Born in Pilton, where he still lives, he is the first child of five from a farming family who has been at Worthy Farm for over a hundred years. He completed his education at the Thames Nautical Training College—HMS Worcester. This gave him the necessary qualifications to join the Union-Castle Shipping Co. as a trainee deck officer. He travelled the world for a couple of years before coming home to help with the farm.
He was always crazy on Pop music from the Bill Haley- Elvis days, and when smuggling a transistor under his pillow at boarding school, he was chastised and beaten for listening to the top 20 on Radio Luxemburg late into the night.
In the late sixties a new phenomena of outdoor music festivals began to catch on, and a casual visit to the Bath Blues festival with his girlfriend persuaded him to have a go himself in 1970.
At the beginning, the festival didn’t make a profit but after eleven years it did, so it had to look for good causes to support in the UK and around the world. Nowadays the festival aims at raising two million pounds for all sorts of ways to make the quality of life better than it is, at present, for millions of people.
I was the eldest of five siblings. There were four boys and one girl and I do think the firstborn gets a slight advantage, as it's great fun being the first baby in the family. The next brother down from me, Patrick, had all the brains. He went to university while my parents sent me off to sea. I went to training college (HMS Worcester) aged 15, then off to sea with the Union-Castle Shipping Company at 17.
My mother thought going to sea would be good for me but I don't think she imagined what I would witness. We used to transport all sorts of stuff back from far-flung places – including bringing elephants back to London Zoo – and I'll never forget the time we docked in Mombasa. The chief officer came up to me and said, "Eavis, we haven't got any crew, go and find them." I said, "Where do I go?" and he said, "The brothels and jails." I was only 17. So he gave me all this money and I wandered through the streets of Mombasa with a nice, fairly smart uniform on. A little girl came up to me and flighted her dress up at me and asked, "Would I lie with her." I don't know how old she was, probably about 13, so I said, "Thanks very much for the offer, but no thank you. But can you tell me where you would lie?" which of course was the brothel. So she took me into the brothel. They were all in there and I hauled them out.
When I was 19, my father died of stomach cancer and I had to come home and run the farm. The farm had always been a love of mine. The bank manager said, "Look, are you going to get stuck in because otherwise we'll sell the farm." I said, "No, you can't do that. I'll get stuck in and see what I can do." And the rest is history, isn't it?