The penultimate run of a five day marathon Scottish National trial at Kingarth, on the Isle of Bute, proved that there is life in two old dogs. Jock Welsh and his Tanhill Sam are approaching their respective 77th and 11th birthdays in December, and together they earned the 2019 Scottish championship, with the entire team hot on their heels, leading a field of 150 entries.

It was a dramatic ending to a memorable trial set on the lush and scenic island. Rescue helicopters and light aircraft landed routinely in the air strip adjoining the trial field and the ‘Sleeping Warrior’ range of mountain peaks created a magnificent backdrop.

Jock said, “I knew we had a good run; Sam is nearly 11 now, but he enjoys it. I’m saving him now from hard work, as much as I can, but he gets a run at home most days.”

Sam (A Baines’ Tanhill Rick and Tanhill Meg) started out wide, running close to the fence on the left of the course, but he reached his sheep and although he slightly overlapped them at the top, he made a good lift. The fetch went well, although the turn round Jock’s feet on to the drive away was a little wide, but the drive went very well from there. Sam had to work hard to shed off his two sheep and did not come in as quickly as he might have done, but a clean pen and a faultless single set the seal on the winning run.

Thursday started well, with predominantly Llyn cross ewes mixed with Texel and Suffolk crosses behaving remarkably well - the best behaved sheep seen at a National trial for many years. The gently rising course allowed easy viewing and held no bogeys for sheep, dogs or handlers, so a very high standard of work prevailed. With dogs vying for one of the 24 places eligible to run in the 2020 World trial, as well as for the 2019 National team, it was not until the tenth run of Friday that a standard was set to eliminate dogs that were not up to par. Heavy rain began to dampen spirits on Thursday afternoon and when failing light curtailed the work, six runs were postponed until next day and so it was eventually decided that the trial would run into Sunday.

The brace class was run on Wednesday, when George Gardner’s Meg and Nan won with a comfortable lead on 236/280.

Meg (C Smart’s Guy and Fly) and Nan (M MacNally’s Killiebrae Moss, GC Gardner’s Meg) worked very well together, all the way round the course and the ewes seemed to respond to them. There was a slight waver on the fetch, and on the drive the sheep took off at speed, but the dogs adjusted their pace very well to match that of the sheep. Like others, George found the first pen a struggle, but it was achieved with patience and the second pen was clean.

Friday’s top dog was Stuart Davidson’s Gillieglen Queen, who knocked the first day leader, Michael Shearer’s Tib, into second place on 196.

Queen (SL Davidson’s Rob, A Gillies’ Peg) ran out and lifted very well. She had minor wavers on the fetch and drive and her turn round Stuart, going into the first leg of the drive was wide, but a very good shed, and a clean pen and single put her in contention for the championship on 198.

No sooner had Queen deposed Tib, than Murray McTeir’s Dan came to the post, matched Tib’s 196 points, but relegated her to third place on outbye work.

Saturday shook up that equilibrium, when Ian Brownlie’s Lia overtook the pair with 197.

Lia (RJ Hutchinson’s Sweep, IM Brownlie’s Mo) ran out cleanly, dallied with the sheep for a prolonged period before she lifted them, but she fetched very well, with just minor wavers and made a very good drive. Man and dog went calmly into the shedding ring, let the sheep settle, shed and walked them unhurriedly into the pen. Again they went back to the ring unstressed, and although Ian took the ewe off for Lia to single, once it was done, they finished in third place.

Murray’s Dan (M McTeir’s Bob, A Sim’s Flo) ran out and lifted very well and had a very good fetch with just minor wavers of the line, but on the cross drive, one ewe lagged behind and Murray had to let the others fully through the gate, while Dan patiently nursed the laggard through to join the packet. A clean shed and pen followed, and Murray singled out the slow ewe, so once Dan had come in, he earned fourth place overall on 196.

Michael’s Tib (MC Shearer’s Jim, IM Brownlie’s Star) ran out square to the fence and stopped slightly short at the top, but she worked very well on the fetch and drive and earned the Tom Gilholm trophy for the best driving dog. A clean shed and pen and very good single completed the run, eventually ranked fifth.

With the high standard of work being achieved, the prize list was tightly packed and outbye work repeatedly separated runs of equal points. In sixth and seventh places, respectively, were Duncan Robertson’s Joe and Billy Common’s Grit, both on 195.

Duncan’s Joe (D Robertson’s Sarnfaen Mott, N McVicar’s Nicki) ran out cleanly, but was fractionally slow to lift, and once he did, the ewes drifted to the left but Joe took his time to straighten them out. From there, he brought them straight down the course and made excellent work of the drive and shed. At the pen, the ewes broke between Duncan and the gate, going out below the rope, but Joe retrieved them, penned and completed his run with a clean single, eventually taking 6th place.

Billy’s Grit (DK Evans’ Spot, DC Meek’s Queen) went round the pen at the start of his run, but his outrun was good from there and although he stopped behind his sheep, he lifted to the left and the sheep continued to lean that way until they were through the fetch gate. From there they came on a good line to Billy and the drive went very well, with just a slightly wide turn through the first drive gate to fault it. At the shed, one ewe wanted to split away, but Grit made the appropriate division and then penned cleanly. At the single, Billy waited for a safe opportunity rather than take a risk, and it paid off, earning 7th place in the team.

LEADING awards

2019 Scottish National Sheepdog trial, Kingarth , Isle of Bute – Individual class – (Judges: AB Mundell, Moffat, T McPhee, Wick ) – 150 dogs – 1, JR Welsh’s Tanhill Sam, 200 /220; 2, SL Davidson’s Gillieglen Queen, Sandbank, 198; 3, IM Brownlie’s Lia, Deuchrie, 197; 4, M McTeir’s Dan, Galashiels, 196 Outbye; 5, MC Shearer’s Tib, Westfield, 196; 6, D Robertson’s Joe, Langholm, 195 Outbye; 7, JW Common’s Grit, Lockerbie, 195; 8, F Shennan’s Spot, Barr, 193 Outbye; 9, AD Carnegie’s Jess, Comrie,193; 10, R Henderson’s Jude, Crawford, 190 Outbye; 11, N Gillon’s Shweep, Dailly, 190; 12, A Wilkie’s Spot, Glenmoy, 189 Outbye; 13, SL Davidson’s Lexie, Sandbank, 189 Outbye; 14, D Murray’s Sweep, North Roe, 189 Outbye; 15, J MacKillop’s Zac, Fort Augustus, 189; Res, P Martin’s Jill, Glenlyon, 188 Outbye.

Brace class – (Judges: EC Mackinnon, Lochcarron; I McConnell, Arran) – 7 pairs – 1, GC Gardner’s Meg & Nan, Lesmahagow, 236 /280; 2, J Hill’s Molly & Sid, Heriot, 207.

Special Prizes

JR Welsh’s Tanhill Sam – John Angus MacLeod Memorial trophy, JM Wilson Challenge Shield, AA Armstrong Shepherds’ Cup; SL Davidson’s Gillieglen Queen - JW McNaughton Farmers’ Cup, Alexander Andrew Trophy (Scottish bred animal); D Murray’s Sweep - Miss McFarlane Trophy (New to Scottish team); MC Shearer’s Tib - Warnock Trophy (First Day lead), Tom Gilholm Trophy (Driving); J McKenzie’s Tweedie - Drumclog Cup (Youngest Competitor); GC Gardner’s Meg & Nan - Helensburgh Trophy; K Brehmer’s Huthwaite Roy- Jack Fraser Trophy (Sportsmanship).