One which needs no introduction from the show circuit is William Thomson, Hownam Grange, who runs 450 park type NCC ewes and 850 hill Cheviots, near Kelso.

Willie sees to the day-to-day running of the farm along with his wife, Laura. Whilst parents, Jimmy and Peggy, are still partners in the business and stay nearby.

The family moved to the 1650-acre Hownam Grange in 1941, and the sheep need to be hardy as it rises to 1600ft above sea level. As well as the Cheviots, they run 70 Blue-grey cows which are crossed to the Aberdeen-Angus.

“Cheviots suit the farm, our area and our system. Our flock was taken out by foot-and-mouth in 2001 and we had to rebuild it – we couldn’t get the Cheviot numbers back immediately, so we had to stock up on other breeds to keep the hill stocked. No other breed performed as well as the Cheviots, so it was a no brainer to go back to them when we could,” said Willie.

If you could choose another breed, what would it be?

I do also love my cattle! We used to have 22 pure Galloways and we exhibited them at the Highland Show, but it was just such a time constraint, there is a lot more work involved in bringing out pedigree cattle than there is sheep.

What got you involved in showing?

I have been lucky enough to grow up around the show ring and I am now following in dad’s footsteps. I caught the showing bug, got involved and have loved every minute of it!

Dad bought me Charles Scott’s show team of Scotch Half-bred ewes when he sold them at Hawick in 1990 and that was my first own real show of sheep. Included in them was a ewe that had won the inter-breed at the Highland Show as a gimmer, the only cross-bred ever to have done so.

Who inspires you?

My family, both parents and grandparents ... they made it a way of life.

I was never really in doubt as any chance I got, I would be out helping and trying to get to all the sales. One time I was not getting a day off school to go to Hawick to sell the sheep, so when standing at the end of the road waiting for the school bus Young’s lorry came up our hill loaded for Hawick, so I jumped in it rather than waiting any longer on the bus.

I was at Hawick had the sheep penned and ready before any of the rest of the family arrived. When my mum saw me, she just shook her head – I think she knew she was fighting a losing battle. I probably got a thick ear when I got home.

RHS experiences?

We were late starters. Dad judged it in 1991 and we didn’t start exhibiting until the year after.

We went on to take the inter-breed in 1998, with the gimmer, Hownam Grange Matilda. We had only been going for six years, some folk will wait years and never get that, so it was special to us.

She really was one of a kind for our flock taking inter-breed champion, reserve inter-breed and third place inter-breed three years on the trot!

We are also one of the only flocks that have four inter-breed titles under our belt, its just a shame The virtual show this year didn’t count – we would have held the record!

The Scottish Farmer:

Hownam Grange Matilda took the first inter-breed for the flock in 1998

What is the best animal you have ever shown?

Hownam Grange Magic. She was something different, she was shown 10 times, in which she attained eight first prize tickets, eight breed championships, three reserve inter-breed ttiles and four inter-breed wins, including the Royal Highland, Great Yorkshire and Border Union.

She was almost human! You could speak to her and she would react to you – if you told her the judge was coming, she would spark up!

The best animal you’ve ever seen?

Longoe Spot F14 – she was going about in the mid-1990s and has stuck in my mind ever since. She was way before her time and could slot into the Highland Show now and would still be bang on.

Just last year, at Stirling bull sales, Liley Ellen Erica sold for 15,000gns to Roxburgh Mains and there was just something about her that caught my eye.

Among Limousins, it would be the heifer, Millington Divina that stood out to me. She sold at the Red Ladies Sale in the mid-2000s for 28,000gns. If I had a pot of gold, I would have taken her home.

Changes over the years?

The Cheviot breed has changed in many ways. They are becoming too big for a hill breed and this is something we need to be careful of. Despite this, they have improved a lot of their traits over the years and that includes their twinning abilities.

