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 Scottish Farmer:

DUNURE FOOTPRINT was arguably the most famous Clydesdale stallion of all time. Foaled in 1909, he was bred by William Dunlop, Dunure Mains, Ayr, and won many championships and was a prodigious breeder. His father, the Baron of Buchlyvie, was the subject of an acrimonious dispute between his joint owners, Mr Dunlop and James Kilpatrick, Craigie Mains, Kilmarnock – which was only resolved in court. This is also one of the few pictures showing his black foreleg in full view

But even then, the national identity of Scotland was strong. The leading papers of the time were Farmers World and the North British Agriculturalist and it was thought that Scotland should have its own paper, with a distinct identity and that the farming business north of the Border should not be labelled as ‘North British’.

This newspaper’s charter was to be 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 at Ballindalloch). 

These eminent men of agriculture produced a charter for the workings of this newspaper and they 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 – it was often alleged that the results of a Clydesdale show would be set in our offices on a Wednesday, even though the show was not until the Thursday! 

In 1893, 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. 

The Scottish Farmer:

PRINCE OF Wales was a Cheviot ram bred by John Elliot, Hindhope, Jedburgh, that sold for £100 at the Hawick tup sale to Andrew Smith, Leaston, Upper Keith. He was the breed champion at the H and AS Show, in Edinburgh, in 1899

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 winning the hackney carriage prize at the likes of the Highland Show (it was not a ‘Royal’ then). 

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 rival, the North British Agriculturalist. 

The Scottish Farmer:

ONE OF the original board members of The Scottish Farmer Publishing Co was Charles Howatson of Glenbuck, a well-known Blackface sheep breeder of his time. This was Mountain Dew, which he bred and later sold to Peter Fisher, Braes of Ardeonaig, in 1899. He was also champion at Killin Show and third at the H and AS Show, in Edinburgh

The week-to-week business of the paper was – and remains so – to report the various machinations of the industry, which it did so with some gusto. Here are some of the out-takes from those early years.

