Adam Henson: A diamond geezer!

Arthur White at Voyce Pullin Auctioneers

Arthur White at Voyce Pullin Auctioneers - Credit: Archant

Auctioneer Arthur White clocks up an incredible 60 years in the same job - and the farming community joins in the celebrations

How long would you expect your working career to last? Most of us would settle for 40 years, perhaps 45 years or maybe 50 at a push. Well there’s one Cotswold character who has notched up an incredible 60 years in the same job. What’s more, he has no intention of giving it up.

Arthur White has been a livestock auctioneer in Gloucestershire since he left Stroud Boys’ Technical School in 1955 and he still regularly conducts the Tuesday morning sales at the Cirencester cattle market at Driffield. Since he started working for them in 2002, he’s been a guiding light and something of a father figure to the market operators, Chris Voyce and Jon Pullin. Everybody recognises Arthur and he isn’t just the best known auctioneer in the Cotswolds; he’s got a nationwide reputation as one of the best in the business.

In the mid-1950s there were two market operators in Gloucester; J. Pearce Pope & Sons and Bruton Knowles. I’m sure just seeing the names of those two firms of surveyors and valuers will bring the memories back for many Cotswold Life readers. For farmers and country people in the post-war years, the weekly trip to market was more than just a way of conducting business. It was a place to socialise, for some it was even a day out. It served as a swap shop for ideas and a way of learning about what we now call ‘best practice’. For lots of hard working breeders and herdsmen, the market was their only day away from the farm.

The teenage Arthur wrote to both firms looking for employment but as there were no vacancies at BK, it was Pearce Pope’s who invited him for a job interview. He was taken on and paid the princely sum of 30/- a week. That first wage packet is something which Arthur will never forget: “When I’m out for the day with my grandchildren now, I cringe at the price of an ice cream.”

When he starts talking about his long career, his stories are dotted with references to much-loved Cotswold people and places. As a young man who was new to auctions and property sales, he learnt his trade from Ted and Cecil Pope. As Arthur remembers with a smile: “Ted did all the pub valuations and Cecil taught me about the inside of pubs.” On the last day of business at Gloucester’s old city centre market, he was working with pigs and weighed a thousand animals that day. When he started selling at the St Oswald’s site, the average price for a calf was less than £10. Today it’s several hundred. Then in 1967 he opened the Tetbury branch of the business and in July that year he was behind the first store cattle sale in the town.

To mark Arthur’s six decades with the gavel, Chris and Jon held a party for him at the Cirencester cattle market and invited all his friends, colleagues and family members. Around 500 people were there to help him mark his diamond anniversary and that figure is all the more remarkable when you consider that the event took place in the middle of a working day. It’s typical of the man that before so much as a single slice of cake was cut, Arthur switched on the microphone in the sale ring and began auctioning the first few lots of the day. Tables were covered with white linen cloths, the champagne flutes were filled and a hog roast was generously carved. It was a very fitting way to celebrate a remarkable achievement, but goodness knows what the store cattle in the sale pens made of it all. Congratulations Arthur – here’s to the next 60!

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