A man with a career expanding over decades, well-respected stockman, Ian Anderson, opened up about his illustrious career to Kathryn Dick, The Scottish Farmer.


Born in 1936, my early years were spent in the county of Angus, which is quite appropriate considering that’s the breed I ended up being mainly involved with. My father was a horseman and our family moved about a fair bit during my childhood, before he became a farm grieve and eventually a farm manager.

I left school at 15 and in 1952 started working under my father at Balnamoan, Ballinluig. It was hard graft.

The eldest of five – my brothers, George, Mac and Neil have sadly all passed away – the baby of the family, Aileen, lives in Melbourne. Mac and I had a special bond and although the four of us used to get up to terrible mischief in our teens, Mac and I always had each other’s backs.

In 1956 I did National Service, being packed off to Padgate, Cheshire, to join the RAF. I didn’t quite make Squadron Leader – more of a cook’s assistant. Safe in the knowledge that becoming a fighter pilot or a Michelin star chef wasn’t for me, I returned home and started work with Derculich Aberdeen-Angus.

There were five cattlemen there and I was at the bottom of the pecking order. I spent many hours in the mash house, boiling the barley and melting the malt to mix with maize, bran and beat pulp for the bulls’ mash – an ancient recipe handed down through generations. Nowadays there are tweaks but a hot mash is the tried and tested way to feed show cattle.

I next went to Tilt Farm, Blair Atholl, but I think it was when I was head hunted to go and work for Major Gordon, at Lude Estate, Blair Atholl, at his newly purchased Invergarry Home Farm, in Inverness-shire, that I started to spread my wings.

I moved there in 1962 and Madge joined me after we married in 1963. Karen was then born in 1965 and while there I developed an interest in Highland cattle, bringing out my first female champion at Oban.

I had huge admiration for Major Gordon; a true gentleman in every sense. He used to arrive up at Invergarry in his Tiger Moth and do a fly past so that Madge had to go outside and wave a tea towel to him to let him know she’d seen him.

Next was Newark, in Ayrshire, working for Margaret Walker, where I stayed for the next 20 years. Lynne and Dawn were born there and we settled into a happy family life.

I built up pedigree herds of Angus, Shorthorns and a commercial cow herd of mostly Blue-greys. We enjoyed success at Perth, with champions in the Angus and Shorthorns.

Mrs Walker and I had great respect for one another. She gifted me two Angus cows to start my Dalcrest herd. I’ve since brought out supreme champions at Perth and Carlisle under that prefix.

When, in 1986, Mrs Walker retired and the herds were dispersed, I secured a position as estate manager for the newly established Rushmore pedigree herds, in Kent, for Robert Montague.

My remit at Rushmore was to design a brand-new steading, handling system, bull pens and to establish herds of Charolais, Angus and Highland. We had a great time down south, receiving many accolades over the seven years I was there.

Its dispersal, at Lichfield, saw us achieve a top price of 20,000gns in the Charolais and 11,000gns for a Highland female. My good pal and stockman at Rushmore, Charlie MacLean and his team of boys drunk the hotel dry that night.

From there I went to Harviestoun to manage the Charolais for Lucy Poett, bringing foundation females from Rushmore – this also included Madge! We had more success at shows and sales over the years that followed, right up till I reached retirement.

I’ve had the honour of judging Angus, Highland, Charolais, Galloways, Shorthorns and commercials at shows the length and breadth of the country; from all four Royals in the UK, plus abroad to Toronto and Germany, right down to the smallest local shows.

Size or location doesn’t matter; the pride and effort put in by stockmen is the same and as an invited judge, you give them all equal respect.

What got you into showing?

It was as a 15-year-old boy showing commercial suckled calves from Balnamoan at Aberfeldy Show. Success meant I was bitten by the bug.

What qualities do you like about ‘your’ breeds?

A great question! They all have a place, whether it be a niche market or mass production, but in the show ring I’m afraid some people can’t see past ‘their own’ breed and unfortunately I’ve witnessed that in some inter-breeds over the decades.

A good Highlander is better than a not-so-good Angus or Charolais – I can say this because I’m involved in all three breeds.

Your first Royal Highland?

As an exhibitor, it was 50 years ago this year, in 1970 and it was a steep learning curve! I’ve shown Angus, Shorthorns, Charolais and commercials there.

I can’t remember the year exactly, but the ‘luxury’ stockmen accommodation – the old wooden huts – were still there. Anyway, the late great master stockman and my great pal, Dave Smith, had slept in (nothing to do with drams, he was just ‘tired’) but if you knew Dave at all, you’ll understand why nobody was brave enough to try to wake him.

However, another great stockman pal, Rich Thomson, decided he would brave it and get him up. When I asked Rich how he managed without getting snarled at, he just said: “Ach, I threw in a tin of PAL dog food and he was as richt as rain.”

Best animal that you’ve shown?

