On 27th September, Lincolnshire Agricultural Society Members gathered to plant a tree in the Countryside area to commemorate the life of Joe Skehel.
Joe made an outstanding contribution to the life of the Society as Show Secretary from 1980 to 1998. Joe passed away in April, and in accordance with his wishes, his widow Mona arranged a gathering of his friends, Society colleagues and Members who knew Jo to share happy memories of his time leading the Society.
Jane Hiles, Chairman of LAS said:
Joe will be remembered as an amazing organiser, for developing the showground and raising the quality of the Lincolnshire Show.
"In the 1980’s the top job at the Showground was titled the Show Secretary; but in every aspect Joe was very much the managing director of the charity and its business. His contribution to the Society was massive. He oversaw the development of the Showground. Most of the buildings, roads and facilities are a testament to his skill and careful financial management. A stickler for quality he ensured the Lincolnshire Show became known as one of the finest in the country. Equally importantly, he engaged with people, developing the membership and encouraging so many people to volunteer as Stewards - including me!"
Bill Henson said:
"I was involved with Jo since his appointment as Show Secretary. Whether as Chief Horse Steward or Treasurer, he was always there with sound advice and help, especially when I went to run Burghley we would discuss our various plans/options. I particularly remember visiting Mr Marris on Burton hilltop to buy some more extension for the car parking, when he said to us ‘ you will soon have the lot!’ It didn’t take long for us to hatch a plan to follow up his suggestion! I seem to remember that we paid for his farm out of 3 years profits – such was the popularity of the show in those years.
Robin Battle said:
"At that time, The Society was really only about the Show, which Joe knew through and through, constantly making improvements and encouraging members to be further involved as stewards. Joe was good company but didn’t suffer fools and ran everything to a high standard. The Officers could take more of a back seat in those days. Perhaps we only fully appreciated his abilities to the full after his retirement when we found he was virtually irreplaceable!"
Richard Needham remembered:
"I was proposed for Council by Lol Bembridge, and then I met Joe, and expressed an interest of getting involved with the society, and boy, did I get involved!
After a few years stewarding in the cattle, I became a chief steward, and joined the Executive committee, where I very soon learnt what a formidable operator Joe was he did not suffer fools gladly, but he was always up for a bit of fun. He could be very charming, but when things got sticky, he could be very belligerent. His style was to always know exactly what he wanted to achieve, and he prepared for every meeting with great detail. His great attention to detail is the reason the fabric of the Showground is so good today, and the quality of the work is still evident.
As one goes around the Showground, Joe’s legacy is everywhere, and his period in charge was one of consolidation, paying off debt, building a profitable sustainable business fit for the times it lived in.
He steered the Society from a Society which just ran an annual show to a business which hired out its assets, the forerunner of the business today, holding antique shows, motorcycle events, grass track racing, the national scouts jamboree, a caravan show and the large religious festival all arrived during his tenure.
The Lincoln Red pavilion was built under Joe’s leadership, funded by the Alford committee (LRCS) and public subscription, this building created the bond between our Lincolnshire breeds of cattle and sheep, and the Society, something we are all very proud of. The LAS office, (The Joseph Nickerson Building) the clock tower, the old Presidents ringside building, all gifts of past presidents, the new toilet blocks, exhibition hall extended, new underground services, reservoirs, new roads, and old ones resurfaced, and I suppose the biggest thing was the purchase of the Marris land, some now sold, the rest being white car park and Cathedral Wood. I could go on, but the point is made.
Probably his biggest legacy was getting so many very able young people involved, many still serving as senior stewards, one even Chairman! Everyone who came in was judged on their ability, and only the best were invited year on year. Joe knew all the stewards, and moreover he knew their strengths and weaknesses, and he was a dab hand at harnessing those strengths.
Yes, we had lots of fun, the setting up of a new steward to test their sense of humour, the joking intervals in Exec meetings, the show day a puddle was left on his new office carpet by a very little person, the funny interludes during the show build up,- but woe betide anyone who unjustly treated a staff member. He was very loyal to his staff, as they were to him, and the turnover of staff was virtually nil.
I was so lucky to know, and work with Joe Skehel, a family man to the core, a great leader, an organiser extraordinaire, and a jolly nice chap.
Thanks Joe, rest in peace."