I was sorry to learn from Lorna Pounder that Jonathan Billing had passed away on Thursday, 18th September. He had been in hospital for a few weeks and had not enjoyed the best of health and well-being for some time; having entered a residential home three years ago after selling his farm and moving to a bungalow three years earlier.
However, farming remained his interest to the end, as it was his life having inherited White House Farm from his parents sometime, I believe, in the 1970s. The farm and his livestock were central to his lifestyle and besides his cattle, he kept cavies and poultry. At the start, the farm kept dairy cattle but, later, Jonathan turned to beef production and during this time, Longhorns and South Devon cattle were amongst the breeds kept. He was a keen exhibitor of poultry including ducks and proved to be an accomplished judge of both cattle and poultry.
Of course, I only really know about his cavies of which he principally kept Abyssinians, Self Blacks and Dutch in several colours. I learnt recently that his introduction to cavies resulted from his father being involved as an auctioneer and at a farm sale; one lot (guinea pigs) remained unsold. As a result, he brought them home for Jonathan. From that start, he entered the Cavy Fancy and became involved in breeding, showing, judging and club matters. He merits a place in cavy history having developed the first Smooth Roans by crossing Blue Roan Abyssinians with Self Blacks and judiciously breeding out the rough tendencies. Such recognition would have not gone to his head though as he was an unassuming type and modest in his approach to life.
At his death in his eightieth year, he was a Vice President of the Dutch Cavy Club and had always been a good supporter of the Club's Midland Area Shows until ill health meant that he had to part with his livestock. I can well remember very useful Silver Agouti Dutch being shown by Jonathan but he also fielded a few Red, Black and Golden Agouti Dutch to ensure that there was a healthy entry at these events.
A bachelor with, apparently, no immediate family, Jonathan was lucky to have Lorna and a good poultry friend to visit and help him in the last few years of his life. It will be his friends in the fancy and farming that remember him for the good fancier and clubman that he was. His funeral was well attended with such folk. Lorna Pounder, Jane Phillipson, myself and Donna Carr a former fancier represented the Cavy Fancy. He will be at home in Fillongley Cemetery that currently appears to double as hay field.
In the recent past, the Dutch Cavy Club has lost two of their most senior members. Firstly, Jonathan Billing (80) on 18th September and now Harold Mitchell (88) on 29th September.
Both were keen exhibitors and supporters of DCC shows although their lifestyles were very different. Jonathan, after the loss of his parents, had no family as an only uncle had died in WW1 whilst Harold was the complete opposite being one of 11 children for his parents and having six offspring himself, 11 grandchildren and still counting when it comes to great grandchildren. Indeed, he was a great family man as they meant everything to him; enjoying 50 years of married life. In his working days, he had been a motor mechanic.
Harold had the Cavy Fancy in his blood as his father was a waster breeder and a regular exhibitor of yesteryear as can be seen in Fur & Feather cuttings of Bradford Championship Shows in the late 50's and early 60's. In fact, his father kept a stud of 500 so Harold would be at home with cavies around the place. Until earlier this year, Harold had a stud of about 80 Dutch in several colours and had a good 70 plus years' experience of keeping cavies himself.
He was no stranger to success on the show table as two DCC Champions were registered in past years. First, there was Red Dutch Champion 'Nameless Hero' and later the noted Golden Agouti Dutch Champion 'Yorkshire Lass' that brought him many wins.
In addition to his association with the Dutch Cavy Club where he enjoyed Life Member and Life Judge status, he had long established links with Worth Valley Fanciers and it was his generosity to both these clubs that deserves special mention as he was always putting his hand in his pocket (or a back cupboard) and offering numerous trophies and specials for competition. I think that the DCC Northern Area Show can thank Harold for something like eight trophies and our Annual Stock Show can also boast a Best Chocolate Dutch AA trophy thanks to Harold.
Doubtless, Worth Valley Fanciers are likewise appreciative of his kindness as everyone found him such a good club man and a regular supporter of their shows. He had a sense of humour too and would approach the canteen with a routine request for 'A cup of rainwater and two dog biscuits please' What he received in response, I'm not quite sure !!
His funeral on 3rd October at The Knowle, Keighley took the form of a Memorial Service where several local fanciers attended and to break the sombreness of the occasion, I'm told ended with the refrains of 'I do like to be beside the seaside'. Harold was kind, generous and with a sense of humour. He will be sorely missed by his many friends.
DUTCH CAVY CLUB PRESIDENT