Scotland lost one of its most respected stockmen and a great friend to many with the sudden loss of Jack Ramsay, Millerston, Mauchline, in September. he was in his 66th year.

Jack was brought up at Mauchline Mains on the family dairy farm where his father kept Ramsay Ayrshires, but while his farming and show career started with poultry – he latterly returned to producing show hens – it was as an exhibitor and breeder of, firstly, Highland cattle, then Beef Shorthorns, that he really made his mark.

He had studied agriculture at the Scottish Rural College, at the Edinburgh campus, before moving on to work on various farms in Ayrshire, before settling in as a business partner with the late Tom McLatchie, at Millerston, just outside Mauchline. There, Jack learnt a great deal about bringing out quality Highland cattle and though he was later to give up the breed when farming in his own right, he always had a soft spot for the hairy breed and was much sought after, at home and abroad, as a judge and for advice.

The Millerston fold, with a partnership of Tom’s enthusiasm and Jack at the helm, enjoyed much show and sale success and featured heavily when the German trade was booming and, again, Jack was in demand for sage advice on the breed. Some of the family lines, like the Unas, are still popular in the breed today, both at home and abroad.

One favourite was Una 10 of Millerston – “A rare beast ‘that was at 12 o’clock all show season, from winning Ayr, in April, to standing supreme at Dalmally in September, she kept her form throughout the summer,” said Jack in a recent interview. He first showed the breed at the Royal Highland in 1973 and later recalled he was last in his class that day, but six years later the same animal won the championship, which was a testament to his growing stockmanship.

When Tom McLatchie passed away, Jack was always thankful for the chance left to him to take on Millerston. When largely farming in their own right, alongside wife Grace, the Beef Shorthorn gradually replaced the Highlanders as the main breed.

But it was almost by accident that the Shorthorns arrived in the first instance in the mid-1990s. Jack had been asked to help prepare both the Moncreiffe Beef Shorthorn herd and Highlander fold for dispersal, and the good nature of the Shorthorns impressed him so much that it led him to buy two in-calf heifers to run on a commercial basis.

The Shorthorns fitted in well with the system at Millerston – both in the pedigree and commercial markets – and he favoured them for their docility, longevity and the ability to cross well with most breeds.

His keen eye for decent, hard-working cattle with a bit of style, meant that the Millerston prefix on the Shorthorns was quickly established as a 'go to' herd for replacement heifers and stock bulls.

Jack always thought that strong female lines were the catalyst for success in any herd and of any breed. He selected his stock very carefully when starting the Shorthorn herd and these included the Irania and Gretta dam lines, originally from Balmyle but coming to Millerston via the Moncrieffe cattle, and the Augusta and Madeline families, which both started out at Calrossie.

He counted Millerston Gretta Freya as one of his top picks from the herd and she had much success as a heifer and bred well too. Her first calf, Millerston Jester, won the breed championship at all the major shows, in 2017, for Mark and Tracy Severn.

Always with one eye on bloodlines that he thought would work back home, when he judged Tullamore Show, in Eire, he picked out Bushypark Cherry 2, a heifer that impressed Jack so much that day that he bought her full brother as a five-month-old calf and he is now one of the stock bulls at Millerston.

A cherished memory for him and Grace was selling Millerston Kasper for 20,000gns at the Stirling Bull Sales, which was tempered by the fact that Grace had been too ill to attend that sale. He was the second highest priced Shorthorn bull ever to be sold at that time and was a son of Meonhill Charlie Chaplin, a bull which was to breed some great cattle for the 30-cow Millerston herd after he’d been bought as a proven bull from Knockenjig.

Earlier this year, Jack featured in our Stockmen of our Times feature and wrote: “I can’t remember not having some kind of livestock about me as a kid, whether it was rabbits, pigeons or goats. However, it was bantam chickens that first got me hooked on the show circuit – a hobby that I have recently returned to after a period of 40 years.” As usual, he was again at the top of most shows, mainly with his Barred Rock stock.

Outwith farming, Jack was a keen and learned Burns’ scholar, and was well-known as a raconteur and ditty chanter on the social side of farming. Being sociable was just as important to Jack as breeding great cattle, or hens, and he was a great friend to many, always at the end of the phone catching up on the gossip and craic from a variety of breeds and through various sources, as testified by his phone bill!

Jack’s knowledge and memory were legendary, and he was often called upon to settle disputes over pedigrees, show winning dates and could go back several generation in both the pedigrees of animals, and people. Whenever something cropped up that no one could answer, it was more often than not a case of ‘let’s ask Jack.’

Jack is survived by wife, Grace, daughter Eilidh (who had caught the showing bug from Jack and Grace) and sons, Jack and Stuart.