When dairy farmers Emyr and Evelyn Wigley retired, they planned to travel, spend holidays in their caravan and go on walking adventures in the British countryside – all things they had put off whilst devoting their time to farming.
Tragically, soon into their retirement, Evelyn was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and she passed away aged 69 in 2015.
Mr Wigley, who lives at Deytheur, Llansantffraid, on the Powys-Shropshire border, immediately pledged to do something positive as a tribute to his wife – to combat ovarian cancer, which he describes as an “evil disease”.
Because of the couple’s long connection with the farming community, he also wanted to support farmers in need. And in 2016, he established the Old Stackyard British Blues, a small, closed breeding herd of pedigree British Blue cattle.
It is the only charity herd of its type in the UK, as all the money raised from the sale of the cattle over the past seven years has been shared between Ovarian Cancer Action and the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI).
To date, Mr Wigley has raised more than £121,000 for the charities by selling cattle from the herd and books he has written, thereby raising awareness and educating people about ovarian cancer and supporting farmers in their time of need.
In another twist of fate, 78-year-old Emyr was seriously injured by one of his bulls while preparing it for a sale in Carlisle last month. He is lucky to be alive with a badly injured leg and broken ribs after the animal crushed and trampled him.
His niece, Laura Pritchard, who has helped with admin since the herd was established, rescued Mr Wigley from the pen where he was attacked. And due to his injuries, he has now decided to sell his herd of 33 cattle.
What started as a small initiative with a big ambition to fulfil a dream will end at Shrewsbury Auction Centre on 4 March when auctioneers Halls sell the herd in the company’s annual sale of British Blue Cattle. Mr Wigley hopes to raise £100,000 for the charities.
The charity project has exceeded his expectations, he explains. “Evelyn and I built up a dairy herd and we managed to be successful only by hard work and much self-sacrifice, with the business needs always coming first.
“Our plans to travel and to enjoy caravan holidays and walking in the beautiful British countryside, which we both loved, were put on hold until our retirement. It was a devastating blow to learn in the first few years of our retirement that Evelyn had ovarian cancer.
“She was a very special lady, kind, caring and multi-talented. After a lifetime of work, the majority of her retirement years were stolen from her. While tragically too late to help my dear Evelyn, I had to do something to help combat this evil disease, as a tribute to my wife.”
Both Ovarian Cancer Action and RABI have paid tribute to Mr Wigley’s generosity. Claire Lubbock, Ovarian Cancer Action’s community and events manager, said: “We are extremely grateful for the incredible funds Mr Wigley has raised for our charity with over the years.
“As the UK’s leading ovarian cancer research charity, this amazing and generous support has allowed us to focus on fuelling the breakthroughs we need in order to save the lives of more women – mothers, daughters, sisters and wives.
“Mr Wigley is possibly our first and last supporter who has sold pedigree cows to raise funds, but his incredible inventiveness, enthusiasm and sheer hard work has made a big difference to what we do at Ovarian Cancer Action.
“To have raised £122,000 to support both our charity and RABI is exceptional, and it is with sadness and huge gratitude that we approach this final sale. This sale is hoped to raise enough to fund a specialist researcher for an entire year.”
RABI provides local support to farming communities across England and Wales. Established in 1860, the charity offers guidance, financial support, practical care to farming people of all ages for generations and mental health counselling either face-to-face or over the telephone. RABI’s freephone helpline is available 24/7 on 0800 188 4444.
To donate to Ovarian Cancer Action, visit www.donate.ovarian.org.uk. To donate to RABI, visit www.rabi.org.uk/donate/