Rodney shines after 50 years measuring rainfall

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A farmer has been honoured for nearly half a century’s service measuring rainfall for the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa).

Rodney Thomson, from Haddington in East Lothian, has been volunteering as a rainfall observer for Sepa since 1963, when his father became involved. He took over as the observer for his area in 1988.

Earlier this week, the 78-year-old was among 14 other volunteers from across Scotland to be honoured for their efforts during a ceremony at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow.

The family farm in the Samuelston area of Haddington has been Rodney’s home all his life. He was married for 39 years, until his wife passed away in 2008.

He said: “We met when she was working in Haddington, where her father had a shop. We met and then we just got married.”

Rodney’s son is also a farmer, though he said he didn’t share his enthusiasm for meteorology. “I can’t get him into it, which is very disturbing,” he joked.

Away from the farm, Rodney spent his spare time in his younger years playing rugby and cricket, and dabbled in motorsports, but had to give up the hobbies to safeguard his livelihood.

He said: “It was very exciting, but also a very dangerous and expensive hobby. I had to give up the rugby and cricket though, due to injuries, and to focus on the farm.”

Sepa observers measure the rainfall each day and report the data each month, providing the Met Office with valuable information.

“I’m very interested in the weather and in the rain,” said Rodney. “It affects us in so many ways and it’s completely unpredictable, there is no pattern to it.

“It’s so important for farming – one year it can be pouring it down all summer and the next you could have a drought.

“This year we’ve had an awful harvest because it’s been too wet to sow – and the slugs have been happy, eating all our crops.”

But he said tough times lay ahead in the winter.

“It’s most difficult in the snow,” said Rodney.

“You have to take all the equipment inside and make sure you melt all the snow off the instruments so that they can work again.”

James Curran, the chief executive of Sepa, said the work of Rodney and his fellow observers was absolutely crucial.

He said: “The voluntary rainfall observers provide an invaluable service and it is important we recognise their outstanding commitment and dedication.”

After picking up the award, Rodney said: “I was very surprised to get it. It was the first time they’ve ever given us anything, really, but it was very nice to receive it.

“It’s so important that we know what’s going on with the weather, and they really depend on our work for their data.”