ADRIAN DANGAR’S article on the trials of shepherding in winter (December 7) brings vividly to mind the hardships endured. A recent book, ARCHBANK: The Story of a Border Hill Farm, by well-known farmer and auctioneer John A. Thomson, highlights the losses that used to be one of the hazards of that way of life. Archbank, a hill farm at Moffat in Dumfriesshire— which, coincidentally, was farmed 100 years ago by my great-grandfather, Edward Bruges—is now owned and farmed by the author’s son.
Mr Thomson unearths some horrifying statistics for the losses of shepherds and their sheep during the most severe winters in the Borders. In 1794, a third of the sheep and 15 shepherds lost their lives in the Moffat area. On the other hand, there are records of sheep being buried alive for 33 days one winter near Yarrow, and 41 days another at Over Cassock, and yet surviving.
In the 1960s, I remember a new idea for a sheep shelter being tried in the Lammermuir Hills, although some farmers pooh-poohed it. With hindsight, it was so obvious—employing sheds with slatted sides to protect the sheep from the snow, while allowing the outside air to circulate freely to maintain the ambient temperature. Alastair Maxwell-irving, Stirling