James Jeffrey (Jimmy) was born on the September 10, 1926, and was raised at Deuchrie, an upland farm in the Lammermuir hills, in East Lothian.

It was mainly a sheep farm carrying flocks of Blackface and Border Leicester sheep. The Border Leicester flock is still in existence and is the oldest registered in the flock book.

In 1953, Jimmy married Margaret Young and in 1958 followed his uncle into Kersknowe, a productive farm on the Roxburgh Estate, in the Scottish Borders, close to Kelso. Jimmy and Margaret had four children – Elizabeth, Judy, John and Susie.

Being a keen livestock man, Jimmy became excited when Charolais cattle were given the green light to be imported from France into the UK under strict quarantine conditions. He applied for some heifers in 1965 and was bitterly disappointed to miss out on the ballot as, due to foot-and-mouth in France, only breeders in England were allocated animals.

His disappointment didn’t last long. He secured six ‘C’ heifers the following year and the Kersknowe herd was founded with a membership number of 173. Jimmy became very much involved with the then recently formed BCCS and was appointed onto the council of management and subsequently visited France on numerous occasions on the official buying commissions.

These were heady days and to listen to Jimmy telling countless yarns of the buying groups splitting up to view cattle and then re-convening at La Renaissance Hotel, in Magny Cours, to discuss the day's selections over a glass or two of rouge, with the occasional brandy was absorbing – particularly when his old friend, Bobby Robinson, was leading the mission!

He was also one of the members who formed the Scottish and Northern Charolais Association, as well as setting up the Charolais sales with MacDonald Fraser (later to become UA) in the Caledonian Road, Perth market. In 1971, the first five-figure Charolais bull was sold at Perth when Kersknowe Festival was sold for 10,000gns to the Scottish Milk Marketing Board.

Jimmy's involvement with the BCCS culminated in his presidential appointment in 1991/92 and during this time he and Margaret attended the Australian World Charolais Congress. Another highlight of his presidency was presenting Queen Sofia of Spain with a Charolais figurine when she officially opened the newly-constructed Charolais pavilion during the 1993 Royal Show.

In 1992, Jimmy was awarded an OBE for his services to agriculture and in 2002 the RHAS awarded him the Sir William Young award in recognition of his service to the Scottish livestock sector. Other honours included being Deputy Lieutenant of Roxburgh, Ettrick and Lauderdale.

He was also chairman of the Moredun Institute and was instrumental in setting up the Scott Country Potato Producers co-op, in Kelso, which specialised in seed potato production. He was a former president of the Borders Area NFUS and for a period was the livestock convener.

A favourite calendar event was the Kelso Tup Sales and he attended every year since 1942, when he sold Half-bred and Border Leicester tups. He was a past president of the Border Leicester Sheep Society, as were his father and grandfather before him and like them, kept all the sale catalogues going back more than 100 years.

In 2019, he was given the accolade of ringing the bell at 10 am to start the tup sales for the various auctioneers. This was a momentous occasion, setting a precedent for somebody other than the Border Union secretary to announce the start of the sale in this time-honoured manner.

Some 20 years ago he and Margaret moved to Kelso into a house which overlooked the Tweed Bridge and beyond to the world-famous salmon fishing Junction Pool and Floors Castle. When at home, he continued to take the papers to Kersknowe each day and keep an eye on the proceedings, particularly when John was away with his rugby commitments.

He was also a regular visitor to Deuchrie and even up to being 90 would stay there for several weeks during lambing. When visiting Deuchrie he would return with bottles of the fresh spring water, which tasted much sweeter than that from the cold-water tap, especially so when added to his favourite tipple of Johnnie Walker Black Label.

On a personal note, when Jimmy judged the Charolais at the Great Yorkshire Show in 1982, I was working at Brampton and we had won the Charolais championship and the Burke Trophy the previous week at the Royal Show with Parsonage Nebulus. We came back to earth with a bump when Jimmy placed the bull third, although he did make amends by making Brampton Mull champion and later backed his judgement by buying her bull calf.

One of Jimmy's traits was that he had the most remarkable memory for people, places and dates and loved to tell a story or tell a joke. Time soon slipped by when listening to Jimmy telling livestock stories about the good old days with a glass of Johnnie Walker Black Label and Deuchrie water to sip at.

He lived life to the full and he had even taken in two sheep sales a day or two before he passed away. He has, unfortunately, taken a wealth of knowledge with him.

David Benson


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