THERE were three things that Brian Wilson held dear: the New Forest, his ponies and his wife – and according to his widow Angie, it was in that order.
She said of the former president of the New Forest Pony and Cattle Breeding Society, who has died at the age of 72: “He was a true commoner, he absolutely lived for the Forest, and everything else came second, including me.
“In our married life we only ever went abroad once and that was for three days to Holland to look at some ponies.
“He would say to me, ‘Why do I want to go abroad, everything I want is here’.”
Brian was born in the New Forest and moved to Linford, near Ringwood, to live on Linbank Farm with his grandparents Cecil and Mary Golding when he was just a toddler. They were commoners and from an early age Brian helped with the animals, especially the ponies.
Angie (70) said: “He could ride from when he was about four. He went on to become a famous breeder of bakeburn ponies and won numerous awards for his mare Cindy. She was a real champion.
“We went all over the country showing her. After she died Brian gained Clover who was a driving pony. Despite being ill he continued to drive her.”
A lifelong member of the New Forest Commoners Defence Association Brian, met Angie when they were children. She laughed: “I rolled down the hill! I only lived up the road and we were friends from an early age.
“We used to ride ponies and hunt together. We both married in our twenties, then a few years later found ourselves both divorced, got together and set up home.
“His grandmother didn’t like us living in sin so eventually Brian proposed. I told him I would only marry him if it was on Friday the 13th. But when he went to book the register office he found that to get married on that date cost £6 more so he moved it February 21st!
“We were together 46 years. Our lives were very much part of the Forest community. The ponies, cattle and pigs were our family. Brian was very involved in Forest management and was on a lot of committees.
“He liked things done the proper way, he was very black-and-white and could be quite blunt. But that’s what a lot of people liked about him.”
For many years Brian was a show judge in pony classes and went all round the country in the role. He also competed in equestrian events including the Royal Show at Windsor where he displayed his skills in front of the Queen.
Angie said: “He was never happier than judging a row of ponies, having to pick out perfection. He also made thousands of friends through being a judge.”
Brian was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease around five years ago which Angie thinks he may have contracted from working with pig meal as a teenager, as well as hay when looking after ponies.
She said: “He became very breathless. He was very upset because, as the disease progressed, he couldn’t do half as much as he wanted.
“He had been such a fit, active man all his life but in recent times he had to carry an oxygen tank around with him.
“The worst thing for him was when he had to give up riding Clover, he was heartbroken. To have driven and ridden ponies all your life and suddenly have that taken away was just awful for him. But he coped.”
Brian also used a pimped-up off-road mobility scooter, made to look like a motorbike, to roam around the Forest and check on his animals.
He also employed it to help Angie work on their farm. She said: “His legs had become very weak so he had to use a Zimmer frame, but we managed to get him on the scooter and he would be out in the yard telling me how to do it and when.
“Brian would carry buckets of water around on his scooter and pile it up with nets of hay – it’s amazing how many you can get on one!”
In April this year Brian went in to hospital where he contracted sepsis. He got over that but last month he fell over and was rushed back in but died two days later.
Since his death Angie has been overwhelmed by condolence messages from people. She said: “For 10 years he drove a mini-bus part-time for Moyles Court School and a lot of pupils have posted on Facebook how much they loved him. He treated them like his own.”
Brian’s funeral will be held at Ringwood Parish Church today (Friday) at 11am. Angie said: “He is being carried in to Tina Turner’s Simply the Best and out to Another One Bites the Dust.
“He would have found that hilarious. Everyone who knew him is welcome to the service and we are holding a wake at The London Tavern in Linford. Everyone is to wear bright clothes and there are no flowers.”
Brian’s ashes will be scattered in his beloved New Forest.
Angie says she will continue with the farm, saying: “We’ve had to be strong over the years and I will continue looking after all the animals that Brian loved so much.”