He's 90-years-old, he’s been patrolling riverbanks for over three decades, fished with World Champion anglers, England footballers and nearly died doing his job… meet Ira Stannard, Britain’s oldest bailiff.
After 32-years working for Kings Lynn Angling Association, Ira is finally hanging up his ticket bag and retiring as one of the club’s fishery bailiffs. Over the years the Norfolk based pensioner braved all manner of conditions from hurricane winds to thick snow, patrolling miles of what is some of Britain’s most remote waterways in the Fens. “I started back in the 1980’s when the club secretary at the time, George Beer, challenged me to do a better job than the current bailiffs after I complained about them. I like to think I have now proved him right!” he told Angling Times.
Having stalked the banks of venues like the Middle Level Drain, River Great Ouse and the River Wissey for many years, Ira has met all manner of people, many of whom he became friends with. But they don’t come much bigger than international anglers and Ira met at least five of them during his time. “I have fished with or met the likes of Bob Nudd and Alan Scotthorne as well as Ian Heaps who I once came across teaching Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne how to fish the slider when he was just a lad down on the Ten Mile Bank. Prior to that I’d met Jimmy Randall a couple of times when I asked for his day-ticket money. He nicknamed me ‘the vulture’ as he could never get away with a free day’s fishing on my watch!” he joked.
However, his proudest moment didn’t come with a wad of tickets in his hand but with a rod and line. “I met the great Ivan Marks on more than one occasion but I will never forget the time I trounced him off the next peg during a festival match in Southern Ireland! He’s still my biggest hero of all time - I have never seen anyone as good since” he said.
It hasn't all been plain sailing for the 90-year-old, however, having nearly lost his life in a horrific accident while patrolling a venue in the early 1990‘s. “I’d parked up by a bridge but before I got out of the car, a sugar beet lorry ploughed into me and broke nearly all of my ribs, punctured a lung and knocked me unconscious. I was in hospital for weeks and lost some of my memory.” Incredibly, Ira returned to the scene of the accident several months after and found a prized possession. “I spotted my false teeth which I’d lost in the accident down the bank so I asked an angler who was there to retrieve them for me,” he laughed.
LIFETIME IN ANGLING
Ira started fishing when he was just aged 8 and continued to do so even when Britain went to war in 1939. “I tried to sign up to fight but wasn’t allowed as I was an agricultural worker so had to stay in Britain.
“I remember the days watching the bombers fly over my favourite venues and I even joined the Home Guard and Observer Core,” he said.
Angling became more important to him later in life, becoming secretary and member of numerous clubs and societies and having lived in Norfolk, the Fens is where Ira could always be found with a rod in his hand. “These stretches used to be far more popular than they are now, at any given time on a weekend around the 1970’s and 80’s every peg on the Middle Level was lined with anglers - they travelled miles to get here.”
Sadly like those glorious days Ira’s time as bailiff has come to an end. “It’s time to stop as the banks are getting steeper and I’m not so nimble as I once was but I will still walk the venues and I’m not going to stop fishing. I would like to thank everyone who has helped me or been my friend over the years,” he said.
Kings Lynn AA secretary Ashley Brown, added: “Ira has always been friendly and helpful to all the anglers he has met. No one has ever had a bad word to say about him. To sell tickets in all weathers and nearly losing his life bailiffing for the club takes very a special person.”
Ira Stannard’s Life In Numbers
22,000 - estimated total of day-tickets sold by Ira
32 - years patrolling the banks or 4,992 days
19,968 - estimated miles walked on patrols in 32 years
1,664 - editions of Angling Times produced since Ira began as bailiff.
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