Mick Miller - A Tribute
By Peter Driver
Mick Miller died on Wednesday 7th January 2004. He was a well known, well respected and popular figure in the grass care and farming communities and was associated with his employers, PA Turney Ltd, for over 40 years. The following tribute is taken from the eulogy read at his funeral last month.
Gordon Edward (Mick) Miller was born in Charlton-on-Otmoor on 19th November 1940, during the Coventry Air Raid, the second of five sons for Ted and Betty Miller.
Starting school at in his home village, he moved to Weston-on-the-Green village school when the family moved to Fir Tree Farm. Later he moved up to Bicester Secondary School, where one of the highlights was the occasion when the games master, taking a boxing lesson, said 'Come on, hit me', so Mick did and promptly laid him out.
From school Mick went to work for a Major Parr, breeding pedigree shorthorn cattle, but he soon realised that machinery was more to his liking and he subsequently joined P A Turney Ltd as an apprentice.
Encouraged by the late Mr Peter Turney, Mick went to Rycotewood College at Thame to study agricultural engineering and was soon taking a full part in college life with such skilful activities as hoisting matron's bicycle to the top of the chimney.
Apart from attending reunions, in later years Mick returned to the college as an examiner for students taking proficiency courses, that is, until he failed an entire year for not being aware of the health and safety rules. He was always proud of his association with Rycotewood and was sad to see it close.
Mick's work at Turneys included all the usual machinery of the time, especially Nuffield Tractors, New Holland Balers and Ransome Combines. He became quite an expert on baler knotters and as such, was a welcome sight in a field littered with 'one stringed bales' but after several years he decided he wanted to pursue a business on his own in farming and left Turneys to set up with a few cattle and some pigs at Home Farm in Wendlebury.
in 1967 Peter Turney saw the market potential for grass machinery and recollecting that Mick was not only a good engineer, but also had a knack for demonstrating and selling, approached him to get the new project off the ground. This he did by working on an hourly basis when his farming commitments allowed. It was about this time that Mick's trademark brown trilby first appeared.
Mick's mother bought him an accordion for his twenty-first and he quickly became proficient with an extensive repertoire of first lines. He could play any tune you cared to name, but the same five notes were always involved, although not always in the same order. This led to entertaining evenings, with the young farmers trying to sing along in tune despite the accompaniment.
It was at one of these young farmers meetings that Mick first met Jenny. Their first date was on New Years Eve, Mick splashed out on a bottle of Asti Spumante hoping to encourage Jenny to talk but, as always he had so much to say, she couldn't get a word in edgeways. They married in 1970 and the highlight of his wedding day was when he got a five-shilling refund because the organ broke down half way through the ceremony.
Katie came along three years later and Paul three years after that. Mick was very proud of his family and would regale anyone willing to listen or not, with stories of their exploits and success.
By now, the grass machinery division of P A Turney Limited had taken off, acquiring new premises at Weston-on-the-Green in 1968 and Mick was spending much of his time visiting colleges, sports grounds, and schools around the area.
In the mid seventies Mick acquired Wendlebury Meads with its unique flora and fauna. He negotiated one of the first management agreements with the Nature Conservancy Council for a site of special scientific interest. English Nature, as it is now, has confirmed that the farm remains one of the best sites in Europe.
To allow the flowers to seed, haymaking is restricted until the end of July and the whole family would then be involved to get the hay in before the weather broke. In these circumstances Mick would have a short fuse and woe betide anyone who dared to get a trailer stuck in one of the wetter parts of the fields; of course, he never did!
Mick was still working on a consultancy basis with Turneys, but in 1989 he decided to return to the fold as a full time employee as Sales Manager at Weston.
He was a keen supporter of local shows and every summer could be found on the Turney stand, meeting friends and acquaintances - he didn't regard them as customers - but he was always on the lookout for the next sale. His technical ability, vast knowledge of the grass machinery industry and down to earth approach made him a true professional to whom customers, friends and family were always pleased to turn.
In 1997 Mick bought a second farm, which includes the site of the Roman Town of Alchester. When the archaeologists from Oxford University began to re-excavate the site he became enthralled by the history beneath his feet and would lay on 'end of dig barbecues' for the team. He was proud that he had a hand in preserving the past for generations to come, both at Alchester and Wendlebury Meads.
Mick's death was a blow to all who knew him. He was held in high esteem throughout the industry in which he worked and will be sadly missed by all that knew and worked with him not to mention his friends and of course, his family who loved him dearly.
'Mourning is a tribute to a life that touches others deeply'.