  • In 1895, there were reports that balloonists and parachutists were becoming a nuisance to farming – “They have no respect for crops or fences,” the editorial thundered. 
  • The end of the horse cometh. In 1896, students of the Glasgow Technical College travelled to Edinburgh to see first hand the demonstration of a steam plough at work on John Dobbie’s Compend Farm, at Millerhill. The plough was drawn by the Robey traction engine of 16hp and weighing a colossal 11 tonnes. 
  • Early in 1897, the Scottish National Fatstock Club was formed and John Gilmour, of Montrave, in Fife, was voted in as its first chairman. A few years later, in 1905, Sir John – as he had become – was also made president of the newly formed Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society – which aimed to ‘formulate a scheme for extending the benefits of co-operation to Scottish agriculturalists’. 
  • In 1898, though, the very existence of what the SNFC was tasked to do, ie set up a national fatstock show, was queried when it was reported that ‘there were too many agricultural shows.’ We reported on an ‘excessive’ number of shows – 307 in England; 180 in Scotland and 13 in Ireland – which ‘absorbed valuable time and energy that might better be spent on ordinary farming operations with more certainty of profit’. It was ever thus! 
  • One of the ‘big’ stories of 1899 was the fact that the West of Scotland Agricultural College was opened and kitted out throughout the year, with Professor Wright at the helm. 
  • In 1901, the East of Scotland College of Agriculture was up and running; and then, in 1904, it was the turn of the North of Scotland College to reach launch status, though The SF encouraged full use of the existing facilities and machinery owned by Aberdeen University. 
  • 1906 was a special year for the sheepdog world. It was then the first ever International sheep dog trials were held at Gullane, in East Lothian – J Hamilton, Woolfords, Lanark, and J Jeffrey, Deuchray, Haddington, acted as judges. Winner was R Sandilands, Dundas Castle, with Don, a son of old Kep. 
  • At the end of 1907, we reported on the death of the ‘foremost cattle breeder in the world’, Sir George MacPherson Grant, of Ballindalloch. He died, as he would have wanted, after winning the Angus champion at the Scottish National Fatstock Club Show, in Edinburgh. The Erica family which he made famous at Ballindalloch is still a notable force today in the breed. 
  • In 1911, the famous court case regarding ownership of the famous Clydesdale stallion, Baron of Buchlyvie, was reported – it started in the January and finished in December. The protagonists were joint owners of the horse who disputed full ownership, James Kilpatrick, Craigie Mains, Kilmarnock, and William Dunlop, Dunure Mains, Dunure. By the end of a long and bitter court feud, the judge was scathing of both parties and he ruled that any joint ownership of the horse had never come to an end.
  • That was resolved on December 16 when James Craig, of James Craig auctioneers, in Ayr, sold the horse in front of an audience of 5000, after a bidding duel between the two, to Mr Dunlop, for a record £9500 – more than three times the previous record of £3000 paid for Prince of Albion.
  • The horse’s father, Baron’s Pride, died the next year in his 23rd year and was largely held as the ‘soundest Clydesdale stallion ever foaled.’ 
  • The zenith of the early years came in 1912 when three things occurred that would shape and drive the industry throughout the next 100 year at least. They were the formation of the Board of Agriculture for Scotland, which was a ‘devolved’ issue of the day, removing some of the agricultural powers of the day from London to Scotland; the advent of the Land Court to settle disputes primarily between landlord and tenant (which appears to be going on today) and the National Insurance Act, which would act as a forerunner for the state pension scheme. 
  • It was said at the time, in 1912, that this was an important milestone in the lives of those who gave their all for farming, but it was only a portent of what was to come and prior to that phrase would be commonplace in the 1914-1918 Great War, as it became. 
  • War is always a catalyst for change in agriculture and WW1 changed the agricultural agenda beyond all recognition. While it was prior to agricultural commodities becoming a world trading phenomena in the modern sense – and thus did not do, as WW2 did, lead to ‘ploughing your way to victory’ – it did create two hugely influential shortages on the industry of horses and men. 
  • But 1914 also marked the end of the dispute over the Turra Coo, which had been poinded the previous year with regard to her owner, Robert Paterson’s failure to pay the new National Insurance premium. ‘The general affray’ caused the previous year was not proven, as were several breaches of the peace. 
  • A demonstration of powered ploughs took place on the Borders farm of WR Murray, Bettyfield. One, the £160 Wyles motor outfit, which operated a two-furrow plough, was deemed to cost 3s to 3s 6d per acre against the 2s 6d per acre for the £800 four-furrow McLaren’s steam plough. 
  • The SF’s celebrated lady columnist, Gretchen – otherwise known as Margaret Shanks, of Egremont (but with strong ties to Kilmaurs) – was in the news herself as one of the main supporters of the setting up of the Woman’s Rural Institute. The other main driving force was Mrs Catherine Blair, Hoprig Mains, Macmerry, when it was finally set up in 1917. 
  • As well as the end of the war, 1918 was notable for the death of The SF’s most ardent supporter, Sir Charles Howatson, the Laird of Glenbuck – the most celebrated breeder of Blackface sheep of the times. He was the first person to pay £100 for a ram – the Low Plewland ram, Reformer – and latterly paid a record £250 for St Columba, from HDM Barton, of The Bush, Antrim.

The Scottish Farmer:

THE BALLINDALLOCH bull, Rosador (15996), which was born in December, 1897, and bred by Sir George Macpherson Grant, a long-time supporter of The Scottish Farmer from its first issue in 1893. First prize at the H and AS Show, at Stirling, in 1900, this bull had been sold to CW Dyson Perrins, Ardross Castle, Alness


The prices in 1893:

Glasgow, Tuesday – The weekly sale of cattle form the United States at Yorkhill, saw 617 cattle ex-Manitoba and Sarmation for sale, though 56 had been lost en-route due to bad weather. Bullocks sold up to £22 and heifers to £17 15s. A total clearance was met.

Glasgow, Wednesday – MacDonald, Fraser and Co, sold 241 cattle, 1509 sheep and one pig. Best class bullocks made £23 15s; cross hoggs to 46s 6d; Blackface ewes to 33s.

Hawick, Monday – A Oliver and Son sold milk cows from £11 to £18 10s; steers from £14 to £19; heifers, £12 to £17 10s; Cheviot ewes, 24s to 33s.

