THE organisers of an historic Ashbourne event have paid tribute to one of their fellow society members who died last week.
John 'Derek' Evans, secretary of Brailsford and District Ploughing and Hedge Laying Society for 30 years, died at the age of 84.
Mr Evans, who was awarded an MBE for his services to agriculture in 2000, has been credited with turning round the fortunes of the society, which each year lays on a huge annual match that has now become one of the biggest in the Midlands.
Ploughing matches have been held in England since the start of the 19th Century. The first formal Brailsford match was held in 1895.
The society hosted matches annually from then, apart from during the war years and foot and mouth outbreaks.
However, by 1974, the society was in a poor state, with entries down and Mr Evans took on the task of revitalising the match, helped along by its strong committee.
He set up courses for young farmers, social and fund-raising events and gradually nursed the society and its match back to health.
During his tenure, the number of ploughing and hedge-laying entries rose, trade stand numbers doubled and a stick-making competition was introduced. Attendance figures increased and the match is now acknowledged as being one of the premier farming fixtures in the Midlands.
Mr Evans was so valued by the society that, after his retirement, he was offered another role – archivist.
Society chairman Colin Prince said: "When Derek took over, the ploughing competition was short of funds and not what it is now.
"Over 30 years, he took it from that to being financially stable and one of the biggest matches in the Midlands. We will all miss him and his valuable contribution to the society."
Ploughing match and society stalwart Patricia Adams said: "Derek should be remembered for his wholehearted commitment to the society.
"As a result of this, the society was enabled to move forward with confidence. A solid foundation had been laid."
Mr Evans's funeral is due to take place on Friday at 3.30pm at Bramcote Crematorium.