Sir John Higgs had a distinguished and varied career. His father was an industrialist, part-time farmer and Member of Parliament, but Sir John followed in the footsteps of his uncle, Clyde Higgs, a successful modernising farmer of the 1930s and 40s. Sir John read agriculture at Cambridge and then lectured in agriculture at Reading University between 1948 and 1957.
While at Reading, he founded the Museum of English Rural Life. He moved to Oxford as a lecturer in agricultural history which led to him becoming a Fellow and Bursar of Exeter College. His work resulted in his election as President of the British Agricultural History Society and as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.
Through his interest in theatre, he was also Curator of the Oxford Playhouse. Rather than staying in Oxford to become a head of college, Sir John chose an international path and began a new career in the promotion of rural development in the Third World. He had already worked for the Food and Agriculture Organisation as a consultant when he joined the Organisation fulltime in Rome in charge of agricultural education and training where he stayed for 5 years. His intention was to continue working for FAO but as a consultant, giving him time to write and spend more time on his two farms.
It was during this time that he set up the Arkleton Trust with the help of his brother David and his close friend David Moore. This was looking like a good culmination to his career, but he was then appointed to The Prince’s Council in 1979 and, in 1981, became Secretary and Keeper of the Records of the Duchy of Cornwall. This latter post drew on his vast knowledge and experience as a manager and administrator, as a landowner and farmer, and as an academic and practitioner in agriculture and rural development. He was knighted in 1986 shortly before his death at the age of 62.
Keith Abercrombie was a Trustee from 1980 until 1990, when he became Honorary President, a position he held until his death in 1995. In addition to serving as Trustee, he participated actively in Arkleton programme activities, chairing seminars and producing several reports and papers. Between 1952 and 1980 he had a distinguished career in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, including as Director of the FAO/ECLA Joint Agriculture Division in Santiago Chile, and finally as Deputy Director of the Policy Analysis Division in Rome. Subsequently he acted as a consultant to FAO as well as to Shell and BP.
David Moore was the first Programme Director (1977-1980) of the Trust, having participated actively, over a period of several years, in its conception and taken a leave of absence from the Food and Agriculture Organization to assist in launching it.
He was also the first Secretary to the Trustees, a position he held until his death, at the age of 41, in 1983.
In FAO from 1970 to 1978, he held various positions in the Freedom from Hunger Campaign; on his return in 1980 he was appointed as the first head of the secretariat for World Food Day. Earlier in his career he had been Deputy Education Officer with Oxfam and Joint Secretary of the UK United Nations Association, International Service.
An assortment of other eminent people who shared the concerns of John Higgs with problems of rural development and education were involved over several years in the formulating of the idea behind The Trust.
Lady Higgs became a Trustee of The Trust following her husband’s death in 1986, taking over the Chairmanship after the AGM in 1986. She was a trustee until 2011 but continues as the President of the Trust
Elizabeth Higgs has as her principal interests all aspects of rural life and was very actively involved in many organisations. She is currently President of Oxfordshire Rural Community Council, previously she was chairman. She was a district councillor, a lay chairman of the Oxford Diocesan Synod and on the Bishop’s Council – Parsonages Board and the Chairman of the Glebe Committee. Other committees she was a member of include the Rural Stress Information Network Committee, the village low cost housing scheme, the Young Farmer’s Club advisory committee. She was a Governor at the local comprehensive school and is Master of basset hounds. In 2005 Lady Higgs was awarded the Diocesan order of St. Frideswide.
It is with great sadness that the Trustees announce that Lady Elizabeth Higgs died on July 12, 2013. She said of her life -
"It has been a good, interesting and varied and through it all I have met many people all of whom have been thoughtful and kind and whose friendships I have enjoyed enormously...I have been blessed with a supportive family who I have loved dearly and from whom I have had such care."