New breeders are expecting to come into the show ring and are wanting to win straight away, which is not how it works. You need to wait your turn and work hard to get the most out of it.

Abiding memory?

Taking my first inter-breed at the Highland Show with Matalida, we hadn’t been going to the Highland for all that long and to get right to the top was something else. I can’t remember much of the Saturday or Sunday right enough…

Biggest disappointment?

The year we lost our flock to foot-and-mouth and losing all the top blood lines. At the time we had been at Hownam Grange for 60 years and it took them just six hours to take all the sheep away from us.

Most influential person in your career?

My father. He gave me the opportunity to rebuild what was once his, with advice and guidance along the way.

Although we don’t always agree, he would never hold me back. I made my own decisions, which enabled me to learn from my own mistakes. We have criticised and praised each other over the years, but I really wouldn’t be where I am today without him.

Favourite show?

The Royal was always great craic by just being that little further afield. It was a huge disappointment when we lost that show!

In contrast, our own little hill show, Pennymuir, is always a good one – with just a two-acre field that you couldn’t ram another car into. It is full of local people, with old shepherds coming for the banter and the craic all day is phenomenal. There is a cup for the drunkest man, so you know how that ends up!

Best shepherd?

I was one of the last people that grew up with shepherds on farm. They were characters up and down the valleys and as a young kid, before I went to school I went to play dominoes with four retired shepherds – they were just constantly winding one another up.

One that always springs to mind is Jimmy Douglas, although he didn’t do showing on a big stage, he outdone himself at local shows and his general attitude to life was never be beaten. There was nothing that stopped him, there was a way round everything, and he was a huge influencer for me.

Eck McKenzie needs a mention. He retired from Hownam Grange in 1983 but was still around for many years after. He ‘herded on a 17-hh Irish draught gelding called Jock and when he arrived back at the farm from his morning round, he would let the horse graze his way up the roadside to his cottage while he did bits and pieces about the farm before he went home for breakfast. I would be put on the horse’s back and told to fill him up with petrol.

The best kist parties?

There is no such thing as a bad kist party, but it is the characters at them, that make them. The best thing about being at one is the new people that you meet and lifelong friendships you make.

At the Royal Show in 1997, I turned 21 a few days beforehand and it was a bit loud in the NSA sheep bar. I had my pipes with me and was ordered out the bar so the whole bar emptied and went to the Charolais cattle bar – it was just mayhem.

When we went in, a Scottish breeder had won the cattle inter-breed with a Charolais and it was possibly a world convention year I can’t remember, but it was a huge night and definitely one to remember. We even made The SF’s Raider column.

Best advice?

Travel and see a bit of the world.

I’ve been to New Zealand twice and it really gives you an unexplainable life experience. It is crucial to go away and see different way of doing things – just because is has always been done at home a certain way, doesn’t make it right.

If you could change one thing, what would it be?

One Saturday night I came home and I was bursting for a pee and I just couldn’t hold it in, so I had a pee in the dark… needless to say it was on the electric fence. It is certainly one thing I wish I’d never done!

Biggest showing achievement?

The speed that we got back to the top end of showing after losing our flock to foot-and-mouth. We had a 20-year plan to get back to where we were, so it was unbelievable that we were champion at the Highland just six years later, not to mention three inter-breed champions – 2007, 2008 and 2010 – within a nine-year window of losing the flock.

The first year selling tups after foot-and-mouth we also topped Lockerbie at £3000. It was amazing to fit right back in where we left off. However, this wouldn’t have been done without the kindness shown from other breeders, some really helped us get back on our feet and get our own bloodlines back.

What’s the future?

We are always looking to future proof our farm as much as we can, so that it is sustainable for the next generation. We are always trying to make life simpler and encourage our children, Beth, (12) Georgia (11) and James (8).

Meeting people through showing. It would be a shame if the next generation were to miss out on that and not experience it. There are plenty of youngsters that are keen, interested and able, but for now we just need to battle the storm.