A QUARTER of a century ago, in May 1986, the disaster at Russia's Chernobyl Nuclear Plant was dominating the headlines and, as Glenluce farmer's wife Elizabeth McDowall remembers it, the sky over Scotland had a distinctly ominous hue.

Mid afternoon on Sunday May 4, the menfolk of Culroy Farm – husband Eric and son Sandy – were in for a cup of tea, and the Ayrshire dairy herd were meandering up the old farm road in anticipation of the milking, and a spot of shelter from the torrential rain that had plagued the day. As it turns out, it was just as well the men weren't walking the cows in that day, because lightning struck the herd and, apparently conducted from cow to cow by the sheet of water running down the road, killed 19 of them stone dead. Elizabeth recalls that NFU Mutual paid out on the loss, but that the money wasn't really the issue, rather the sudden and heartrending destruction of so many good cows, mothers and daughters, all home-bred on the farm.