In a time of war and anxiety, the recent article in The Scottish Farmer 'Fanks for the memories' and the beautiful photos taken by drone of historic fanks in the Western Isles, sparked a flood of nostalgia with me.

Since my early days as honorary gate holder, I have spent a large part of my life in fanks, or faulds as they are known in the Borders. The faulds of my boyhood at Rawburn were well made by local fencers and sheep flowed well through them.

There wasn’t much that my father didn’t know about sheep and their behaviour and this was transmitted into the design of the faulds.

After the 'Depression' and the Second World War many farms were very run down. Government grants to kickstart production were eagerly accepted by my father and he invested heavily in housing, roads, mains electricity and fencing, including the faulds.

We had five shepherds on the farm, so labour saving wasn’t so much in his thoughts as it would be today.

In 1958, my father bought another farm near-bye. The farm had had nothing spent on it and everything was semi derelict. Every paling in the faulds had stobs about a foot apart and every one was rotten at ground level.

On one occasion we had shed a heft of ewes from their lambs when the fence between them collapsed. After cobbling up the fence we had to start again.

The concrete in the catching pen had been badly laid by farm labour using river gravel. It was uneven and breaking up so that if the sheep entered the pens clean, they left covered in mud.

My father soon replaced them and the other set of faulds on the farm so that, apart from replacing wood as it deteriorated, they are still largely unchanged some six decades later.

When I took over Kettleshiel Farm, the faulds were sturdy but little thought had been given to sheep flow. A dyke ran up one side of them and a shepherd had to stand outside to push back sheep which climbed up it and would have escaped.

A simple rail on the inside, which took a few hours to erect stopped that. It was such a simple solution and I often wondered how the previous farmer hadn’t thought about it.

When we moved to Roxburgh Mains in 1993, the faulds hadn’t been used as the previous tenant didn’t keep sheep. He had been in the farm for 26 years, so they were older than that.

They consisted of pens with neither pattern nor shedder. The dipper was beside a stream and leaked badly. The catching pens were cobbled rather than concreted, so the sheep invariably left covered in mud. Compared to others I had been used to, working in these faulds was an ordeal.

When I took over running Rawburn from my father, the faulds were more than 25 years old and the woodwork was deteriorating and had to be replaced. I tried to incorporate little improvements which I had seen on the other farms and also in New Zealand, where flocks were larger and labour scarcer.

We put in long pens at exactly the width a man could span with his knees to stop sheep getting past him when dosing, or vaccinating. The pens had a cable above them to hang the drench bottle to prevent its contents spilling when the operator bent over, as it sometimes did when the bottle was on his back.

I tried different gate fastenings – admittedly without much success – which would make it easier to open a gate with one hand when holding a sheep with the other. Some of these things are standard today, but weren’t at that time.

Eventually, when I could afford it, I erected a new set of faulds at Roxburgh Mains from scratch. Somewhat reluctantly, we made them of steel.

On a cold day, wood had a comfort factor when shedding, holding gates or just resting your hand on the paling, but galvanised steel was longer lasting and the most up to date developments, such as the bugle system, required steel.

We picked a bit of level ground for the new faulds, or at least we thought we had. When it was properly surveyed, one end was four feet higher that the other, so a digger was required. The pens were linked to an existing shed, which was handy for tasks requiring shelter from the elements, such as shearing and scanning.

Much of the steelwork, such as the shedder and semi-circular forcing pen – which was a recent development then – were bought 'off the shelf'. The central pens were bespoke to my own specification based on a lifetime’s experience.

The exit gates in the catching pen slid, rather than swung, so now the operator could open and shut them with one hand while holding a jumpy sheep with the other. The entire faulds are concreted so are easily kept clean and a foot bath was situated about 20m away from the handling area so that we wouldn’t be gassed by the smell of formalin.

Many of the things we considered when planning the design of the faulds took into account that we would be handling large, docile Texels and Suffolks with limited personnel, rather than spirited Blackies and Cheviots for which we had five shepherds and two wee boys holding gates some 70 years ago. Nevertheless, to achieve flow the same principles still applied.

The pens cost a wee bit more that the £90 for the fank at Burg, or the £150 for the fank at Bearnus. They certainly don’t look so good from the air. Hopefully, they will last as long.

The faulds at Roxburgh Mains cost £15,000 in 2008. Two years earlier we erected a cattle housing system for about twice that. The design wasn’t much different, apart from the additional requirement for safety. Flow, as with the sheep faulds, was the critical factor.