THE founder of the Great Dorset Steam Fair has died.

Michael Oliver MBE, 75, passed away on Sunday after 10 days of treatment for respiratory problems in Dorset County Hospital, Dorchester.

The dairy farmer’s boyhood love of the Somerset and Dorset Railway lay behind his vision for the steam fair. Last year’s 41st annual event attracted 200,000 visitors. Son Martin Oliver, who followed Mr Oliver to the helm of the fair, said his father had brought happiness to tens of thousands of people.

He said: “For the steam fair and vintage vehicle movement, he was a pioneer.

“He was a massive figure on that circuit, in this country and around the world. “He was the Great Dorset Steam Fair – a legend.

“Dad was one of those people who would do the extraordinary.

“He would do things that other people wouldn’t even attempt.

“He wasn’t one to conform to legislation.

“In these days of health and safety we do things by the book, and rightly so.

“But dad did things in the right era for him.”

The Great Dorset Steam Fair started in 1969 on fields near Stourpaine, and moved to its current 600-acre site near Tarrant Hinton in 1998.

It has increased in popularity each year, and is now considered to be the biggest of its kind in Europe.

Brian Moore, who organises the GDSF Young Heroes Award, fondly recalled the start of the pair’s 40-year friendship.

He said: “I was working in Diffeys in Child Okeford.

“Mike came in, and he was so loud we got talking!

“He said, ‘You should come and live here – we’d get on.’ “That was Mike. A year later, I did.”

Mr Oliver is survived by his wife, Jean, his children, Martin and Sarah, and four grandchildren.

His funeral will be held at the church in Child Okeford, where the family’s history can be traced back over 1,000 thousand years, said Martin.

“We’ll send him off with a bang,” he added.