IT'S HARD for us to imagine now, but the times that spawned The Scottish Farmer were those marked by Victorian values, austere living and a strict Presbyterian outlook.

The newspaper's charter to cater for the most up-to-date news on livestock breeding and improvement was set in stone by several prominent agriculturalists of their day. They included Charles Howatson, of Glenbuck – the first farmer to pay more than £100 for a Blackface tup – the Rev Dr John Gillespie, a staunch supporter of the Galloway breed who became its first breed secretary; John Martin, of Auchendennan, near Glasgow, who called the meeting in 1878 which led to the formation of the Clydesdale Horse Society; and Patrick Hunter, of Waterybutts, Errol, who as well as being a prominent farmer, was also chairman of the General Accident Assurance Corporation.

But, the 'king' of them all – not least because of his regal bearing – was Campbell MacPherson Grant, Drumduan, an enthusiast of Shetland ponies and Aberdeen-Angus cattle (his brother Sir George was a highly successful breeder too at Ballindalloch).

These eminent men of agriculture chose Archibald MacNeilage, then and co-incidentally for many years after, the secretary of the Clydesdale Horse Society, as the instrument by which they applied their strict code. But, as ever with newspaper owners then and now, there was a finely walked line by what the owners wanted said and what should be said!

The SF was born into a world dominated by the horse – mainly Clydesdales – and even within the confines of the city limits of Glasgow, where this newspaper has spent most of its life so far, there were 3500 Clydesdales used in carting and carriage.

There were even 70 byres full of dairy cows within the city and the first offices of The SF, in Hope Street, were next door to the Corn Exchange where much of the dealings in agricultural produce in the West and Central of Scotland were conducted.

It was also evident that the hackney ponies which acted as the farmer's 'motor car' of the day – cars were still rare in those days – were a source of great pride and much kudos was attached to bringing out a guid hackney carriage.

The first issue was of 20-pages and 12,000 were printed. It met with a spirited readers' response, despite a lack of advertising.

That was to be a factor of the newspaper for at least five years when, by then, it had a reputation that was to sustain it through a bitter feud with its biggest rival of the times, the North British Agriculturalist.