This week is the 50th anniversary of the official opening of Myerscough College’s Bilsborrow campus, by Her Majesty, the Queen (October 17th, 1969).
The Lancashire College of Agriculture, as Myerscough was then known, was a state-of-the-art campus, with emphasis on giving the student maximum value for their education in a rural setting, and with the ability to expand the site in future years.
Mick Coxhead was 17-years-old when he enrolled as a horticulture student at the brand new Bilsborrow campus. After completing his course, he went on to work in the family wholesale horticulture business, E.N Coxhead Ltd, where he remains a company director today. The company, based at Chainhouse Nurseries, in Whitestake, near Preston, now produces and sells millions of pounds worth of plants and salads every year.
We met up with Mick, as he shared some of his memories of his journey from student, to meeting the Queen, to becoming a major business person within the horticulture industry.
Mick said: ‘’It was a wonderful part of my life. I had a fabulous time and learnt a lot about life. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
‘’I’d grew up in horticulture with the family business, so I’d spent all my life growing. I’d done quite well in my school exams, and Mr Wetton, one of the lecturers, came to our nursery to buy plants and my father knew him, and so it went from there.
‘’The campus was brand spanking new and much of it was still orchards and fields. It was a very social thing too, as our class was quite small and everyone was really friendly.
‘’The day the Queen came as a great day. We knew about the visit around a month in advance and we needed to sort out the displays out for on the day. Then, one person from each subject area had to be chosen to meet the Queen and my lecturer put my name forward.
‘’I demonstrated a xylograph (a wood engraving machine), we talked about my studies, and it was a very proud moment. It happened so fast and I was very nervous. It was a bit of a blur but I was very proud to have met her and it was a wonderful day. There was only a few of us selected and I was fortunate.
‘’The campus certainly had that wow factor. The library was fantastic as were the classrooms. It was of course much smaller than it is nowadays. We also did day release at the Hutton campus. I used to play rugby and football for the College too.
‘’There was a lot of camaraderie. We had a wonderful time. For many of us it was our first time away from home, and as I was one of the youngest in the group, others took me under their wing.''
Above: Mick meets the Queen in 1969
‘’It was a good course, and many went on to do well out of it. I finished my studies and went into the family business. We gradually built the business up and from my college experience, I developed skills that stood me in good stead, in terms of dealing with customers and dealing with people, being able to converse with people from all around the country.
‘’The business is now very strong. Turnover increases every year and is in the millions. It’s gone from strength to strength.
‘’When I started at college at 17, I was always ambitious and being successful in the industry was always my goal. I’d always worked hard, you have to in this industry, and I’ve had some luck too.
‘’I was lucky as I had a business to go into. But for students from an ordinary background, getting a qualification is very important to go far within the sector. You need that technical and managerial know-how.’’
by Dave Salmon