Peebles-shire was in mourning after the sad loss in early June of local stalwart, Mary Howie MBE, after a short illness.

Born and brought up at the Grange Farm, Kirkcaldy, Mary was the second of four children to Robert and Peggie Howie. She attended the local Kirkcaldy schools where she excelled at sport, as captain of the school hockey team and Scottish schools’ champion at javelin and discus.

On leaving school, she had only one ambition, which was to be a livestock farmer. She worked for six months at Hatton Farm, Angus, with Jim Findlay, where she caught ‘the sheep bug’.

At the Scottish Agricultural College her hard work and enthusiasm for science won her a Scottish Diploma in Agriculture with distinction, along with the Wardlaw Ramsay prize for the most outstanding student of her year.

She returned home to the Grange after university, but her heart was not in arable farming. Realising Mary’s love of livestock, the family bought Spittal Farm, at Carlops, where she moved in 1962, crossing the Forth via ferry driving her tractor and trailer.

She soon set up a tremendous herd of Galloway cattle, being a member of the Galloway Cattle Society since 1959, was a past vice-president (first, and to date, the only female vice-president of the society), was always willing to help at shows or sales and promote the breed, and an avid supporter of recording with the breed.

In 2005, she sponsored Iain Houstoun’s dissertation which aimed to ‘Investigate the scope for the Galloway breed to become involved more widely in performance recording and to establish whether the introduction of maternal EBVs would increase the commercial sustainability of the Galloway breed’. Her theory being: ‘Vision without action is a dream, action without vision is a nightmare’.

She stocked the Spittal hill with Blackface sheep, but she was not one to follow any fashion. Her cattle and sheep had to be commercial and have the ability to thrive and survive on a hill farm environment. The temperament of every animal bred at Spittal was a big part of Mary’s breeding policy and every heifer either sold or retained for breeding at Spittal had to be halter trained.

Mary enjoyed nothing better than making her way to Castle Douglas for the six monthly Galloway cattle sales, or a trip to the Great Yorkshire show. She loved to offer her opinion and give advice to those young breeders who loved her enthusiasm and dedication.

In 2000, Mary sold Spittal and retired to Blyth Bridge, with a large garden being her main priority, although she never really retired from farming. Every day she could be found at a neighbouring farm where she loved to lend a hand, and in the spring she finished her 70th lambing. She loved to take a young raw student under her wing and pass on her old and trusted ways.

Mary had a strong faith and enjoyed looking after Newland Church garden. She also took part enthusiastically in any community projects.

She was a member of Peebles Show and regularly attended the Peebles-shire Monitor Farm meetings; Peebles Discussion Society was also a meeting she would never miss. Mary was an honorary vice-president of Peebles Show where she organised the Golden Fleece qualifier after persuading and cajoling more than 50 local farmers to enter a fleece.

In 2001, she received an MBE for services to agriculture, the community and education and was also a pivotal volunteer and supporter of RHET in the Lothians and surrounding areas. She made many school visits and had a great ability to pass on her knowledge with her homemade display boards and pictures, which were fascinating to the children and regularly conducted groups of school children around the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston.

Mary was gifted in her ability to pass on her experience in agriculture to a younger audience. She firmly believed that RHET’s work in educating the next generation in agriculture practices would go a long way to help them support British farming in the future.

A great supporter of the local Blyth Bridge Tractor runs, which raised funds for Macmillan Cancer Care and Breast Cancer, only last year, in her 83rd year, she drove her trusted Massey Ferguson 35 tractor around Peebles-shire in the pouring rain without a cab for shelter.

It was a fitting tribute to Mary when the Blyth Bridge Tractor group lined up their tractors along the local green to say farewell on Mary’s final journey, passing her former haunts, especially her beloved Spittal.

Mary is survived by her brother Archie and sister Janet, nieces and nephews.