BACK TO THE TEUCHTER
Farmer Jim Smith takes to the stage for his stand-up tour
Rosie Morton donned her wellies to meet Perthshire farmer Jim Smith, whose dry wit has taken the stand-up comedy scene by storm
Scottish summer arrived – it was a Wednesday morning in May, in case you missed it – and there was no better day to don the wellies and visit Perthshire farmer Jim Smith. But while Jim may have mastered the art of growing the perfect tattie, created what he calls his ‘Teuchter tractor playlist’, and tuned into the enigmatic ways of his ‘working single mothers’ – his prize yows – Jim is no ordinary farmer.
Tempting though it may be to kick back at the end of a long week, gin in hand, Jim instead drives into the
cities of Scotland, taking to the stage as a fabulously dry-witted stand-up comedian – something he likes to call ‘diversification’. Now social media sensations, Jim and his beloved yows have become rural celebrities.
‘This is Mary McGregor, one of my prize yows,’ says Jim on his BBC comedy series Farm Diaries. ‘Mary is also chairman of the Sheep Social Committee. Her and some other sheep organise social events for the other yows. Things like bingo days, whist drives, day trips to Stirling Castle – just to keep the sheep amused.’
Arriving at Jim’s 300 acres of tenanted farmland, which was taken on by his grandfather in 1949, we were experiencing something of a tropical heatwave – 22 degrees, no less. Having spent four years at Aberdeen’s SRUC, the locals’ weather obsession became a hot topic in many of Jim’s northeast-inspired gags. It was five years ago that the responsibility for the farm fell to Jim, something he has wholeheartedly embraced.
‘I couldn’t imagine doing anything else, I wouldn’t change it for the world,’ he says, while Floss, his five-monthold collie, races round his legs. ‘This is my favourite time of year. Lambing’s done, most of the calves are out, the grass is beginning to grow and the days are longer. The pressure’s off a wee bit and you can enjoy it.’
But Jim has never been far away from comedy. Explaining that he’s always seen the funny side of life, it was at Young Farmers that he truly caught the bug for stand-up.
‘They do a cabaret competition every year,’ he explains. ‘The first year you’ll maybe give a hand with the props, then next year they’re needing somebody to come on as a horse or something. Folk get roped into it. Two years later you’re the soprano, you know! These big, beefy Highlander guys – before they know it, they’re in a tutu doing Swan Lake.’
Going on to do Red Raw nights at Glasgow comedy club The Stand, Jim has quickly worked his way up the comedic ranks. Inspired by the likes of The Two Ronnies, Colin Campbell, Scotch & Wry, and Aberdeen’s own Desperate Fishwives, Jim is now touring the country with his Back to the Teuchter show
This is Mary McGregor, one of my prize yows – Mary’s also chairman of the Sheep Social Committee
– and if a day spent with Jim is anything to go by, it’s one not to be missed. Covering all things rural, from the trials and tribulations of countryside dating to the comical joys of village life, Jim’s summer is set to be a busy one.
Featuring in comedy panel show Breaking the News, The Farm and Farm Diaries series, as well as BBC’s Scot Squad – which is, quite incredibly, very often ad lib – Jim’s tour dates are quickly being booked up. ‘It’s going to be great craic,’ he laughs. ‘I think there’ll be a few checked shirts in the audience.’
Jim’s Twitter followers also get handsome helpings of his quick wit, from Tweets about Theresa May picking off ‘stanes’ on the back of a tattie harvester, to growing up with a Scalextric set that sported nothing more than a lone singletrack road with passing places.
‘It’s a great privilege being asked to do stand-up. It might only be a passing fad, but I’m not going to be gutted if it peters out in two or three years.’
Jim’s yows and cattle will always be his priority, so he wastes no time in retreating to the countryside after gigs. Having helped his father in the fields as a young boy, his favourite job, of course, was driving the tractor – and not much has changed. Blaring eighties power ballads, nineties dance music, Runrig and Skipinnish from his tractor, he maintains that nothing beats bumbling around the fields on a sunny afternoon. ‘BBC Alba’s fine good in the afternoon – it’s got a good bit of Teuchter music,’ he says.
Heading out to admire the views from his farmhouse, we turned to Jim’s newly-planted vegetable patch. Though predominantly working with livestock, Jim, his mother and his girlfriend Morag look after a tattie field, and an additional plot on the side where they grow peas, lettuce and carrots for their own use. Each plot, marked with a slab of slate and chalk, ‘looks more like a headstone’, observes Jim. ‘Aww, this one… He was a great lettuce,’ he says.
So, what’s the latest on Mary McGregor and the other yows? ‘Well,’ Jim explains, ‘Now the lambing’s nearly finished, they’re planning their summer trip. Last year it was to Stirling Castle and this year I don’t know where they’re going. I think it’s the beach in St Andrews, but I missed the last committee meeting, ken.’
And what a sight that will be along West Sands. Let’s hope Mary and the girls go easy on the marram grass on their annual leave. I, for one, look forward to their silver screen debut. What’s that movie called again? Cheviots of Fire? Tickets for Back to the Teuchter can be purchased at: seetickets.com/tour/jim-smith
Above: Jim, his temperamental mother and farmhand Donnie on BBC’s The Farm; getting involved in a bitter turf war with his neighbour; Jim works hard to impress visiting vet Annette on The Farm.
Left: Jim and his five-month-old Collie Floss enjoying the view.
Above: Fluffy the sheep looking happy as Larry in Jim’s arms.
Below: Jim at the Whyte & Mackay, Glasgow International Comedy Festival.