In a rare interview the man responsible for the public face of UK agriculture (with special responsibilities to children) admits he’s flummoxed. Old Macdonald has been forced to modernise the song that made him and his eponymous farm famous.
“And on that farm he had some er…wind?” he sings, experimentally. “On that farm he had some turbines…?””With a whoosh-whoosh here, a whoosh-whoosh there….oh dear, it’s not right, is it?”
He jots, furiously. Wind is the least of his worries. He is also under pressure from educational reformers to replace the line “E I E I O” with the more literal “A F A R M”. “They’ve got a point,” admits Macdonald. ” But I’m still grappling with the noise problem.”
As if on cue, the peace is shattered by a cacophony of dogs, ducks, sheep and cows, as tea tray in hand, Mrs Macdonald opens the door to his famously soundproofed farmhouse. “It’s that ‘everywhere-a-quack-quack’ line that I’ve always regretted,” admits Macdonald. “Really catchy, but the rules of good husbandry mean animals should be kept separate. The dogs harass the sheep, and the cows crush the ducks. In a way modernisation, with less emphasis on animal farming, will mean less noise and chaos, but then it’s a real challenge lyrics-wise. ‘And on that farm he had some barley…’ I mean what noise can you have for barley? Everything’s just going to be whooshes, unless I can think of something. Maybe a subsidy will help me sort it out…”