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Roger Turff

Published on 10th February 2015

Roger TurffA former Member of the Guild, journalist Roger Turff, died early February at Papworth Hospital during a long awaited heart operation. He was 77.

Roger was born in Bedford and started his career as an apprentice reporter on the Bedfordshire Times where he quickly found a niche in agriculture. He then joined Farmers Weekly as East Anglia correspondent before being appointed editor of the Farmlife section.

“Roger had been imposed upon the Farmlife section as editor – and thus on me,” recalls Sally his future wife-to-be. “To mollify me, he took me to lunch on the first day; we both had snails and rabbit – and that was that!”

The NFU press office followed before Roger became a freelance writer specialising in potatoes and at the time of his death he was still contributing to Potato Review on topics from seed production and husbandry to marketing, processing and packaging.

Roger was a particular fan of the humble veg, it seems, frequently announcing that a meal without potatoes was not a proper meal; he ate curry and potatoes, stir-fried potatoes, even potato Bolognese such was his enjoyment of spuds!

Fellow members of the Guild, Wendy and Peter Ryder, recall him as a wonderful raconteur, historian and journalist: "He was great fun and having seen Roger and Sally regularly over the years we will miss him very much."

Roger Turff making hayAt his funeral, Roger’s friend Jeremy Dearling recalled his ability to talk endlessly about a wide range of topics without being boring – hence his reputation as a raconteur.

“I once took him to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and Roger started talking the memonet he got into the car, continued for the seventy muinutes it took to get to Norwich and for more or less the same time on the way home,” says Jeremy. “He seamlessly drifted from subjects as diverse as being a national serviceman and a journalist, how he met Sally, his time on the road, cars he drove and owned, his children, agriculture – lots on agriculture – the problems facing farmers, the EU, especially its farming policies, and so on….

“He didn’t see the smile on my face; he didn’t see how I was enjoying an audience with a man who had so much to say, so many memories and the capacity to relate them in such a fascinating and entertaining way.”

In recent years, Roger was one of the initiators of a campaign to save a large area of public open space beside the River Ouse in King’s Lynn threatened by development. He tackled it with a passion until he and his committee prevailed and Harding’s Pits was saved. Roger’s funeral collection funded a seat for people to rest and spend time enjoying the area – a fitting tribute to someone determined to maintain a green space on the doorstep of an urban population.

Any Guild member who would like to send a note in tribute or share memories of time shared with Roger should send them to Peter Hill for the Guild website.

Diane Montague: "So sorry to hear the sad news about Roger Turff. I remember him from his Farmers Weekly days as a very kind colleague with a great sense of humour and a twinkling smile. He had an excellent reputation throughout the industry for his proressionalism combined with a sense of fun. Such a shame that the heart operation was just too late."

Stephen Howe: "Very saddened to hear about Roger's passing. He will be sadly missed. A larger than life character all his life, I can well remember the parties which used to go on most days back in 165 Fleet Street where the Farmers Weekly Farmlife office backed onto Power Farming's...the noise and laughter was unbelievable, especially for me as a new recruit in 1971! Please pass on my condolences to Sally who will treasure those days fondly too, I'm sure, along with many happy days with Roger."

Trevor Hayes: "Although I had not been in contact with Roger for many years, I remember his helpful attitude when he was at the NFU and I had just joined Farmers Weekly in 1978. Apart from enjoying a a noggin or two and a meal around the Knightsbridge area - where the NFU then had its HQ - he also advised me on how to fill in my expenses form at FW !!! Sad news but happy memories."

Graham Fuller: "Roger was looked on with great 'respect' by the 'young Turks' of FW in the '70s who admired his often robust dialogue with senior management of the day! I clearly recall Roger 'convincing' me to pen some words on the Dutch bulb growing industry, thus breaking away from my specialist farm machinery reporting role at the time - an excellent move in hindsight. Ironically, I re-read his powerful tribute to FW stalwart Frank Butcher only the other day; it underscored his formidable writing skills. RIP old chap."

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