Former BPA chair Robert Overend dies following long illness

Tributes have been paid to Robert Overend, a former NPA board member and former chairman of the British Pig Association, who died on Sunday after a long illness at the age of 86.

Robert bred pedigree pigs for more than 60 years and owned Deerpark Pedigree Pigs, in Northern Ireland. He continued to work in the business in partnership with his sons Robert and Nigel, and his grandsons, in recent years.

The business has exported pigs all over the world, including to China, Nigeria and Ukraine, and has one the largest herds in the UK of Landrace and Large Whites, as well Duroc, Pietrain, Hamsphire Berkshire and Gloucester Old Spot herds.

In 1985, the family opened the first privately-owned Artificial Insemination Centre in Ireland and now export boar semen all over the world. The company was chosen by the BPA and the Rare Breeds Survival Trust as the Centre to freeze pig semen for their Conservation Programme.

Robert chaired the Ulster Pork and Bacon Forum and, a deputy Grand Master of the Orange Order, he was also a significant figure in Northen Ireland politics.

He was a member of the inaugural NPA Board in the late-1990s representing BPA, which he chaired at the time.

Cheerful, dry wit

Former NPA chairman Stewart Houston said: “He’ll be remembered for his cheerful, dry wit. His favourite comment when we were faced with a controversial issue was: “You English, you do like to over complicate things! Just do this.”

“Robert brought years of business experience and Irish ‘canniness’ to the Board. He struck the right balance between commercial and pedigree forward thinking. He set up what I think was the first AI stud for pedigree pigs which he ran alongside his commercial business.

“He rarely missed a meeting and was a great sounding board for me when handling business between board meetings. He never phoned up with a problem, always a solution.

“I’m sorry he has passed away after a long illness and there’s a lesson for us, because we a really bad at keeping in touch with past friends as we move on.”

Great servant

Current BPA chairman Guy Kiddy said: “Robert was a great servant to the BPA as chairman, council member and an ambassador to the association overseas.

“On the British stand overseas he would talk to all visitors putting them at ease and making them feel instantly welcome at the same time. He bought common sense to council meetings which he continued to attend after he stepped down as chairman in his capacity as Landrace breed representative.

“From a personal point of view, he was always there to give help and sound advice and will be greatly missed.”

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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.