The farming industry lost one of its ‘special’ characters with the recent passing of the chairman of Lanarkshire auctioneering business, Laurie and Symington, Brian Dickie, of Spango, Sanquhar, who was only 66. His long-time friend, Jim Walker, of Drumbuie, paid this tribute:

'Brian was as comfortable talking to Princess Anne as enjoying the craic with the boys in the Duke of Cambridge, his favourite watering hole beside Twickenham. Of all the tributes to Brian that I have received, one that sums him up perfectly is 'he helped everyone, whether a prince or a pauper.'

The tribute that would probably have made him prouder than any was Archie Hamilton calling for a minute’s silence on the chap of the hammer in the ring at Lanark before the BF ewe lamb sale. Can you imagine Brian’s smile hanging over the gate at the mouth of the ring, his favourite spot on BF tup sale days, thinking that’s for me.

Elma, Jill, Morag, Susan, Davy and Andrew, grandchildren Sophie, Emily and Archie, whom he worshipped, have much to be proud of and much to celebrate for a life lived to the full and someone who achieved so much.

Brian and Elma’s hospitality is legendary. The parties, weddings and other celebrations that many of us were privileged to attend over the years. Few can forget the snow storm that nearly ruined Elma and Brian's 40th birthday party in May, 1993, which was to be held in a marquee in front of the house at Spango. Held in late spring, it sounded like a great idea until winter returned.

With nearly a foot of snow and no electricity, many would have cancelled the party, but not Brian. Snowploughs, telehandlers, tractors, you name it – the roads were opened, space heaters secured, generators hired and the party went ahead and it was a fabulous night. He was determined that this party was going ahead, right, reason or none.

He loved mixing with his fellow farmers, whether at Lanark market, the Royal Highland Show or just on days away at local shows or shooting. His efforts over the last 10 years, six and a half as chairman, with Lawrie and Symington have undoubtedly given the business the platform to go from strength to strength.

For little or no thanks or reward, other than his own personal satisfaction, which cannot be overstated, he got stuck in. He believed in the auction mart system as a challenge to dominant buyers in the food supply chain and threw his heart and soul into sorting Lawrie and Symington, whatever the personal cost.

He had just been reappointed as a director for another three years. They will miss his leadership.

Like his farming career, whatever he did he threw himself at it – and it happened quickly, decisively and full on. If there was shearing on, they was shearing no fewer than 1000 a day. If he was silaging, rain or shine, he was silaging.

If it was planned to happen, it happened, as the loyal, excellent staff he worked with (it was always a partnership) over the years will also confirm. Willie and Jackson Pringle, at Cornharrow and Stroanpatrick; Jock and Johna Scott, at his beloved Spango; Charlie Scott, at Carco; and Jim Bell, at Birkcleugh; were as loyal to him as he was to them.

From the moment he was born at Spango in 1953, Brian was destined to be a farmer. He went to Crawfordton, where he excelled at rugby, playing for the First XV for three years. That love of rugby continued at Merchiston and although a serious knee injury effectively ended his playing career at 16, he never lost his love for the sport.

He came home to Spango in 1969 to farm, Cornharrow and Stroanpatrick having been bought in 1959. Blackgannoch was already part of the business as well. Later, he took over Carco, Gareland and got the opportunity to buy ground close to Spango, so he bought Birkcleugh. Meanwhile, Willie Pringle had retired, so Brian decided to sell Cornharrow and Stroanpatrick was to follow.

Never one to stand still, by 2003 he had bought Carco and Spango from Buccleuch Estates to fulfil a lifelong ambition. Then came the switch of ground from Blackgannoch and Gareland for the ground at Clawcleith opposite Spango.

He was one of the biggest sheep farmers in Scotland, renowned for selling quality females which were much sought after and thousands of quality wedder lambs.

In 2004, Brian won first prizes in the live and carcase competition for Blackies at Smithfield. Many a good trip was had to London in those days through the 1990s and the early 2000s, though Brian decided that after I lost the train tickets home one year he’d better organise any future trips.

But it was at the Winter Fair that his renowned Blackies saw fantastic success. In 2010 they were mountain champions and reserve overall. He won the Blackies in 2012, 2013 and in 2015 was reserve overall as well as champion and reserve moorland and champion and reserve BF. The lambs went on to sell for £210 per head. Huge credit has to go to Brian and the team for producing such quality whilst farming such big numbers of sheep.

In 1972, he sold a tup lamb off Stroanpatrick for £3200, brought out by Jackson Pringle. But that was the end of his tup breeding. He bred tup lambs for his own use, but had no interest in entering the high pressure arena that selling pedigree BF tups was even then.

It proved was that if he put his mind to doing something, he succeeded – a trait that was evident throughout his career.

His suckled calves have always been sought after at Lanark, especially at the October sales and he took great pride in showing these cattle from a high hill farm like Spango and keeping up with the best of them. Regular annual buyers were testament to the consistent quality the team produced.

But he loved his Blackies. And he loved the folk in the breed, with the annual BF curling outing being a fixture on his calendar. Just as farming connections took him curling, it was through farming he was introduced to shooting. Brian, Joffy Hamilton and I all started proper driven shooting about the same time. To be honest we were useless.

The three of us decided we really enjoyed both the shooting and the craic so if we were doing it, we were doing it properly. After a year or two and a lot of practice we started hitting them, and I could fill pages recounting stories of our adventures on shooting.

And, of course, the memories of rugby tours, where I roomed with Brian for all these years, are too many to mention.

He got the touring bug after attending many home games at Murrayfield. In the spring, we persuaded Brian to join Alan Currie myself and Robert Sloan to go to Twickenham on the train, when he hadn’t been feeling so well – though you would scarcely know it.

It was one of the best games ever and certainly the best at Twickenham for a generation with the 38 all draw. Sitting beside Brian after 20 minutes we wished we hadn’t gone. But by the end the excitement and the atmosphere was unbelievable and Brian was in full flow, long into the night.

In the midst of living live to the full, running a large successful farming business and chairing an auction mart, Brian never forgot to look after his family. He was fiercely protective and proud of them. Elma and the girls, and more recently Sophie, Emily and Archie – he couldn’t have been prouder.

At the end of the day Brian lived his life like his favourite description of it. Namely ‘Farm as if you are going to live forever and live as if you are going to die tomorrow.’

Generous, loyal, caring, determined Brian would have wanted us all to look forward with our glass half full, that was always his way.'