Mark Purdey

At school, Mark Purdey was my mate Piers' older brother Julian's mate. He was a billiant scientist and a great musician, but dropped out to live on a hippy farm in Ireleand instead of going to uni. Later, having reputedly sold two priceless duelling pistols made by the family firm, he bought a farm in the west country and begain to farm it organically.

When the government tried to eradicate warble fly with compulsory applications of organophosphates Mark refused on the basis that he already had a perfectly good organic treatment for warble fly and anyway the doses they were demanding were excessive.

He sued the goverment - before they could fine him - and won.

His cows never did get BSE, but his neighbours cows (who HAD been treated with OPs) all did, as did a herd he bought in which had also been treated. Natrually he smelled a rat.

Mark died on the 12th of November 2006.


His website is

Please listen to him here

This is his book - Animal Pharm

And here is my song on soundcloud


Picture, if you will, a farm, there, on a hill

Sun runs in like honey, sunset trims the trees

Cows all gather round, turn their faces to a sound

A saxophone is blowing down the breeze 

And who’d have said said instrument would be the one to choose

To make your milk yield healthy, and dispel those bovine blues

But Mark would only pause and smile and breathe a few more bars

That’s just the kind of man he was


That’s just the kind of man he was


Picture now, again, that same farm - but in the rain

Cows all slip and slither, as some madness takes control

The experts all agree it’s down to poison in their feed

But Mark has evidence that can’t be so

Cos this organic hippy farmer is a biochemist too

Who knows the harm organophosphate pesticides can do

And though taking on the multinationals might not seem so wise

That’s just the kind of man he was


That’s just the kind of man he was


The picture now turns grim, as they try to stifle him

With dirty tricks and ridicule, they muddle and obscure

Denied official funds, Mark’s still sticking to his guns

Organophosphates always were a bad idea

Used for killing people, in the Gulf and World War II

Through BSE to CJD, Mark proves that they still do

And many modern maladies he pins to this root cause

That’s just the kind of man he was


That’s just the kind of man he was


Picture - as we must, ashes to ashes, dust to dust

A willow coffin decked in autumn colours carried by

Such irony to know, it was a tumour laid him low

I only wish that I’d been there to say good-bye

His battle may be over, but the struggle must endure

Till poisoning the land for cash is banned for ever more

Then surely a lone saxophone will echo down the breeze?

That’s just the kind of man he was


That’s just the kind of man we need


(with sepcial thanks to the late Mark Longster for the change in the very last line)


Piers and I had anothe best mate at school; Roger Crowden, and his elder brother, James, wrote this lovely poem, which advised me about the willow coffin.


Nettlecombe - The Funeral - A poem by James Crowden

Wet the hills, wet the roads,

Wet the beech, wet the mist

Rolling in off the moor,

Swollen streams bursting at the seams

Orange red the leaves, scudding,

Tree trunks grey and green with moss

Like elephant legs,

Thorn bowed down by a century of wind,

The gathering at the church,

A coffin of willow, dressed in autumn colours

Had drawn us there, infectious enthusiasm

That had somehow come to the end of its mechanism

His unruly spring unwound, while the real clock

At the back of the church

Could be heard ticking away the years,

The heady mixture

Of anecdote and sadness Like a tree felled

Cut down in his prime

Ideas forever branching out

From the barn, theories unfurled,

Gaining energy and pace.

Till they can fly

The whole of life's

Hypothesis to be tested

To the limit, and beyond

No doubt he's at it now

Playing sax to Holy Cows.


And after I started singing my song for Mark, another close friend of Marks' from school (and Ireland and later) Nick Malicka sent me his... (Nick wrote 'Not the Whisky Talking' - which Martin Simpson recorded on True, Dare or Promise)


You Gentle Man

You were a pilgrim of the earth, hallowed were the paths you trod.

Irish forests, Irish fields, from Glengarriff to Kenmare.

Sacred were your cherished cows; Nature cupped you in her hand,

Nourished you who nourished her, sent you rain and fruitful land.

Cease to strive you gentle man, Cease to strive.


When you blew your saxophone, when you whispered with your flute,

Celtic spirits filled the air, holy was the harmony.

Anchored was your life in truth; you navigated through the lies.

As a standing stone endures, you did not yield to compromise.

Cease to strive you gentle man, Cease to strive.


Farmer, husband, father, friend, your beloved bear your seed,

Planted in their growing minds, rooted in their loving hearts.

Fragile are the threads of life, delicate the cloth we weave,

But the colours shall not fade, from the tapestry you leave.

Shine on you gentle man, Shine on.