A highly regarded and popular member of the farming community has died following a long illness.

St Martin farmer Billy Bryant passed away on Saturday, aged 78.

His funeral will be held on Monday at St Martin Church at 2.30pm, when donations will be taken in lieu of flowers for the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution and the British Heart Foundation.

Billy, also known as Bill to many, was born at Trecoose Farm, St Martin, in 1935 and attended the village primary school before furthering his education at Helston Grammar School. He later returned to help his father on Nance Farm, also in the village, to where the family had moved.

Billy bought nearby Sworne Farm in the early 1960s, adding a third farm to the family enterprise, and lived there with his wife Judith who he married in 1962.

The couple have five children – Nicholas, Timothy, Jonathan, Lucy and Fiona – and six grandchildren.

Billy balanced his family life with decades of serving the community of St Martin and the farming industry.

He was a member of Helston National Farmers Union (NFU) for 50 years, serving as its chairman in 1976 and secretary in 1977. He then became county junior vice-chairman in 1978, senior vice chairman in 1979 and county chairman in 1980.

The following year Billy was elected to the National Farmers’ Union committee and, for 11 years, regularly took the sleeper train to London after a day’s work on the farm to attend meetings.

Later he became county treasurer for Cornwall NFU, a position he held for 24 years, and was an NFU Mutual Cornwall delegate for five years.

Around this time he became president of Helston and St Keverne Young Farmers’ Club. Although never a member himself, as he was always working on the farm, he maintained an interest in the club and supporting the future generation.

Billy was a member of the Cornwall Grassland Society and president of Helston Fatstock Society in 2007.

Outside of agriculture, he was a Mullion School governor for eight years after it opened and a stalwart parish councillor for almost 50 years, serving as chairman on three occasions.

His widow Judith said: “He was very much community orientated and St Martin, and the farming community in general, was very important to him.

“He was a hard worker, but he worked for the community. He was also very fun loving and caring. He liked gaming around and playing practical jokes on people.”

Condolence cards have been flooding in to the Bryant home paying tribute to Billy, with one fellow National Farmers’ Union member writing: “He has been such a staunch supporter of farming in the county and a tremendous worker within the NFU. He certainly will be greatly missed.”

Another friend of Billy wrote: “St Martin won’t be the same without him.”