WITH THE death of Jim Kay in 2014, the Blackface breed lost one of its great characters.

Born at Gass in 1925, Jim was the youngest son of Andrew Kay and Maggie-Jane Wallace.

From a family of seven, there were three girls and four boys whose childhood was steeped in country life, particularly sheep. This upbringing must have contributed to Jim and his brothers becoming stalwarts of the Blackface breed.

As a young man he enjoyed curling and Young Farmers, particularly stockjudging, and as a young couple going out dancing, Jim and Mary (soon to be his wife) were often thought of as the best-dressed couple on the floor. Jim was always immaculately turned out, whether in a sports jacket or in a dark suit with watch and chain in his waistcoat pocket.

Gass sold tups, old ewes, hoggs and ewe lambs at Newton Stewart, Lanark and Castle Douglas, frequently topping the market. Top-priced tup was Theaker sold for £26,000 in 1988 to Cuil. Old ewes topped the market at £215 in Lanark, hoggs did likewise at £380 in Castle Douglas and also ewe lambs for £132 in Castle Douglas.

Of numerous other noteworthy sales, £18,000 James Bond was sold to Glen Gatehouse in 1979, £18,000 Thatcher also sold to Glen in 1984, £19,000 sold to Glengloy in 1992 and twin lambs sold in 1957, one at £900 to Skelfhill and the other at £700 to Little Larg.

Jim's proudest purchase was Turk's Delight, bought in 1965 from Stroanfasket for £2300. His progeny left his mark on the breed, particularly on the female side. He was also particularly fond of a £5400 Grimmet he shared with Cuil in 1974.

Along with only a handful of others in Scotland, he was recognised by The Scottish Farmer as a Living Legend in 2000. He won the Connachan Salver in 2005, a great honour awarded by fellow breeders. He was also asked to judge the Highland Show in 1972.

Jim was always a great supporter of shows, particularly Straiton, where he was president and patron. His generosity and hospitality were exceptional at these events, as indeed it always was at home at Gass.

In 1950, Jim married Mary Anderson, daughter of another noted Blackface sheepbreeder from Weitshaw. Mary was a teacher at the local school but was also a great enthusiast of the Blackface breed and kept the now legendary scrapbooks which are a real history of the breed.

They had two of a family, Elizabeth, now at Corsebank, and Andrew at home at Gass. Andrew has two young sons as equally dedicated to Blackfaces.

Jim Kay will always be remembered for his prowess as a master stockman, but also for his great interest in people. He and Mary would know the pedigrees of the breeders just as well as the pedigrees of the sheep.

But it was Jim's devilish sense of humour, sometimes more than a little risque, which ensures that Jim Kay will always be remembered with a smile - and who could ever forget that smouldering cigarette, delicately balanced on his lips, that always lasted just as long as it took to sell Gass tups!