Friends and colleagues have been paying tribute to freelance journalist Andy Collings, who died suddenly at the beginning of March. He was 70.
Andy had all but retired although he continued to contribute occasional features – as well as the long-running Jack’s Diary column each month – to Farm Contractor & Large Scale Farmer magazine where he started his career in journalism.
Andy was born and raised on a large council estate on the west side of Northampton – an unlikely location for a future career of any sort in agriculture.
But after leaving school, he worked on farms and began writing by offering freelance copy to any magazine that might take it – farming journals, womens’ magazines and others.
He was able to pursue his interest in writing full-time when recruited as a reporter on Farm Contractor magazine, joining publisher Anthony Collier and Peter Hill, and was later appointed editor of the monthly publication.
A move to Farmers Weekly as machinery editor followed, working with fellow Guild members Andrew Faulkner, Geoff Ashcroft, Ian Marshall and Nick Fone while commuting from his home in Towcester to the RBI offices in Sutton, Surrey.
Freelancing and freedom from commuting beckoned, with Andy then contributing features to Farmers Weekly, Farmers Guardian, Profi International, Farm Contractor & Large Scale Farmer, Classic Tractor and others.
He also contributed the enduring Jack’s Diary column for Farm Contractor – now published by Guild member Malcolm Benjamin – that related the trials and tribulations of a fictional agricultural contractor.
Winding-down in 2016 towards semi-retirement gave Andy more time to realise his ambition of publishing a farming-based novel. Harry, me and boiled bacon was published in 2017, followed by the sequel Harry, me and bottled tea in 2018.
He was pleasantly surprised that these comical fictional accounts of a farmer’s boy in the 1960s, which no doubt drew on Andy’s own experiences of ‘life on the farm’, continue to sell (albeit in modest numbers, he acknowledged) through Amazon.
Apart from regular walks with his dog, Andy’s diverse leisure interests included sea angling, playing the piano and other musical instruments, and flying a microlight aircraft – until, as Andy put it, “the landings became too scary”.
Condolences to Andy’s wife Julia, and to their son and daughter, Tom and Emma.
Obituary originally published on the British Guild of Agricultural Journalists web site.