Huntly, Wednesday – Prime fat quoted at 58s to 60s per cwt, beasts fit for butchers realised £15 and £18 per head; Irish calves £4-£5.

Lanark, Monday – Lawrie and Symington sold fat cattle up to 37s 3d per cwt or £16-£19 per head. Ayrshire calving cows between £15 12s 6d to £17 2s 6d.

Stonehaven, Thursday – Prime bullocks from £19 to £21 7s 6d and sheep were up to 37s 6d.

Grain fattening meal: £6 10s per ton, Glasgow General feeding grain: $5 5s per ton, Glasgow Dried grains: £4 15s per ton, Glasgow

By the year 1900, The SF was able to tally up prices for almost every kind of stock and in that year, the trade was as follows:

2578 Blackface rams sold to £130 and averaged £6 11s 11d

2746 Border Leicesters sold to £120 and averaged £7 15s 8d 1216

Cheviots sold to £61 and averaged £4 16s 7d 65

Highland bulls sold to £155 and averaged £25 17s 10d 741

Shorthorn bulls sold to £372 15s to average £29 3s 6d 795

Angus bulls sold to £378 to average £23 14s 9d

Growing fields of potatoes were sold to £39 per acre for Puritans, at Balchriston Farm

Wheat with a bushel weight of 63lbs made 24s at Forfar

Swan and Sons, Edinburgh, sold polled fat bullocks for between £11 and £15 5s in mid-June

In our first issue:​

Our front page adverts included notices for a stock sale of A-A cattle in Perth held by MacDonald, Fraser and Co and the sale of stock from Sandysike Farm, Walton, near Brampton, including 24 pedigree Galloway cows.

Kerr’s Choice Seed Potatoes was another advert in the first issue – the forerunner of Kerr’s Pink.

The Ballindalloch herd of AberdeenAngus – the oldest now in existence – announced a sale through MacDonald, Fraser and Co of its consignment of 12 bulls for sale in Perth, with five of them bred from the famous Erica family.

The book, ‘A history of the Ballindalloch herd’, was also advertised for one shilling.

Farms to let included Chapel, in the Parish of Dunscore (100 acres); Lincluden Estate’s Nethertown Farm, Irongray (310 acres); Wedderhill, Feteresso (170 acres); Lauderdale Estates’ Inchkeith Farm (284 acres); East Barr, in the Parish of Mochrum, being let by Monreith Estates (189 acres).

Adverts were also placed for Kemp and Nicholson turnip cutting carts; the Oliver chilled plow, by John Wallace and Sons, Glasgow; plus various types of dairy equipment for making butter and cream.

Kilmarnock Farmers Society announced its centenary celebrations would included a special two-day show in mid-April and the Glasgow Agricultural Society gave notice of its annual stallion show of ‘Clydesdales, Roadsters and Ponies’ would be held on March 10.

The Household:

‘She looketh well to the ways of her household and eateth not the bread of idleness’ – The SF, Jan 7, 1893

Every new departure and every fresh beginning has, or ought to have, a preface, and the words of the Great Preacher have been chosen as appropriate for our domestic economy column.

Not that there is any intention of sermonising upon them, but that every good and true housewife may adopt them for her motto and in a strength greater than her own go forth to meet the daily chores and trials incident to her sphere and, while encountering difficulties more real than she often gets credit for, win for herself the high commendation – “She hath done what she could.”

That the papers on domestic economy which will appear from week to week in the pages of The Scottish Farmer may afford some useful wrinkles to young housekeepers is the earnest desire of its promoters and to this end various topics relating to the household will be specially treated of, and, with the permission of our courteous Editor, question s from perplexed ones will be replied to as far as possible.

Housework as an exercise

To keep the complexion and spirits good, to preserve grace, strength and agility of motion, there is no gymnasium so valuable, no exercise more beneficent in result, than sweeping, dusting, making beds, washing dishes and the polishing for brass and silver.

One year of such muscular exercise within doors, together with regular exercise in open air, will do more for a woman’s complexion than all the lotions and pomades that were ever invented.

The Scottish Farmer:

ONE OF the best-known supporters of The Scottish Farmer was Sir George Macpherson Grant, of Ballindalloch, and this was his famous A-A herd’s advert in the 1902 annual of The SF