WALTER 'Wattie' Wyllie was the 1976 'Stockman of the Year' at the Royal Highland Show, and he's just as proud of the achievement now, as he was as a 23-year-old, then.

Competing as part of the Ayrshire team, Wattie and his brother Danny won the sheep pairs competition that year, and not only that, Danny took second place behind Wattie in the individual competition – the first time a pair of brothers had taken the prestigious first and second spots, while they helped make up the overall winning team as well.

"The competition was still over two days then," explained Wattie, "and I was the highest placed individual after the first day and Danny was second, even at that stage, so we knew we had a fair chance, but you still had to give it your all on the second day to be able to see it through.

"It was almost worse having the pressure of leading at the halfway stage, but luckily we knuckled down and did fine!"

The team from Ayrshire had also won the team competition in 1975 but a year of hard training and a lot of work meant that in 1976, Wattie was able to go one better himself and become the first Ayrshire winner of the coveted trophy.

Wattie said: "We trained really hard in the run up to the Royal Highland Show. We did at least one training practice every fortnight and we travelled far and wide experiencing different stock.

"We had four different trainers helping us and we all put in a lot of hard graft. It was a big commitment."

At that time, the Wyllie brothers we at the Holm, near Dalrymple in Ayrshire. Wattie now lives and works as the shepherd at the Milton of Tulliemet, near Ballinluig in Perthshire where he runs 1700 sheep – 1200 Texel cross and 500 pure Blackies. The farm also runs 150-head of Limousin cross Simmental cattle.

Having been up at 4am to gather the hill on the morning he spoke to The Scottish Farmer about his 'Stockman of the Year' win, he certainly shows no signs of slowing down.

Not only did his brother Danny do well in the competition, Wattie's brother Alistair also went on to win the individual 'Stockman of the Year' ten years later in 1986, as part of a team that Wattie himself helped train.

He said: "I helped train three Ayrshire teams that won the team event, and to see Alistair win the same cup I did a decade later, was great.

"I loved being involved in the Young Farmers in all sorts of way through the years. It's a great organisation.

"I made great friends through it, people that are still great friends today. Don't get me wrong, we were enemies a lot of the time in the stock judging ring, but we were always great pals out of it."

Such is Wattie's skill level, he is gearing up to judge the British Blue class in the 'Stockman of the Year' event at this years' Royal Highland Show, the eighth time he's been asked to judge an element of the competition.

"I'm still involved in the Young Farmers today," he explained. "I really feel like the organisation is going through a bit of a revival just now, especially in our area. The 'Stockman of the Year' is a great competition and I really hope it continues. It's great to see young folk continue to take it as seriously as we did!"

Wattie concluded: "It was a huge honour to win at the Highland Show. It was a big deal at the time and it still feels like one now. We still talk about it. It still means just as much all these years later."