THE farming world across Scotland was shaken recently with the sudden and tragic death of Jim Kennedy, of Lyonston, Maybole, aged just 61.

Very much an Ayrshire ‘boy’, Jim was well-known across the country for his showmanship and as a producer of top quality prime cattle, winning many championships for animals both live and dead, especially at the prestigious Scottish National Meat Exhibition.

Jim’s first family home was Lanehead Farm, Dalleagles, near New Cumnock, where his mum and dad, and sister, Ona, farmed until the 1970s. Moving to The Knowe, at Kirkconnel, gave the family more scope to concentrate on hill sheep, Welsh Black and Hereford cows.

Jim attended P7 at Kelloholm Primary and then moved to Sanquhar Academy. During these, his formative years, he honed his impressive negotiating skills, before going to Wallacehall Academy as his final stop in compulsory education – there he gained his legendary Higher in woodwork!

After a year’s practical at Brocklie, Craigie, milking cows and socialising with local Young Farmers to form lifelong friendships, he was all set for further study. Auchincruive agricultural college beckoned – where some of his antics, such as letting pigs loose in the halls of residence and sinking boats on a college exchange, are still part of family and college legend.

When he left Auchincruive, he went to work with the Fatstock Marketing Corporation (FMC) and so his 40 years of working in the fatstock trade began. He served his apprenticeship in abattoirs across Scotland and then was out on the road in his wee Fiesta Sunburst rattling up and down farm roads in the South-west drumming up business.

Not long after this, Jim met Sally Wallace at a dance at Auchincruive. He called the next day to ask her out but, as Sally recalled when bravely delivering his eulogy: “I had a bit of a dilemma as my parents had always told me that there were only two boys that I wasn’t to go out with … and they were both called Jim Kennedy.”

Despite that inauspicious start, they later married and their journey began at The Knowe, with Jim farming full time. Around the farm, Jim was able to fashion most things from wood – using that legendary qualification again – and some dodgy welding also helped keep things running.

Jim never let the grass grow under his feet and was always fond of coming up with new income streams. At one time, farming rabbits was the route to fame and fortune. Sally recalled: “We had 200 rabbits eating like mad and a broken supply chain – cue rabbits going to a game dealer in Thornhill and many local children getting pet rabbits that were a bit larger than they expected!”

Their own family followed – Lauren was born in 1989 and Caroline in 1990, with son Wallace arriving in 1992 and he quickly became his right-hand man.

Diplomatic relations with Jim’s parents broke down and Jim went back out on the road with Lawrie and Symington, procuring cattle for the then all-new Electronic Auction Systems Europe (EASE). The family then moved to Lyonston in 1991 and Jim applied his DIY skills and single-mindedness to the garden and another phase evolved.

Next ‘big idea’ was vegetable growing. Who else had leeks wrapped in disposable nappies in their polytunnel, carrots growing in barrels and onions too big for a frying pan? The culmination of this was winning a UK national championship and him being crowned Cauliflower Dundee!

Jim also became involved in the local Round Table, rising to chairman and having more mad adventures, including rebuilding Santa’s sleigh – that Higher woodwork again – and is still used in Maybole every Christmas.

Around this time, Jim and Sally started Carrick Primestock. Jim was out on the road, and Sally worked at home on the myriad of paperwork that comes with buying and re-selling livestock. Carrick Primestock emerged as a reliable way of targetting cattle and sheep where they needed to go, but only after they had spent many long days and long nights building the business, procuring cattle and sheep from across scotland.

Jim was in his element meeting people, talking on the phone, drawing stock, and being on the road. As a relentless communicator, he was an early adopter of car phones and mobiles, making family outings and gatherings punctuated by his mobile ringing – he was never too busy to return calls.

It wasn’t much of a surprise, then, that Jim also took a keen interest in agri-politics and his famous negotiating skills were put to use at the Cairnryan blockades, flying the flag for Scottish beef against heavy imports of Irish beef. This interest ultimately led him to become the Scottish Beef Cattle Association’s national chairman. For a man that always said he didn’t do politics, he always seemed to be in the thick of it!

Back at Lyonston, the family started to diversify the business – back into farming! Calves were bought for the children and that’s when the next phase began. Carcase and live competitions usually saw Carrick Primestock at the top of the leaderboard at the likes of the Scottish Premier Meat Exhibition, Scottish Winter Fair (LiveScot), Christmas shows and the Highland.

He won the prestigious Scotbeef Silver Steer for the best carcase at the Premier Meat Exhibition twice, and on one of those occasions also won the Italian plaque, the Aberdeen-Angus trophy, and the lamb championship in one day.

Sheep were an enduring part of Jim’s life, starting with Suffolks and Bluefaced Leicesters. After that, Wallace and Jim soon became a force to be reckoned with in the sheep rings, especially when Beltex and Charollais sheep arrived on the scene.

The Beltex breed is where Jim’s ‘obsession with big bottoms and sheep collided’ and the Kennedys made many friends and had lots of fun on weekends away at tup viewings and at shows, culminating in his chairmanship of the Beltex Sheep Society.

Veteran Scottish farming champion, John Cameron, told The Scottish Farmer: “The Scottish livestock industry and indeed livestock producers throughout the industry, will be deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jim Kennedy.

“Jim had real comprehensive knowledge of both the sheep and cattle worlds and was always willing to give his good advice and help to anyone. He willingly gave of his expertise as a member of the council of the then newly-formed Scottish Beef Association and was also active in Beltex sheep circles.

“He didn’t suffer fools gladly and he always called a spade a spade, but he was someone in whom you could have complete trust as well as enjoying his good company and many, many people who benefited from his wise counsel and friendship will miss him greatly.”