FARMING families are one of the great things in Scottish agriculture. Where generations follow on from each other, working together and generally being involved in the industry.

One family that can be described as just that, are the Guthrie family of West Mosside, Kirklandside, near Kilmarnock.

Only describable as the matriarch of the family, is Nancy Guthrie. Now in her eighties, and fresh from celebrating her Diamond Wedding Anniversary, Nancy has been in farming her whole life. She has combined her busy life on the farm with bringing up her close family, alongside husband Hugh, and although now 'retired', she remains as busy as ever - if not busier!

She took time out of her busy schedule to chat to The SF, and tell us what her life has been like, and how she considers the farming life to be a great life to live.

Were you brought up on a farm?

Yes. I was brought up on Rottenrow Farm, near Mauchline where my father, Jacob Templeton farmed. I went to school at Crosshands, which was a small country school, then on to Mauchline, then Kilmarnock Academy, but I never wanted to do anything other than go home and help on the farm.

I was only 20 when my father died, and I continued to help my brother Bob at home after that.

How did you end up at West Mosside?

I met my husband Hugh at school. His family were cartwrights and joiners by trade and he went on to do that, but he always wanted to be a farmer.

When we got married in 1958, we got West Mosside Farm at Kirklandside near Kilmarnock and we’ve never really looked back.

In those days you knew that if you worked hard towards it, you would make a go of farm. Things are so different now, you can spend all day and night working and still get nowhere fast. Youngsters are finding it so much harder to get a start.

We moved out of the farm 23 years ago but we’re lucky to still be allowed to be involved in things – not the hard grind though!

Were you always involved in the farming side of things?

Oh yes, very. I always loved working with cattle. My father was a keen Ayrshire breeder and those were different days, he sold Ayrshire bulls and showed cattle at all the shows, generally with a fair bit of success.

We started with three cows at Mosside, bought in from a neighbouring farmer, and we already had a milk run, which we kept until pasteurisation came in.

I was never one for staying in the house will my husband worked outside, I always loved being out and getting my hands dirty.

What was your family-life like?

We have three a family of three. Ann who’s a vet in Surrey and our sons Mungo, who has a beef and sheep farm at Darvel and works for Lawrie and Symington, and Hugh who is in West Mosside now.

We also have eight grandchildren – six girls and two boys – and we have one great grandchild who’s two.

I love having them all and thankfully we are all very close.

Three of our grandchildren are now married, and we have just celebrated our Diamond Wedding Anniversary, which was lovely.

How did you build things up on the farm?

We started small and had the milk run that I mentioned, which Hugh and his brother Robert had before we got married – before that they had bought milk in for it – but we then bought a herd of cows from England and we got one morning and the byre was full of cows. The float driver hadn’t been able to waken us so he’d unloaded them and tied them all up himself – again changed days, rules and regulations wouldn’t allow that now.

We had one fulltime employee and two boys to help with the milk run, so we just got on with it and enjoyed it.

We were lucky as well that the kids were all happy to be involved – most of the time anyway – they were all out bottling milk whether they really liked it or not!

You build up a business for your family in a lot of ways, so when you see them carrying it on it’s very rewarding.

I would say that being brought up on a farm gives a great grounding and a lot of backbone.

What were your main jobs?

I always loved milking the cows and feeding calves, although not the morning milking, as family always came first. I also always ‘did the dishes’, as we talked about then, which involved a lot of washing, steaming and sterilising.

Things were so, so different as to how they are now.

I remember the milking machine being put in at home when I was at primary school, and my parents milking by hand before that, so I’ve certainly seen a lot of changes and developments.

Did you ever take any of your stock to shows?

Not me personally, at least not since my teenage years, but I would help with the preparation before hand. I remember being pregnant and training a show heifer, walking up and down the road with her. She eventually won the yeld stock championship at Ayr.

We showed Ayrshires at a lot of shows as well as Border Leicester sheep, and we won the breed championship at the Highland twice with the sheep.

Hugh is also very keen on his poultry, which I take nothing much to do with other than looking after the newly hatched chicks.

In 1999/2000, Hugh was the chairman of the Royal Highland Show, where he was a director for over 20 years.

During the year 2000 the Princess Royal was president of the show so we had two full days of accompanying her around the show, which was absolutely wonderful.

Were you in the Young Farmers?

