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Tributes to Maurice – a ‘legend’ of local business

Tributes have been paid to forward-thinking businessman, the former managing director of Mortimers seed and grain merchants, Maurice Robson who has died at the age of 78.

Described by many as a legend within the grain trade, his passion and commitment helped to build Mortimers into the successful business it is today.

Born and bred in Kilnwick, Maurice’s association with Mortimers began as a 16-year-old in 1960.

Fresh from leaving school on the Friday afternoon, he walked to the offices and warehouse, which at that time was based on Riverhead, to enquire about a job, and began work the next Monday morning as a tea boy.

He quickly built up his knowledge and skills in grain trading and at the age of just 35, he became managing director of Mortimers in 1979.

In 1995, Maurice, Simon Minns and Christopher Atkin completed a management buyout and steadily grew the business and in 2000, Mortimers went on to purchase their own lorries for the first time.

Showing his business foresight, in 2010, he formed a joint venture with David H Cox of Knaresborough called Yorkshire Grain, to give more scale to both businesses.

His last big achievement and his swansong, was the move of the business from Riverhead to a new purpose built seed processing facility with offices and grain stores at Kelleythorpe in 2014 and from this point he handed over to Simon Minns as managing director, who successfully ran the business until Simon’s retirement in June 2022.

Maurice’s daughter and director of the business, Lucy Rowley, said her dad put his heart and soul into the business and has created a wonderful legacy for generations to come.

She said: “Mortimers was dad’s life and even up until his final days, he spoke about the business and he never stopped thinking about Mortimers and his employees. Dad never stopped counting the years at Mortimers and I don’t think he ever officially retired.”

Maurice met the love of his life, his late wife Jill, at Bainton Young Farmers and the couple were married on 31 July 1970 at Cherry Burton Church, with a reception afterwards at the Highfield in Driffield. They went on to have two daughters and three grandchildren.

Lucy added: “Dad was amazing to Sally and I, whatever interests we had became his interests, something he followed through with his grandchildren.”

Throughout his career, Maurice received many accolades including receiving the RH Mountifield Award from Driffield Agricultural Society in 2012 for his outstanding contribution to local agriculture.

In 2013, Mortimers came 16th in the Yorkshire Post Fastest 50, an award for being one of the region’s fastest growing businesses.

Son-in-law and managing director of Mortimers, Stuart Rowley, said his father-in-law’s shrewd business sense and progressive vision helped to grow the business and build its reputation of fairness and integrity within the sector.

He said: “Maurice steered Mortimers as a small ship through nearly 40 years in which the industry consolidated massively and yet he managed to keep it as a thriving independent business.

Friends and colleagues within the trade have paid tribute to Maurice’s willingness to help and lend a hand.

Mark Ineson, supply chain manager at Muntons, who had worked with Maurice since 1990, said: “Nothing was ever too much trouble for Maurice and he always managed to solve a problem.

“You never fell out with him, he just coped with everything as it came and I think that willingness to jump in and help at any time is what sets Mortimers above the rest.

“He was not just a supplier, but more like a friend, and the word that everyone has used about him is legend. Everyone in the grain trade knew of him, even if they didn’t deal with him.

In his spare time, Maurice was a keen shooter and golfer, and was a Hull City and Yorkshire cricket supporter. Throughout his life he helped raise money for All Saints’ Church in Kilnwick by holding fundraising events, supported by his many friends from the farming community.

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