Retired Borders shepherdess and author Viv Billingham Parkes launched her first work of fiction recently.

Opus Anima describes the life and loves of shepherdess Vienna Maclean and her talking collies, sheep and horses. Both informative and charming, the entertaining fairy tale includes writings from the Ettrick Shepherd, James Hogg, a hero of Viv’s, and verse and excerpts from others.

But what shines most vividly throughout the book’s 400 pages is Viv’s deep love and understanding of the working Border Collie, shepherding, sheep and other animals, alongside an equal respect and joy in the Borders, its history, writers and folklore. She is especially impassioned when the book’s animal characters talk of and life through the tragedy of the foot and mouth culling in 2001.

Yarrow Valley’s Viv explained: “Living in isolation, my head filled with the antics of animals and the beauteous scenery around me

“After writing five autobiographical works I decided to try my hand at fiction. I confess to finding this difficult after not having a very good education due to the fact I couldn't wait to grow up and become a shepherdess!

“At the age of four I wandered into a sheepdog trial by accident and was so enthralled by tall shepherds, their Border collies at their heels, crook in hand I made up my mind there and then this is what I wanted to do.

“The most useful thing I learned in school was to whistle with my fingers. Ironically I was severely punished for this by my teachers. At the age of fifteen I found my first job as a hill herd and I've been working with sheep and dogs ever since.

“This latest epic took 15 years to write. In between my many other tasks outside, I would shut myself away in my wee office glued to my computer screen, propping my eyes open with matchsticks! I must have written the book's 160,000 words at least twenty times. James Hogg was/is my mentor. There are many comparisons between his lifestyle and my own. Very little has changed since he rode around the locality searching for inspiration with friend Sir Walter Scott. How the duo complimented each other. Both appear to have had a tremendous sense of humour and a deep love of their surroundings.”

Viv was last in the public eye for her three DVDs entitled The Tweedhope Trilogy (see trailers on following the lives of a litter of Border collie puppies from birth to being fully trained for work and trials at two years old.

Viv’s interest in the breeding, training and handling of Border collies has been lifelong. She competed on the TV series One Man And His Dog with her hill dog Garry in the 1980s, following their appearance at the Blair Atholl International Trial. She represented Scotland at International level in brace with Holly and Glen, and in the singles with Garry. She won the Scottish Nursery Championship in 2009 with her bitch Tweedhope Fae.

For more information and to order a copy of Opus Anima, visit

Picture credit: Fiona Limbrick


Viv Billingham Parkes at the launch of her new book, Opus Anima, at the Gordon Arms Hotel in the Yarrow Valley last week (October 20)

Viv Billingham Parkes with some of her Border Collie Tweedhope Sheepdogs

The book cover of Viv Billingham Parkes' first fictional work, Opus Anima