Oh yes! I have been really involved in the Young Farmers for decades. I was a member of Mauchline and Hugh and the family have been members of Crossroads.

Taking part in Young Farmers has been a huge part of our lives and a really important part.

I did speechmaking and we won at the Co-operative Hall in Kilmarnock in the 1950s and that was a really big honour.

Around the same time I demonstrated the milking machine at the Glasgow Dairy Show in the Kelvin Hall, which in those days was a huge occasion in the farming calendar.

It was a great social thing, you made friends for life. I was Mauchline secretary for two years and I was given the honour of cutting the cake, along with Tom Robertson, at their 75th anniversary dinner as I’m their furthest back female secretary.

I would encourage anyone to take part in the Young Farmers, it’s a great organisation and it gets young folk out and about. It can also stop young farmers from being lonely. There are far less people working on farms nowadays, gone are the days of having a squad of workers, so it can be quite a solitary existence.

Young Farmers gets people out and seeing other people.

Are you still involved in Young Farmers these days?

I certainly try to be. I’m in The Farmers Wives choir and it is something I’m really proud to be a part of. I’ve been a member since it started, and I don’t think that anyone thought it would be where it is today.

It started as a one off and has just grown arms and legs. Kate Picken, our choirmaster, is such an unbelievable woman, she is an inspiration to everyone. We’ve been all over the country singing, most recently at the Carneigie Hall in Dunfermline for a RHET event – I never imagined doing things like that. It’s a wonderful thing.

Are you involved in any other organisations?

The rural, or The Women’s Institute as we must call it, has also been a longstanding important part of my life. In my day you joined the rural when you got married and that’s exactly what I did when the kids were wee, so I’ve been going for well over 50 years.

I’m a member of Craigie Institute – a very active institute – we actually just won a national drama competition over on Arran, so that was good fun. One of our members wrote a play and we performed it. We had a great weekend on Arran and it’s things like the rural that mean we get to go.

Over the years I’ve been secretary, chairman, president and not I’m an honorary president. I’m also a past Ayrshire Federation chairman, and I’m honorary president there too.

The rural is another wonderful organisation but it’s sadly diminishing in numbers. Not as many young folk are joining up. It’s looked upon as old fashioned but there is so much to be learned from these organisation, so much to be translated from the old to the new. We really do welcome new members.

You’ve certainly got a busy schedule, do you have time for anything else?

Thursday morning is my time to take part Riding for the Disabled, which is a fantastic group.

Horses have been a part of my life for a long, long time even though I don’t actually ride myself. Our daughter was the Scottish Junior Champion show jumper in 1975 so I’ve been involved with equestrian things since before that.

There are quite a few farmers wives involved in Riding for the Disabled, I’ve been doing it for about 25 years. Kids from the Park School in Kilmarnock come out and they just love the ponies, it makes a real difference in their lives.

I volunteer at the local hospital as well, I really enjoy helping others.

I love being involved in all of these things, I’ve never been one for staying in!

Have you ever felt like you’ve been treated differently because you’re a woman?

Being female is something I’ve never really thought about when it’s come to my farming. I certainly wouldn’t say I’ve encountered any problems because I’m not a man.

In my day, wives didn’t go out to work, they didn’t have jobs – so it really was the done things to help ours husbands on the farm.

I actually get more people saying a shouldn’t be doing certain things because I’m old, not because I’m a lady!

That’s a load of rubbish though, I’m a great believer that, if you’re fit enough to do something, then age is irrelevant. Get out and do things and enjoy yourself.

You need to live your life, not wonder ‘what if’.

What problems to you see happening in farming?

There will always be problems facing farmers, but we just have to get out and get on with it.

Young farmers have a much more difficult start these days. It’s far more difficult to get into farming, especially if you’re not born into farming. There seems to be less and less ground available, and harder and harder for young people to get hold of it.

Young folk sometimes just can’t compete with bigger, established farmers and it’s such a shame. There was nothing like that in our day.

The way things are going just now, you just wouldn’t know what was going to happen in the future.

Do you have a final message?

Not really. In a lot of ways I really don’t feel like I’ve done anything special, I’ve just lived my life and been very happy doing it.

It sometimes feels like everything’s changed in a short time but really it’s been decades, the years have just flown by!

It’s brilliant having the opportunity to live a farming life and it’s opened so many doors to me and my family and allowed me so many different experiences, and it continues to do so. I would recommend it to anyone!