William James Leist – 1903 - 1992.
William (Billy) Leist
1903 - 14th May 1992.
Unusually, the Parish Magazine carried two obituaries for William.
From the Parish Magazine – August 1992.
Sadly another village character has been lost with the death on May 14 of William Leist, aged 89 years.
Billy lived within a mile of Mutt's Farm, Denton for almost the whole of his long life. Born at Chapel Farm, Topcroft - a small farm, the only remains of which will be known to a few locals, horse riders and walkers as a ruin which lies beside the bridleway from Mutt's Farm to Topcroft - where he was brought up with six brothers and two sisters.
He moved to Mutt's Farm in the early thirties, when his father took the tenancy and farmed there on his own account from 1936 until his retirement in 1966. During these years he and his wife Marjorie gained quite a reputation for their traditional type of fanning, which could well be called a mixture of ancient and modern. He was probably the last farmer in the area to use working horses, yet he would proudly recall that he was one of the first to have a tractor and binder.
In later years his active mind could recall events over a remarkable age of change. He told of selling corn at eighteen pence per coomb (a measure of four bushels weighing around 2 cwt), when farming was so bad that his father turned down the offer to have Pear Tree Farm rent free and land was selling at under £5 per acre. A favourite story was of a mighty whirlwind which took away half an acre of peas never to be seen again - adding ruefully that if he had been standing there he would have gone with them!
Always a keen shooting man, he managed to continue this sport well into his retirement and probably commenced very early in childhood, as it has been heard that he and his brothers were experts in the use of the catapult.
After their retirement, he and his wife lived in the bungalow which they built on the farm until Mrs. Leist’s death four years ago when he moved to St Mary's Nursing Home, Bungay. His funeral took place at St Peter's Church, South Elmham, re-united with his wife.
From the Parish Magazine – December 1992.
Mr. “Billy” Leist, the well-known farmer and country character, was born at Chapel Farm, Topcroft and went to Topcroft School. At the young age of 13½ years he left school, during the Great War, to assist his father in farming at Chapel Farm.
They also had land at Comalone, Topcroft (2 miles from Chapel Farm), and also land at Denton. The land at Comalone was later given up. In 1928 they gave up Chapel Farm and hired Mutts Farm, Denton. All the time he was farming with his father and was putting in many hours on the land. The tenancy of the farm was transferred to Billy in 1935 and he became a farmer on his own successfully.
He had a milking herd producing milk for the Milk Marketing Board. In May 1937 he was receiving 9½ pence per gallon and in June, 9¾ pence which, after the collection charge of 3 p per gallon, was 34 gallons for £1.00. He was also a sugar beet and cereal grower.
Mrs. Leist, his mother, died at Mutts Farm in 1935. Billy had a housekeeper until he married his wife, Marjorie Bower, in July 1940 just before his father died in 1941. Billy and Marjorie continued farming at Mutts Farm maintaining the milking herd and growing sugar beet and cereals. After several years he was offered the freehold of the farm, together with other land at Denton, and he took up the offer and bought it.
In 1965 they had a bungalow built ready for retirement, and as it was their Silver Wedding year they called it “Silverdene”. After retirement they sold the farm and moved to the bungalow where they lived happily for many years.
Billy had a major operation in 1980, and this was followed by a further one in 1985. Unfortunately, Marjorie died suddenly in 1988. With failing health Billy took advice from his friends and family, sold up and moved into St Mary's House, a residential home in Bungay. The staff at the home were very kind and considerate as well as the proprietors Mr. and Mrs. Farrer.