‘I al­ways knew in my heart I would re­turn to Done­gal’

Irish Independent - Farming - - RURAL LIFE - PA­TRICK BOYLE In con­ver­sa­tion with Ken Whe­lan

PA­TRICK BOYLE fell in love with the Swaledale breed of sheep when he was driv­ing in York­shire and had to pull over to al­low a flock of the bushy­tailed ones to cross the road.

That en­counter was back in 1994 and his fas­ci­na­tion for the breed has re­mained undi­min­ished ever since.

“I im­me­di­ately jumped out of the car when I saw them on the road and had a two-hour chat with the farmer about the sheep, es­pe­cially their long bushy tails,” the 61-yearold ex­plains.

“And he told me that in snowy weather and dur­ing the birth cy­cle the breed re­tains vi­tal vi­ta­mins in these tails which can last for three weeks longer than in other breeds of sheep, and that can be vi­tal dur­ing a hard win­ter.”

Pa­trick was also fas­ci­nated by the fact that the sheep could sur­vive in the dales of York­shire and thought that they would be ideal for the hills of Done­gal.

He now runs a flock of some 40 Swaledales on his rented hill farm near Fin­town and is “the chair­man, vice-chair­man and sec­re­tary — a one-man show” of the breed’s so­ci­ety in Ire­land.

Pa­trick can of­ten be heard spread­ing the word about his beloved breed along the west coast and over in Wick­low at sheep sales and sem­i­nars.

A bach­e­lor — “no rings but still look­ing” — he took a round­about route back to sheep farm­ing in his na­tive county, but he al­ways knew he would even­tu­ally drop an­chor there.

As a boy be­ing ed­u­cated through Ir­ish in the Done­gal Gaeltacht he used to ‘mitch’ from school to help a lo­cal sheep farmer who ran a flock of “what looked like mon­sters”. His daily rou­tine as a young teenager was to ar­rive at school, wait for the class roll call, and then off with him over the school wall to round up the farmer’s sheep. He was awarded the princely sum of an old ten-bob note for his work.

In the mid-70s he left for Birm­ing­ham with­out a word of English in his vo­cab­u­lary and got a job with a fur­ni­ture com­pany. The man­ager promptly en­rolled him in English classes at a nearby school, where he ac­quired his unique “Done­gal-Birm­ing­ham” ac­cent.

“It was a bad time in Birm­ing­ham what with the Trou­bles, but I worked my way up to a sales­man po­si­tion in the com­pany and then I went to a Lon­don trans­port com­pany work­ing in sales, ad­ver­tis­ing and ware­hous­ing.

“Ev­ery time I would come home to my par­ents James and Brid­get they would ask if there was any news on the ring front, and ev­ery time they were dis­ap­pointed.

“But I al­ways knew in my heart that I would be re­turn­ing to Done­gal and did so to


take care of my par­ents in 2004, and then started my Swaledale op­er­a­tion in 2009.”

Pa­trick thrived and now runs an an­nual sale of the breed in Brock­agh, where he su­per­vised a sale of some 1,000 sheep a fort­night ago.

He in­sists on a clean health cer­tifi­cate for the sheep and does not al­low any an­i­mal in­fected with Orf or sheep blind­ness — a tem­po­rary prob­lem caused by liv­ing in misty cli­mates.

“The par­ents were go­ing to leave the home farm to me but, as I was in Lon­don I


Pa­trick Boyle and his Swaledale flock thought my younger brother should take over,” he ex­plains.“And when I came home I rented land for my Swaledales and now I have my brother and nephew breed­ing them.”

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