When Brendon Smith, of Dunrossness, Shetland, won the recent Mull sheepdog trial, he was participating in an event that has a history that goes back more than 100 years.

The Mull SDT was established in 1909, when the Mull and Morvern Agricultural Society formed a sub-committee with a brief 'to encourage the breeding of a better type of sheepdog in the district and the more efficient handling of such dogs by farmers and shepherds and thus indirectly, to raise the standard of sheep farming in general.'

At that time, there were in excess of 100 sheep farmers and hired ‘herds working on that island alone.

Mull's trial was one of the earliest to be held on the West Coast of Scotland and the trial has been held annually in August, except for during and immediately following the war years. The early records were lost during World War II and the some information was found in the records of the Mull and Morvern Agricultural Society records, which are held at Tobermory museum.

Entrants were originally confined to farmers and shepherds living and working full time in the area of Mull and Morvern, Coll, Tiree and the Small Isles.

In 1926, Miss Lithgow, of Glengorm, presented a fine silver trophy for the winner. This was won for next two years by Kenneth MacAskill, of Lettermore, with his dog Chance.

He was a keen horseman and showed a Highland pony mare, bought from Calgary, on Mull, at the Royal Highland Show in 1927. The MacAskill family loved Mull, but in 1928 the newly formed Forestry Commission bought all the hill ground at Lettermore for trees, rendering the farm unviable as a hill sheep farm and the family left the island.

In the wake of the cessation during war and following years, the trial was revived in 1955 under the chairmanship of Angus MacGillivray, of Glenforsa.

Doris MacLachlan, Glen Aros, was secretary from 1960 to 1975, followed by Netta MacDougall, of Tobermory, until her death in 2008. Currently, the position is held by Enid More, Gruline.

Though the previous records were missing by 1955 and as there were no funds for prize money or expenses, an entertainments committee was formed, to organise fund raising whist drives and dances. Prize money was set at £100, a considerable sum at that time.

As the number of shepherds declined, so the number of competitors fell and in 1960, it was decided to open the trial to the county of Argyll.

For some years now, the trial has been open to anyone willing to travel, but there are still trophies for the local handlers and for the highest pointed employed shepherd. Entries now come from as far North as Shetland and as far South as Yorkshire.

The trial attracts many of Scotland's top sheepdog handlers, including former International champion Stuart Davidson, Dunoon, and former Scottish National Champion, John MacKillop, Fort Augustus, and other regular team members.