucy.

Through all these years he played rugby, at different times for Nottingham and Fitzwilliam, Bridgwater, Taunton and Bath. He went on a Taunton tour to Lisieux where the hosts entertained them to a ceremonial dinner and plied them with absinthe. The next day they marched them through the town with their hangovers behind a brass band parade and then proceeded to beat them flat. I think he was always just slightly suspicious of things continental after this. Recently Sylvia remarked that she hadn’t particularly enjoyed picking him up from Bath rugby club to go out for the evening. ‘Well I suppose it was a bit male’ he said.

In 1971 Uncle Edwin decided to retire and we moved to Curry Mallet taking on the tenancy at Manor Farm and Maurice took on an ambitious programme of modernisation. This brought many challenges which he faced with his customary fortitude. In due course I came home to the business and we were able to farm harmoniously in partnership together for 33 years.

George Swain, who some of you will remember working for us, once said to me ‘Your father is a man who cannot say no’, and his first response to anyone approaching him was always to try to help, even if it added to his own burden. This was reflected in the amount of voluntary work he did over the years; he was on the PCC and a school governor for a very long time and on the breed council for the Dorset Down Sheep Society where he served as a show judge. In particular he did a huge amount of work for the National Farmers Union. He was Somerset County Chairman and also represented the county on the arable and livestock national committees where he saw his role as representing the voice of the small farms of the West Country in an organisation dominated by the barley barons from the east.

Fairness was always very important to him. Sometimes he would start to argue a contrarian point of view which could seem infuriating, and you would think ‘you don’t really believe that’ but it was just his way of making sure that all sides had been considered and that any decision was fair. He wasn’t a pushover though and just occasionally he surprised someone who misjudged him when he had decided to take a stand on a point of principle.

He was physically strong and completely unfazed by the more unpleasant aspects of farm work. He had a fascination with blocked drains, and he never seemed happier than when he was up to his elbow in revolting gunk trying to get it to run away. In younger life he was never ill, just a constant reassuring physical presence; at times there could seem something monumental about him. However in the last few years he was almost never well and yet he met the challenges and indignities of old age with the same fortitude that he faced everything else in life. The hardest thing perhaps was losing his sight as he had always been a voracious reader, but even in the last few months as his perception became more tenuous he remained the same benign character he had always been. The people who came to help were brilliant and the family would like to express heartfelt thanks to all the staff from Somerset Care and Hambridge Nursing Home who at times went above and beyond in looking after him.

In the last week in cards and conversations the same two phrases have come up again and again. ‘Maurice was a gentleman,’ and ‘Your father was a good man’. He was a good man; a good husband, a good father, a good farmer, a good partner, a good boss, a good neighbour, a good friend. Sometimes we read of great men with feet of clay, whose achievements have in some way come at the expense of the people around them, but to be remembered by so many people as a good man – that really is something special.

Hugo's tribute to Maurice at the Thanksgiving Service:

Maurice, was a man of few, but needed words. In respect of that, I'm going to keep this short as to not lose his interest.

I was very excited the first time I met Maurice. I had just arrived in the oddly named Curry Mallet and was busy roaming the farm with Giles. The image of him with his flat cap on his head, hands folded behind his back and two dogs trailing behind is forever etched on my brain.

Admittedly, this is mainly because Rufus, one of the two dogs with Maurice, promptly, shall we say, relaxed himself in front of my feet. But we are not here to talk about my feelings towards Rufus.

Maurice struck me as a man who had a belonging. He was very much aware of his role towards work, family and life.

As I reflect on Maurice's influence on me and others, I realised there are three distinct lessons he embodied.

Be yourself and know yourself:

I have yet to meet anyone so in touch with who and what they are. You would be hard pressed to find any insecurities Maurice had towards his identity. He was always Maurice.

Laugh at everything:

Well, maybe not everything. But at least see the humour in situations. Maurice had a way of laughing no matter how tragic what you were telling him was. He always seemed to look on the bright side of, please don't make me sing it.


Maurice never missed a beat. He was patient, aware and present.

I didn't get the chance to experience having a genetic Grandfather. But I don't think that matters. Maurice and Sylvia accepted my mother, sister and myself into their family with nothing but love.

He cared, was a role model and gave me insight into life just by being himself. That sounds like a Grandparent to me.

Thank you Maurice.

Giles Adams posted a picture
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Veronica Morgan donated in memory of Maurice

In remembrance of dear Uncle Maurice, so many very happy memories, with love

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Rakesh Verma posted a picture
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Carol johnson donated £55.27 in memory of Maurice

Wish I could be there, will be sadly missed .He is the strong silent type that has a big impact on you that you don't forget . Bless

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Rakesh Verma posted a picture
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Rakesh Verma donated £50 in memory of Maurice
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Rachel Adams posted a picture
Maurice at the Somerset Levels

Maurice at the Somerset Levels

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Simon Helliar-Moore donated £20 in memory of Maurice