Having a passion for livestock at an early age and working under the wings of many great breeders of his time, Peter Gray is now recognised as a well-respected and acknowledged sheep farmer within the world of pedigree Suffolks and Texels.


I was brought up by my parents – Jimmy and Agnes – on the family farm at Scrogton, Douglas, in Lanarkshire, and was born into an extremely hard-working family alongside my two brothers, John and Stuart.

I left school aged 16 to work on the farm before joining Biggar YFC at 18-years-old. Biggar was a brilliant club to be a part of – it’s where I made many friends that I’m still in touch with today. It also gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of top stockmen of my day.

In the late 1980s, I took a job away from home looking after a farm for six months for Alec Telfer, at Birkhill, in Coalburn, before then undertaking a career as a full-time shearer alongside my late brother. We contract sheared for 12 years and met a lot of wonderful people, as well as seeing some fantastic stock along the way.

The late 1980s also saw me undertaking a lot of sheep work for the Steel family, at Over Kypeside, Deadwaters, and around the same time, I was very fortunate to get three weeks of work every year helping the Wight family, Midlock, and the Graham family, at Spireslack during the busy times. I gained lots of experience from both families and every day was a school day!

I also worked at Lanark Market on a Monday, where I would draw sheep alongside the one and only Alec Young – that was an education! I learnt a lot from him and worked there for about 10 years, whilst at the same time continued shearing.

What got you into your chosen breeds?

In 1978, my father bought my mother and I five Suffolks, which were the foundation females for our Suffolk flock. Breeding Suffolks was in my mother’s blood as she was a niece of the late Bill Lawrie, of Clashbennie Suffolks, which was a top flock in its time.

In 1992, I took on the first of nine lambings for Charles Scott, East Middle, Hawick. It was a chance of a lifetime and an education. He was a very clever man in the Texel breed and insisted that after my first lambing I took a pet lamb home with me as a gift – and that’s where the Scrogtonhead flock was born. I learnt a lot in the nine years there and it was a fantastic outfit to be a part of. My family and I moved from Lanarkshire to Ayrshire in 2000 to join Lynn’s family’s Cowgrove farming outfit, where I got the chance to take charge of the sheep enterprise. We now live at Sornbeg, at Galston and the sheep came with us. I was a bit of a homing pigeon and became very homesick, but the sheep loved the move!

What qualities do you like about those breeds?

Texels are easy kept and they don’t need a lot of feeding before they lamb. We cull hard and one benefit they have is that anything we do decide to part with is a very sellable article. They’re good for crossing over any type of breed and produce quality breeding cross-bred ewes as well.

When we formed the Texel flock, there was only one type of Texel I was wanting to breed and that’s a commercial shearling for Kelso. It’s what is wanted for breeding a prime lamb and my main aim was to sell a full pen of sheep to top commercial sheep men – however, the icing on the cake is if we do sell to a fellow breeder.

In terms of Suffolks, they can be crossed with a lot of other breeds to give you a fast maturing fat lamb and many early lambing outfits use the Suffolk over Texel cross ewes for a fashionable lamb that can be sent away early.

What was your first big breed event?

We always sold Suffolks at Kelso, so I attended sales and shows from a young age. However, a fond memory would be in 1989 when I won the Cheviot Cup, also known as the Caithness Trophy, at the Royal Highland Show for the YF shearing competition. I was also runner-up in the champion YF competition to Allan Wight – that was a big day.

Best animal you’ve bred?

It would need to be Scrogtonhead U Stoater. He was just an outstanding animal and had real volume for a sheep. His character was brilliant and if he was in someone else’s pen we would’ve been looking at him.

Best animal you’ve seen?

I would have to say the full sister to the 2015 Proctors show ewe, shown by Jeff Aiken. She was a daughter of the privately purchased Scholars Twenty Twelve and was out of a dam by the 50,000gns Haddo Ringleader. I was down there visiting and I saw her amongst five top ewes in one of Jeff’s fields. She had a long neck, a head above the rest and nostrils you could’ve shoved a thumb up – just an outstanding ewe.

Another would be Jim Aiken’s Border Leicester ewe lamb that won the inter-breed champion pair title at Castlewellan Show, in 2016. She could’ve nearly spoken to you with her ears and was a very eye-catching and tremendous animal.

Best animal you’ve missed out on or lost?

It would have to be Ettrick Jackpot, in 2011, which myself and Allan Wight lacked the strength to buy. He sold for 36,000gns and was a big, scopey, good-bodied lamb.

Abiding memory?

It would be the day that I married my wife, Lynn, and when my three boys were born – James, Billy and Scott.

Biggest disappointment?

The loss of my brother, Stuart, in 2014. I was extremely close to him as we did a lot together. It was like losing my right arm and I miss him dearly.

Most influential person?

My mother, father and late brother, Stuart, would be the most influential people. They were always there to give me that push when I needed it and were just a great support system.

I learnt a lot from the late Willie Henderson, who was a Suffolk expert in my day. He gave me guidance in the breed and helped dress our Suffolks to show us the ropes.

Along with lots of other stockjudging trainers, one would be Robert Fleming, who was someone that pushed and advised me to do YF stockjudging. His encouragement and guidance helped me achieve the sheep individual title at the Royal Highland Show, in 1991. I would also mention Alec Gray, Langside, who helped my brothers and I with stockjudging, as well as being a great advisor in the world of Suffolk and Texel breeding.

Favourite sale over the years?

I’d say Kelso as that’s where our pure sheep are geared up to go. The atmosphere of the place is great and we usually take around 50 tups there each year as it’s our main sale day for our pure stock. You meet a lot of wonderful people through all these breeds at the Kelso sale and it’s the characters you meet that make the sale so enjoyable.

Best breeder ever?

There are so many but it would need to be Allan Wight, of Midlock purely because whatever breed he puts his hand to, he can master it.

Not forgetting the late Jack Ramsay, of Millerston. I admired him greatly and he could speak eloquently about anything – from a bantie to a Shorthorn cow! He was also a great influence on the next generation and was an outstanding encouragement for any youngster coming on.

Best advice?

I have three! The first would be ‘always treat people the way you would like treated yourself’. The second is never try and sell somebody something you wouldn’t buy commercially yourself and the final being ‘if you really need a hand from somebody, always ask a busy man. Never ask a lazy man because he would never have the time’.

Biggest achievement?

Selling Scrogtonhead U Stoater for the Kelso record of 35,000gns, in 2014, to Jeff Aiken.

Amongst the Suffolks, it would be selling a ram for 9200gns at the replacement Kelso sale, held at Carlisle last year to Ian Campbell, of Glenrath.

Interests outwith farming?

Before Covid-19, Lynn and I had a week away in the sun, in January, to treat Lynn as she has a lot to put up with! We also attend the local Cumnock Heather Club for its good food and good craic.

Future of the breeds?

The future is looking strong as both breeds do fantastically well as crossing sheep. The future of the sheep industry, going by the way things are just now, is very promising and looking well for us all.