A FAMILIAR figure at the Great Yorkshire Show is to be the new honorary show director.

Bill Cowling, associated with the Yorkshire Agricultural Society for many years, is known to many as the show's chief cattle steward.

He will succeed Christopher Hall when his term of office ends after seven years following the 2005 show.

The event is the region's largest annual farm and country show, attracting more than 120,000 visitors over three days each July.

Mr Cowling farms at Pannal, Harrogate, and has had a strong involvement with rural life through several organisations over several decades.

"Having been involved in the work of the society for many years, I am delighted and honoured to be appointed. The reputation of the Great Yorkshire is second to none, and I am following in the footsteps of directors who have steered it astutely and with vision."

John Stoddart-Scott, chairman of the executive committee, announcing the appointment, said Mr Cowling had a "wealth of knowledge and understanding not only of the society and the show, but also of farming and rural issues which are the cornerstone of the society."

Mr Cowling began his association with the society in the Sixties when he successfully showed dairy cattle. He was then also chairman of his local show at Weeton, a post he held for two decades.

In 1978 Frank Abbey, the then chief cattle steward, asked him to help in the section with Frank Chapman and David Thompson.

He became chief steward in 1995, was elected to the YAS Council in 1989, and a year later became a member of the executive committee.

Over the last decade, as a member of the show ground committee, he has played a key role in progressing the site's £10m building programme.

His interest in supporting agriculture in the region, and promoting the farming message through schools, saw him join the grants and education committee, which he chairs.

Born and brought up in Leeds, he gained his first experience of agriculture when his father bought a small holding at Scarcroft. He then moved on to farm at Wike before establishing the family farm at Rudding House.

With his wife Caroline, two sons Guy and Tom and daughter-in-law, Karen, he farms 580 acres at Rudding House and the adjoining Hornbank Farm. Daughter Ann works in the fashion industry in London.

The farm has 150 acres of combinable crops, which are all used on the farm; 80 Holstein Friesians - Mr Cowling is a member and former chairman of the Yorkshire Holstein Breeders' Club; commercial beef cattle, finishing about 200 a year; and a flock of Continental cross ewes.

The show's lamb carcase championship won this year by Karen was a cause for celebration; she had taken the reserve ticket in 2003.

Mr Cowling's interest in livestock is deep-rooted and has stood him in good stead. In the early Sixties when the Northern Poultry Society wanted to introduce livestock classes to its annual show, he became secretary of the livestock section of what was to become the Northern Counties Livestock Society.

The involvement came full circle when the Yorkshire Agricultural Society joined forces with the NCLS to stage the successful Countryside Live event which held its second show in October at the showground. He continues to chair its livestock committee.

Away from the society, he is an active member of the National Trust's Regional Committee for Yorkshire and the North-East, and a member of the North Yorkshire Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group.

A keen interest in modern British paintings is combined with a love of antiques, classic cars and, when time allows for holidays, caravanning - frequently to visit other shows on the farming circuit