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Obituary: Malcolm Bridges

By 30th December 2017July 27th, 2023No Comments

Malcolm Bridges, a Friend of the Guild and co-founder, publisher and advertising managing of British Dairying magazine, died after a brief illness just before Christmas aged 70.

He regularly attended the Guild’s Harvest Service and Lunch, and was a great supporter of the BGAJ Charitable Trust, donating a case of wine for many years as a draw prize for a lucky winner at the Harvest Lunch.

His friend and colleague, Barry Wilson recalls his career:

Malcolm phoned me early in 1993.  We had been colleagues on Big Farm Weekly in the early 1980s, where I worked as a freelance journalist and he sold advertising space on this title and the monthly Big Farm Management from the mid-1970s.

The late 1970s were boom years for agricultural publishing and it was Malcolm’s idea for the launch of Big Farm Weekly supplements, which boosted the paper’s size from 36 to 84 pages, got us all pay rises and also an end-of-year dinner in a private room at the Savoy in London! It also proved that Malcolm was a good operator.

I had launched Dairy Industry Newsletter (DIN) in 1989 and Malcolm phoned to ask if I could find out if the Milk Marketing Board (of England and Wales) were going to sell their Milk Producermonthly magazine, continue it or fold it.  At that time, Malcolm was selling space on Milk Producer. I did my researches and found out that the MMB—or Milk Marque as it was to become—were to fold the title.

“Well that gives us an opportunity,” Malcolm told me. He suggested launching a new monthly against Dairy Farmer, the soar-away market leader at the time.

We raised £50,000 between us, mainly to buy desktop publishing computers and to purchase the mailing lists of all five milk marketing boards (supply of which to outsiders was an obligation of the monopoly milk boards) when there were more than 50,000 registered UK dairy farmers.

The target date for the end of the MMBs was set for April 1994 but legal arguments delayed this until late that year. The delay was a godsend for us because it gave us more time for Malcolm to drum up support for what we had by then called British Dairying. It was a tough sell—despite Malcolm’s skill and determination. The management of Dairy Farmer scoffed: we weren’t a proper business, good heavens we all worked from home!

Malcolm told me at the time that as a ‘controlled circulation’ publication, distributed free and paid for entirely by advertising, we would never make any money until we sold more than 50% of the pages for advertising. It would be many years before anything like that was achieved.

But gradually the publication got off the ground and after three years Northamptonshire dairy farmer Judie Allen took over. When she gained the tenancy to her farm and decided to concentrate on managing her dairy herd, we took on Mike Green from Farmers Guardian and he reamins editor today, 12 years later.

All that time it was really Malcolm’s show. In his quiet, undemonstrative, highly efficient and well organised way, he guided the magazine to growth and profitability – leaving everyone to do their own thing in their own way, with just the occasional gentle nudges from the skipper.

He became very well known and respected within the dairy industry; people liked doing business with him and he was very good at what he did – testimony to being a genuine good guy, who wanted to the best for his clients in the long term. He wasn’t just a sales rep in it for the short-term buck.

Five years ago, Malcolm decided he was ready for retirement and so British Dairying was up for sale; it nearly went to the German publishers of Top Agrar until they pulled out three years ago, and negotiations were started with Blackness Lane operated by Alan Whibley, a well known UK publisher and for a long time a good friend of British Dairying.

The sale was agreed two years ago and Malcolm remained involved with key clients as he wound down – but sadly, he did not live long enough to enjoy the fruits of his long years of labours.

Malcolm is survived by his wife Mary, his daughters Roberta and Claire and his brother Ray.

Alan Whibley adds: “All the team at British Dairying were shocked by Malcolm’s illness and the speed it took him. He was dearly loved and admired by the whole team and it will be very difficult to cover his input and the generous and diligent way he operated. We will continue to make every effort to publish the magazine in a way that would make Malcolm proud.”