Bill Carcary was Wine Maker and Vineyard Manager at Hambledon Vineyard from 1966-1994, recruited by Major General Sir Guy Salisbury Jones, Bill himself having just left the army.
Sir Guy built a winemaker’s cottage on site at Hambledon for Bill and so Bill has been my ‘next door neighbour’ since I moved to Hambledon Vineyard in 1999. In the 1970s Bill had some students picking harvest and fell in love with Vicky Hamilton. They were married in 1973 and had two children – William and Amanda – who grew up on the vineyard, pruning and picking and tractor driving. In 1987 Vicky was diagnosed with MS. Bill remained her primary carer throughout his 80’s and it was a remarkable thing to see the tenacity and strength of this 80 odd year old man looking after his wife so fully – he even used to warm her bed with a hairdryer so it was not cold for her to get into.
When I arrived at Hambledon Vineyard, Mr. Carcary came to see me and asked me what I was going to do about the vineyard – ‘its England’s oldest vineyard you know, you have a responsibility’. That conversation and much research (some already done and some still to do) changed the life of my own family immeasurably. We have much to thank Bill Carcary for, and a little to occasionally swear at…..
Bill regularly participated in our harvests in his eighties, and was a great help. He once mended a punctured tractor tyre with a piece of wellington boot and some glue; it held up fine for the rest of harvest – there are not many of their generation left. One year he was driving the pick-up tractor with 2 tonnes of grapes and my eldest son (14 yo) on the back – Bill turned to check if the crew on the back were ready to move off and knocked the trailer elevator lever – the trailer went up and the whole lot went on the ground – son, son’s friend, crates and grapes too – nobody hurt and grapes were collected More recently, I think he took great pleasure in watching the harvest come home and making sure we were on top of matters with ripening curves and de-leafing.
Sadly, William Carcary passed away last week at the age of 91, quietly at home with his son and daughter with him. The Hambledon Vineyard team will miss his regular visits up the hill, and his gentle encouragement. I myself shall miss the tenacity that it took to nurse a vineyard from 1966-1994 and the cajoling to do more and do better. I like to think the changes we made to Hambledon Vineyard over the last 20 years were a source of pride to William Carcary. Sure, we did not get everything right, but to see the estate and the wine brand fully redeveloped, we hope was a source of much pleasure for Bill in his later years. I am financially poorer for knowing Bill Carcary, but I am richer in so many other ways. Rest in peace Bill.