This year’s David Thomlinson Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to livestock farmer George Neill, of Upper Nisbet Farm, Jedburgh.

This award was launched by Harrison and Hetherington in 2021, to recognise commitment, success, and accomplishment within the livestock farming industry, following David Thomlinson’s sad and untimely death as a consequence of a tragic accident on his farm.

The Lifetime Achievement Award that carries his name commemorates David’s life by recognising a kindred spirit – a passionate livestock farmer and an exemplary role model within the industry.

George Neill grew up on the 750-acre tenanted Thornington Farm, where his father had relocated his dairy herd, from the 70 acres the family owned in Ayrshire in 1954. The Neill family farming enterprise flourished, with two neighbouring tenancies secured to allow George and his two brothers to follow in their father’s footsteps.

Over the past 50 years, Mr Neill has built the family farming business at Thornington near Mindrum into one of the few major dairying success stories in the region. With three sons of his own, he has also followed his father’s lead and acquired two more farms to enable all three sons to continue the family tradition in a mixed livestock farming business centred on the 320 British Friesian dairy herd now managed by his son Tom, a 300-head Limousin-cross beef enterprise run by son Robert, and an 1800-strong sheep enterprise run by David Neill at nearby Downham Farm.

Together, the R Neill and Sons farming enterprises today extend to more than 1500 acres of owned land and a further 1150 acres rented for grazing and self-sufficient feed production. Under George Neill’s guidance, the family has invested consistently in infrastructure and technology to keep the business at the forefront of change, and in 2020, R Neill and Sons were recognised as the Northern Farmer Dairy Farmer of the Year.

Alongside the development of his growing farming business, Mr. Neill has found time to develop a much sought-after expertise in valuation consultancy, and to bring his exemplary business judgment to bear serving as chairman of a wide range of organisations including the Border Agricultural Society, the South of Scotland Border Valuers Association, and the Scottish Agricultural Arbiters and Valuers Association.

As chairman of John Swan and Sons for many years, he helped to significantly raise the profile of the Mart and was closely involved in the takeover of the County Auctions Mart in Wooler. He has also been awarded a Fellowship of the Council for Awards of Royal Agricultural Societies (FRAgS).

Despite his recent retirement into Kelso, George and his wife, Mary, remain closely involved in the family, farming, and the business.

David Thomlinson’s wife, Sheila Thomlinson, said: “The farming enterprise that George and his family have built highlights the combination of passion for this way of life and business skill that makes farmers like George Neill the backbone of our industry and our rural economy.

“Throughout his career, he has set the highest standards in livestock farming and agri-business development, in every aspect of his contribution to the organisations he has served and led, and to his local community. He has created a wonderful legacy to pass on to the next generation.”

On receiving his award, George Neill said: “Over the years, I had many discussions with David Thomlinson, and I thought the world of him. I am really honoured to be recognised and to receive the David Thomlinson Lifetime Achievement Award, and I never thought I was worthy enough to receive something of this calibre.”