This is the second funeral of a well known cheese person in a year. First Mandy at Swaledale, now Bob.
I first met Bob about five years ago when I was thinking of starting a dairy. He was kind enough to put up with me for a short while, (as I knew nothing, am still learning), in his dairy so that I could see what was involved and try and learn a little bit about making cheese before starting our own dairy. There are not many people who would do that and I will never forget Bob’s kindness and generosity in sharing his knowledge, for he taught me a great deal.
My short time learning with Bob is my motivating factor to try and help people who come to us wanting to learn to make cheese, both commercially and privately. I will never have the experience Bob had and I will never have Bob’s showmanship and I will never forget him.
Shortly after we got our little dairy up and running and we got a listing in Booths, (much to my amazement,) Bob heard about this, his curiosity was piqued and he came over with friend, business partner and fellow Lancashire cheese maker John to see us.
We shared a liking for improvising equipment and we had a laugh over our first rather Heath Robinson-ish cheese press, but at the same time, he was so supportive and so encouraging to me at a stage when I felt I was still grappling with the art of cheese making in the dark. Bob came over a second time, bringing Sean Wilson with him, to show him what could be achieved on a shoe string and how to set up a small scale dairy at a stage when Sean was thinking of starting his own dairy. It just goes to show how much Bob was willing and pleased to help people if he could. Another time I met Bob at a cheese show and I did not know anyone and was very much on the outside of conversations going on between experienced and well known cheese makers. He made the effort to come over and say hello and introduced me to people which once again, was typical of Bob to try and include people and be kind.
Being kind was just one of the things Bob was good at: he was an excellent and tremendously experienced cheese maker, he made fantastic cheese and he was a brilliant show man: who could forget the zany waistcoats and commentary at his cheese making in a bucket demonstrations. Bob was a brilliant and clever cheese maker and whilst he has not been able to get in the dairy for a while, his business is still being carried on by his daughter Faye and his cheese maker John, whom I sat next to in the church last Friday.
As we waited to leave the church, it was gut wrenching to see just how many people had attended the funeral, to say goodbye. I saw that people were standing not only at the back of the church but upstairs in a gallery too. I saw Brian from Brytec, John from Carron Lodge and his wife Judith, Richard Paul from Bradburys, Chris Sandham, the guys from Wensleydale Dairy, my cousin Adrian from Hills and his wife Pam, Simon Stott, everyone’s sheep milk supplier and Andrew, our favorite milk delivery person and his wife, Ian from Dewlay, Sean Wilson and so many more people who, like me, respected Bob as an honourable, kind, decent and funny man and a very good cheese maker.
My condolences go to his family: wife Chris, daughters Theresa and to Faye who drove Bob on his last journey in his faithful old green van, just as he wanted.
From the Lancashire Evening Post:
Tributes to top Lancashire cheese man Bob Kitching
An award-winning cheese maker has died aged 61 after his second battle with cancer.
Bob Kitching, who founded Leagram Organic Dairy in Chipping in 2000, died on Tuesday, February 26 after a three-year battle with thymic cancer, which causes tumours in the thymus gland and the chest.
His daughter, Faye, who has worked in the business for 10 years, said she will carry on his legacy.
She said: “Cheese was his obsession.
“He managed to do what a lot of people want by making his passion his job.
“He was a showman and loved giving presentations. He wanted to get everybody to love cheese – not just Leagrams, but other local produce.”
Mr Kitching, who grew up in Hurst Green, began his career as a butcher, but later swapped his attention to cheese.
Faye added: “He worked in several dairies, starting at the bottom and working his way up.
“He was very well respected in the dairy circles and got to a point where he decided that he would like to work for himself.
“He was really creative and was always coming up with new ideas and new recipes.”
Mr Kitching won Best Lancashire Cheese in the Royal Lancashire Show in 2001, and he was awarded Lancashire Life’s Food Hero of the Year 2010.
Mr Kitching even inspired former Coronation Street actor Sean Wilson to set up his own cheese business after the star approached him to hire floor space.
Mr Kitchen survived Hodgkin’s lymphoma when he was 11.
After a regular check up at Christies Hospital three years ago, he was diagnosed with thymic cancer, and after an operation to remove the tumour, he went into remission last February.
However, in June 2012 he began to deteriorate once more.
His funeral takes place at 4pm today at Our Lady and St Michael, Alston Lane, Longridge.