Leeds & West Yorkshire

Retiring mole catcher in Calderdale seeks apprentice

Albert Morton
Image caption Albert Morton is looking for someone to carry out the mole catching when he retires

An experienced mole catcher is looking for an apprentice willing to take up the traditional trade so he can retire.

Albert Morton, 69, from Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire, started his business in 1963 and is one of the few remaining mole catchers in the area.

Mr Morton said: "I'd much prefer to get somebody and teach them how to do it, so it carries on."

He said the mechanical spring traps he used were the most humane way of killing the moles.

Mr Morton, who works in the areas around Halifax, Sowerby Bridge and Hebden Bridge in Calderdale, said the job would suit someone who liked fresh air.

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Mole miscellany

  • Scientific name is Talpa europaea
  • An industrious digger, it can create about 65ft (20m) of tunnel in a day
  • It feeds mainly on earthworms
  • Has many dialect names including mouldywarp
  • In 1702 William III (William of Orange) died days after a fall from a horse caused by a mole hill
  • After the king's death his enemies - Jacobite supporters - would toast "the little gentleman in the black velvet waistcoat"

He said mole catching was "just one of those old country crafts and I don't want it to die out".

"If there was any suffering or cruelty I wouldn't do it."

He has more than 300 customers ranging from farmers to golf course owners.

Image caption Mr Morton said the job would suit people who like fresh air

"This year it has gone manic but now I'm getting near to my sell-by-date", he said

He started to learn the trade in the 1960s when Mr Morton's father suggested he should help the then mole catcher who was looking to pass his skills on.

Mole hills are caused as the mole, which spends most of its time underground, burrows towards the surface and can cause damage to grassed areas.

They are particularly prevalent in damp conditions as worms come to the surface and are followed by the moles looking to feed on them.

Correction 10 February: This story originally said Mr Morton was the last mole catcher in the area, which is now not believed to be the case.

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