ONE of the leading pioneers of the turkey industry, Raymond Twiddle, has died aged 87, following a three-year battle with cancer.

Raymond's interest in poultry started when he kept hens as a child living at his parent's home in Kilham East Riding.

These early endeavours led him to found Twydale Turkeys in 1956, which expanded into a hugely successful business over 40 years, selling more than ten million turkeys a year to all the key supermarkets.

He played a major role in the turkey industry as the chairman of the British Turkey Federation from 1974 to 1991. He also had a leading role within the poultry industry in both the UK and Europe and was honoured with an OBE in 1996 in recognition of his service.

He farmed 1,000 acres at his home at Knapton Hall Estate, near Malton, where he established a renowned flock of pedigree Suffolk sheep in 1972. He exhibited at the Great Yorkshire, as well as at the Royal and Highland Shows and had champions at them all.

He started a pedigree Texel flock in 1986, and although he sold the pedigree sheep in 1996, he consistently had top price for cross breeds at Malton market. He was also a well-respected sheep judge, particularly of Suffolk sheep, across the country and in Europe.

Raymond was involved with the Yorkshire Agricultural Society as a council member and trustee and enjoyed his role as chairman of the charity’s commercial arm, which runs events, conferences, weddings and exhibitions.

He was known for his razor-sharp mind, steely determination and passion for both business and people, which meant the income from the facilities at the Great Yorkshire Showground grew from £40,000 to £6m during his tenure.

In 2009, Raymond was the second winner of the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institute and Yorkshire Agricultural Society Life-Time Achievement Award.

He will be remembered for his unique ability to be as comfortable in a sheep pen at a market and on a factory floor as he was in a boardroom or at the highest levels of government.

He is survived by Enid, his wife of 58 years, and by his children David and Elizabeth and five grandchildren.