Suf­fer­ing shep­herds

Country Life Every Week - - Letters To The Editor -

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

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