When Andrew Arbuckle and his brother John began their publishing journey in 2015, they couldn’t have imagined how much money they would raise.
Since the release of Farming is a Funny Business and Farming Facts and Fake News, the collections have generated more than £72,000 for rural charity RSABI (The Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution).
Andrew, a former farming editor of The Courier, now hopes proceeds from his third compilation, Farming is Still a Funny Business, will take the collective total over £100,000.
Back in the 1990s, when Andrew was reporting for The Courier, attending agricultural conferences was a big part of the job.
“I would go to many conferences and talks and often you’d be sitting on the press bench and the speaker would tell a joke,” he explains.
“Because you’d been to so many events you got to know all the jokes – and there would be a collective groan from the bench.
“I decided I wanted to collect them and they went into the first book.”
Five years on
In 2015, Andrew and John first compiled Farming is a Funny Business containing anecdotes and jokes about the trials and tribulations of everyday rural life.
This was followed in 2017 by Farming Facts and Fake News, bursting with essential information on all aspects of Scottish rural life as well as totally irrelevant – but entertaining – facts about farming, farmers and those who live in the countryside.
Farming is Still a Funny Business was a solo project for Andrew as his brother is now retired: “The reason for this book was when I finished the first book people would come up to me and say ‘why didn’t you ask me?’ So I had a list of people who wanted to take part last time.”
Work began on the compilation in April during the height of lockdown, and Andrew says: “I was determined not to mention Covid in the book.”
Published in October, the collection contains more than 300 stories: “Some people were very generous and said they had collected stories or they would phone up and give you stories.
“You’d have a good day when people would do that. Other days you’d think ‘oh gosh, this is not going to work’.”
Supporting rural workers
Andrew, 76, is an agricultural journalist, retired farmer and former Liberal Democrat politician based near Newburgh.
He was farming editor of The Courier from 1989 until 2005.
He explains: “When I worked with The Courier I was conscious of the work the RSABI did back then. It was quite frustrating because they helped individuals and you weren’t able to report on an individual’s plight to highlight it.”
RSABI’s roots go back to 1897 when it was founded to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in recognition of the deep agricultural depression at the time.
Many tenant farmers struggled on, often until they died, rather than give up their tenancies to retire at a reasonable age. There were no pensions and little, if any, support for those no longer able to work.
Today, RSABI provides financial and practical support and friendship to more than 600 individuals and their families across a range of occupations – all bound by the common theme of working on the land in Scotland.
Raising a smile
The charity delivered a major #KeepTalking campaign this year to encourage those working in Scottish agriculture to keep in touch and support each other during the pandemic, with the usual social events such as agricultural shows cancelled.
Andrew hopes the book will also raise the spirits of farming and crofting communities at this challenging time: “Going to the Angus Show or the Fife Show or the Royal Highland Show – the social element is important.
“Covid has knocked the social side completely out. I do hope this book compensates.”
The publication contains anecdotes from farmers, auctioneers, journalists, vets and many others involved in the farming world. The illustrations are by Scottish artist Brian Petrie. All the profits will go to RSABI.
“Two or three of the stories come from Darwin in Australia – a friend I went to primary school with – and we just keep in touch. The stories come from all over,” Andrew explains.
“I don’t think I would have got the stories if I hadn’t been doing this for charity.”
Andrew adds the book had great support from fellow journalists. Another former Courier farming editor, Ewan Pate, features in the book. He is also chairman of trustees for RSABI.
Ewan’s contribution is a rib-tickling rural tale that shares fond memories of a thrifty colleague, the late Joe Watson of the Press and Journal.
Andrew chuckles: “The stories I like the best are the ones that actually happened – and that one actually did happen.”
- The RSABI runs a free and confidential helpline, 0300 1114166, which is available from 7am to 11pm every day of the year.
- Farming is Still a Funny Business is £12 and available via: the RSABI online shop – or by calling 0131 364 4205.
Andrew Arbuckle’s amusing tale
Many years ago, a youthful young farmer from Newburgh along with his equally raw pal Bill decided to go to the big town of St Andrews for a night out. They had no car so took the bus and they had a great time watching all the bright lights in the university town.
Then they realised that not only had they missed the last bus home, worse than that, they did not have any money to pay for a taxi.
They were stuck until Bill pointed out he could drive a tractor and that it would not be much different from driving a bus.
He had, after all, watched the bus driver on the journey in.
“We’ll go round to the bus garage and, if you keep a lookout, I’ll go in and get the bus,” he said. The young farmer was not too sure about this plan but decided it was better than sleeping on a park bench in St Andrews.
Soon he heard buses being started up and then buses being driven about in the garage but none coming out. He poked his head round the garage door and shouted to Bill, “What are you doing?”
Back came the angry reply. “It’s not my fault the Newburgh bus is parked at the back of the garage.”
“The young farmer thought about this for a while and then shouted the following advice: ‘Just get the Cupar bus and when we get there, we can walk the last 10 miles to Newburgh.”