The one that I was proudest to show, was my own Angus heifer, Dalcrest Juliana Erica. She was champion and reserve inter-breed at Ayr as a two-year-old, in 2008, and was reserve at the National Show, in Turriff, the same year.

But what’s the best you’ve seen?

I’ve seen lots of tremendous champions over the decades. Fashions come and go but there are two which were outstanding champions.

First, was Kilkenny Celia, featured previously with my old pal Jimmy McMillan at the halter. My other pick would be the commercial heifer, Dancing Queen, champion at the last Smithfield in Earls Court, for Hugh and Lynne, in 2004. Both were perfection from the tip of their nose, to the tip of their tail.


Ah, at the risk of sounding like an old fogey, I worry that some are too extreme in the pursuit of a huge backend and sacrifice loin, and locomotion. Everything should be in balance.

A big change was hot air blowers! I remember covering young bulls in hessian sacks at night to absorb the sweat but inevitably they’d be soaking in the morning and you had nothing but old towels to try and dry them. They have it easy nowadays.

Abiding memory?

That’s a hard one – not least because memories are hazier with the years and vague because of the whisky involved!

I have fond memories of the Perth Bull Sales and the Waverley Hotel bar. It was often like a scene from the Wild West movie, The Magnificent Seven.

My Magnificent Seven were: Wee Dave Smith, Big Dave Murray, Rich Thomson, Alistair Clark, Bert Taylor, Davie Clark and myself. Sense, sensibility and plain nonsense all spoken in equal measure. What happened in the Waverley, stayed in the Waverley!

Biggest disappointment?

There have been days you think you could’ve won but didn’t and days you won and know you were lucky! Be humble in acceptance of both.

One wee moment sticks. It was at the Highland bull sales, in Oban. Charlie MacLean and I had just sold the champion bull, Rushmore Bracken, for 18,000gns – a record price – to the 1980s music guru, Pete Waterman.

I went straight outside after the sale to phone my boss, Robert Montague and while proudly telling him that I didn’t think that record would ever be broken in my lifetime, The SF’s Ken Fletcher came out to share the news that the reserve champion had just made 20,000gns! That took the wind out of my sails – but what a great day for the breed.

Most influential person?

I didn’t have the privilege of ever working under a particular stockman and so have pretty much had to learn the ropes as I went along. I’ve huge respect for so many stockmen past and present, but the single most influential person has been my wife, Madge.

She’s always there by my side with her unwaning support, active encouragement and reeling me in has made our partnership work so well. I wouldn’t have enjoyed the successes I have without her.

We’re a team and like any great football team, you need a good manager, dedicated backroom staff and loyal supporters – she is all those things rolled into one, but more than that, she’s my best friend.

Favourite show?

It would have to be the Great Yorkshire. We showed pedigrees and commercials there for many years and its always such a friendly atmosphere.

Each breed has its own bar at the end of the byre and there’s been some great craic shared in each.

The Galloway bar, with Muriel Johnstone singing; the Charolais bar with stories from Sandy Beaton and Alistair Rettie; the Angus bar with Alistair and Ishbel Clark singing; and the commercial bar – it’s like a pub crawl for stockmen with karaoke bars.

Your choice of best stockman ever?

I’m putting up three equally – Charlie MacLean, Brian Wills and Hugh Dunlop. I was fortunate to have the three of them under me when I was managing at Rushmore and each has gone on to achieve great things in their own right. That definitely gives me the greatest pride.

Biggest achievement?

My worst cases of nerves were before judging Smithfield in 1994, and the Charolais bull sales, in 1997. I remember wandering round the machinery stands in Earls Court trying to admire the tractor displays but I was a nervous wreck and never saw a tractor yet. But once I got the first class by and got into my stride, the nerves disappeared and I ended up enjoying myself.

Best kist party?

There have been so many, but I think Dancing Queen’s championship party at the last ever Smithfield in Earl’s Court, in 2004, is up there among the best. What made it special was that she was such a popular champion. Everybody wanted to be part of the celebrations and craic – the Scots, the English, the Welsh and the Irish.


Madge and I have always enjoyed gardening and have won a couple of awards for our garden and I love sport. A keen footballer, I used to play for Ballinluig in the Perthshire Amateur League. I still love to watch all leagues on TV and Madge and I are huge Man U fans.

Music is a hobby too and Big Dave Murray recently got me listening to Peat and Diesel – three gaelic speaking musician boys from Lewis and their songs are great.

I also have huge pride in my three girls and how they’ve turned out. We thought about putting Madge on a flushing programme at one point but its too late now!

Of course, now it’s my grandkids who are flourishing and there’s no better feeling in the world than hearing about their achievements and still being around to witness it.

Future of the show circuit?

It saddened me to see the demise of the Royal and Smithfield. Regulations change and sponsorship gets harder to source but as long as there’s a will, there’s a way. It’s funny how my generation think we had the best days, yet the young ones nowadays think they’re having the same.

Given my time again, I’d do it all exactly the same way. Who’s kist is it for a dram after lockdown is over?