ONE OF Scotland’s most influential beef farmers of his generation, John McIntosh, died recently at home in Stranraer.

He was born at Craigie Byres in October, 1932, the son of Jessie Mair and James McIntosh, the middle one of five children. His father was a groom for the Kilpatricks’ famous Clydesdale stud at Craigie Mains, near Kilmarnock and was well known throughout the Ayrshire and Wigtownshire farming community as he led his stallion to many farms.

When John was 14, he started working at Craigie Mains where he used to bike to his work at many farms in the area for a wage of 22 shillings a week. After his father managed to secure the tenancy of a department of agriculture smallholding at Kilfillan, Glenluce, he moved to Wigtownshire in 1951 with his parents and brothers.

It was at this time, at the age of 19, he made his first venture into livestock dealing using a van to transport calves, sheep and pigs throughout Wigtownshire. It was his talent for dealing which formed the basis of his successful farming enterprise.

He married Rosemary in 1961 and together they moved into a furnished cottage at Castle of Park and two years later secured the tenancy of his first farm, Droughduil, a 70-acre smallholding near Dunragit. There he ran a small dairy and expanded his dealing business.

In 1968, he rented Genoch Mains where his passion for drainage began as he set to work resurrecting the farm to its former glory from a neglected state and always stressed the importance of land drainage.

He formed Luce Bay Plant Hire to carry out this work in order to take advantage of the grants available at the time. Starting off with one digger this side of the business has since expanded over the years to become one of the major employers in the area.

In 1974, he purchased East Challoch where he moved with the family. Shortly after this, in 1976, Drumflower and, later, Old Hall were added. The farming enterprise expanded greatly during this time as did the cattle dealing business with large numbers of cattle passing through his hands. In 1998, they moved to Auchneel from East Challoch, where they spent the next 14 years before moving to their current house in Stranraer in 2012.

Famous for leading the fight when rallying against the importation of cheap Irish beef through the port of Stranraer in the late 1990s and instrumental in organising a well-supported farming rally against it, John with his wife, Rosemary, and family, had built up a considerable farming business in Wigtownshire. He would always be the first to admit he could not have achieved what he did without the help of others and was proud of the fact that so many of his employees achieved long service medals working for the family.

He was also proud of the fact that starting out with nothing, he was able to set each of his three sons up with sizeable farming enterprises which combined are one of the biggest suckler herds in the country. Nowadays the majority of the cattle are home-bred with all of their progeny finished on farm.

While more recently, cattle were sent direct to slaughter, the market was his life and he made many life-long friends with the people he dealt with. He continued to visit and support the cattle markets right up to just a few days before he passed away, indeed a visit to Stirling, for the Bull Sales, was planned for the day he died.

In later years he suffered from failing eyesight due to macular degeneration. He was always grateful that with the help of his friends and family he was able to continue doing the things he loved up until the very end. In fact, he could not have planned his final week better. He spent the Tuesday selling cast cows at the weekly prime sale at Ayr Market, on Thursday he was back at Ayr for the calf sale and on Friday friends took him to Newton Stewart calf sales.

On Saturday, son Johnny took him a run round the farms, up to Auchneel, Drumflower, Glenluce, before driving through the Genoch and on to Culmore. Always on the ball, he picked up on a ditch needing cleaned! Then, on Monday, his grandson John had lunch with him before taking him to see the men working on the farm and later he relayed his weekly report of Monday’s cattle trade to eldest son, John.

He is survived by his wife Rosemary, three sons John, Boyd and Adam, their respective spouses, Margaret, Karen and May, and seven grandchildren.

Appreciation, by John Cameron:

I had the good fortune to have John McIntosh as a colleague and fellow council member when the Scottish Beef Council – as it was then – was organising the blockade of Irish beef imports at Stranraer docks back in December, 1997 when our beef industry faced a real crisis with cheap imported beef being the main contributor.

Scottish cattle producers will never know just how much our success that night was due to Tosh. Being local, he knew everyone and, more importantly, everyone knew him! His great sense of humour manifested itself when we started the evening with a huge rally of farmers and supporters at Stranraer football ground where Tosh dryly remarked that ‘this was the biggest crowd at Stair Park of the season!’

That night we were liaising with police and the shipping agents, Stena Sealink. There were far more people turned up than anyone was ever expecting and the local police were overwhelmed, however Tosh knew the local sergeant and advised him to send for reinforcements as we knew that some of the protestors were out to make trouble after some containers of beef ended up in the water at Holyhead two days earlier!

We learned from the local Stena Sealink manager – who thankfully again Tosh knew well – that there were some road containers of beef on board and he persuaded the manager to keep them back so that we could talk to the drivers. He also persuaded the manager – after discussion with Sealink HQ at Manchester and the sergeant – that the best thing would be to take the containers back to Belfast and not risk running the gauntlet of more than 1000 angry farmers waiting outside.

This plan, of course, depended on the beef lorry drivers agreeing to go back, which all bar one did once they understood the situation. Tosh took the one who refused with the sergeant to the gate and let him see the waiting crowd. One look and the terrified driver decided that he, too, would return to Belfast!

I recognised after that night, that in Tosh we had a stalwart beef producer had on our side and I realised that here was a genuine, likeable and able man. I was privileged to have him as a friend.

A tribute by Jillian McIntosh (grand-daughter)

He was born at Craigie Mains in October ‘32,

And with Mr Kilpatrick, he had lots to do,

He worked long hours without much pay,

Yet look at the empire he’s built up today.

His first love was the motor bike,

It’s hard to think what he was like,

Around the country he used to roam,

And his mother would worry ‘til he got home.

He wed young Rosemary in 1961,

A lass from Port Logan with plenty of fun,

Though he dealt in cattle and dealt in sheep,

This was one wee heifer he wanted to keep.

Droughduil, East Challoch and also Auchneel,

Where he loved to wheel and deal,

As a businessman none could compare,

For making money, he’d a definite flair.

To many a sale he had to go,

To Ayr and Perth come rain or snow,

And sometimes he did come to grief,

Losing hearing aids, specs and even his teeth.

Sometimes to Ireland off he’d go,

To look at livestock or attend a show,

Then off he’d go just like a cannon,

To see Seamus Caulfield at Carrick on Shannon.

In Ireland once he booked a hotel,

Two adults and a child as well,

Young John came in – he was nineteen,

The oldest child they’d ever seen.

On holiday with grandkids in London City,

It seemed to them an awful pity,

He’d stroll on ahead about ten paces,

Leaving gran and the weans to deal with the cases.

With Rosemary, his sweet wee wife,

He led a good and happy life,

Three handsome sons to follow through,

Johnny, Boyd and Adam too.

Daughters-in-law Margaret, Karen and May,

Are with us too on this sad day,

Seven grandchildren – what a crowd,

Of which he was immensely proud.

Dougie was his chauffeur – he drove him near and far,

With jeeps to Carlisle or to uplift his car,

With Malcolm and Hugh his good old mates,

They all went out on various dates.

Holidays sometimes were heaven sent,

Often to clash with a drainage event,

Draining rods, tiles and pipes – what a pain,

But it made him quite happy to look down a drain.

Sometimes he liked to have a drink,

And didn’t much care what others would think,

But out of the blue from time to time,

He’d just stick to a soda and lime.

But today Grandpa Tosh, although you’re not here,

Thank you for memories we’ll keep for years,

You enjoyed your life it’s true,

So thank you just for being you.