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Note: Mr. Norman passed away after this interview.

A Visit to Jack Norman (August 2004)

by Peter Wood

Jack was born in 1922 at Bromfield Hall near Wigtown in Cumbria, England. Jack’s grandfather on his mother’s side had a farm just outside Wigtown called Moorhall. Jack’s father always had good dogs, and his father did not like to see anybody hitting a dog. Of course, in those days, all stock was driven to market on foot, and Jack believes that is why there were so many good dogs then.

He remembered his father’s first Beardie, a bitch by the name of Trim, from over 60 years ago. Jack’s mother’s family also had good working dogs as well. Jack took pride in emphasising how well these family dogs worked whether registered or unregistered. It is very understandable that from such a firm foundation and understanding of dogs, Jack’s dogs always earned their keep and did so to a very high standard. It was no surprise to hear that there had never been a shortage of handlers ready to accept a dog from Jack.

When only about six or seven years old, after constantly worrying his father about a dog of his own, Jack’s father returned home one night with a big, smart dog on a chain which he gave to Jack. This dog was a Border Collie by the name of Tyne and cost the princely sum of two shillings and six pence (old money) equivalent to 12-1/2 pence in 2005.

Jack always had an interest in ponies. When Jack was about ten years old, his father came across a chestnut pony (Sorrell) that was used for delivering milk. This pony had developed a habit of bolting, which is not a good thing to do when attached to a milk cart. This bad habit led to Jack’s father acquiring him rather inexpensively. Thus, this event started Jack’s life with ponies.

Jack left school on a Friday, at age 14, and he started work the following day. In those days a young lad would get paid once every six months, and his wage for the six month period was £6. A married man, providing he was good at his work, would get 18 shillings a week. For those not used to the old monetary system that was two shillings less than £1.

Jack came to Knowhead Farm, Lennoxtown, as a shepherd about 1950, and he continued with good dogs and good ponies until his health forced him to retire. He did his shepherding on horseback because the farm covered some 3,000 acres; almost all of it was hill ground. There was only about 180 acres of “in-bye” ground (a term used to describe the flatter, lower ground usually fairly close to the farm buildings).

The farm used to run 1200 ewes and about 60 cows, and Jack would have one other shepherd to assist him. He would work two or three dogs together as one would not have been able to manage on his own due to the amount of ground needing to be covered.

Jack acquired his first Beardie about 1955, and it cost £28. It was a bitch which came from Stanly Dodson, who lived near Cockermouth in Cumbria. He thought he had bought a “pig in a poke” (which means that he first thought the chap selling the dog had really caught him out and sold him a dud dog). However, what a difference he saw in the dog the next morning. The dog turned out to be really intelligent and was good at working sheep and cattle. Jack mentioned how this dog would work cattle in any way Jack asked him to do so (without heeling the cattle).

Jack nearly always had a bitch on hand so that he could occasionally breed his replacements. He once bought a very good bitch from George Simpson. Jack said: “She was probably the best I have ever had. Her name was Meg.”

Once when the ewes were just starting to lamb, a party of walkers (or hikers) came along the footpath on their way to the top of the hill. Jack asked: “where are you going?” A burly chap replied: “to the top of the hill, why?” He also asked Jack: “what’s your problem?” “You are,” said Jack. Then Jack continued: “you are not going to the top of the hill because the ewes are just starting to lamb.” The chap commented that he could not see any lambs. Jack pointed out several lambs. Then he told the party they could go on no further. “Who’s going to stop us?” asked the burly chap in an aggressive manner. “Me and that dog” replied Jack, and he pointed to the Beardie right by his ankle. Then Jack said to the dog “watch him!” This command brought a growl from the dog, while the hairs rose upon his back. Needless to say, the party returned to the bottom of the hill from whence they came.

Jack in August 2004

Jack retired from full time shepherding in 2003, but he still did a bit to keep himself active. Jack had always been used to working very long days. He still had a few dogs and a couple of ponies. I first saw a dog that was named Craig; he was about nine or ten years of age. He was a “stumpy.” (see pictures below.) Occasionally when breeding Beardies, a puppy will turn up that only has a part tail (this can be anywhere between ¾ length to virtually no tail at all, and they have always been known, almost affectionately, as “stumpies”). Craig was bred from a dog, which belonged to Peter Martin of Aberfoyle, and a bitch, which came from David Gray of Kilsythe.

There were also two young dogs in the barn about one year of age. Jack told me they were brother and sister, and were ½ Border Collie and ½ Beardie. The dog had taken after the Beardie parent, and Jack had fairly high hopes for him. His sister had taken after the Border Collie parent, but Jack did not say much more about her.

Jack remembers his dogs of the past with affection and, sometimes, for different reasons. He recalls Tyne, Floss, Jean, Nell and Ben. Ben lived until he was nineteen and died around 1994. It is not unusual for some Beardies to live to a good old age.

David Gray (previously mentioned) has been associated with Beardies over many years. His father, Willie Gray, had Beardies before David. Their line of dogs came down from an old shepherd who used to work in the markets moving the stock to and fro. The old shepherd’s name was Charlie Christie. It seems a lot of people’s dogs originated from Charlie's breedings. I suppose working in the markets meant people could see how good Charlie’s dogs were.

I visited David Gray on November 2, 2005 to deliver a bitch puppy I had bred. It was related to David's old line. Of course, I enquired about Jack. David told me that Jack was now living in a retirement home. David knew Jack for many years. He said of Jack, quite affectionately, “he is quite a character.”


Paul and Carol

Pringle, Drew

Pringle, Janet

Reid, Kit


Baxter, John

Condie, Mike


Isted, Peter

Morland, Ronnie

Muirhead, Tommy




A scenic view of Knowhead Farm in Scotland, where Jack Norman lived until late 2004 or early 2005.


Knowhead Farm in Scotland; the ponies can be seen among the sheep. Photo taken by Brian Jackaman.


Craig, a Beardie at age 9 or 10 years. Taken in August 2004. He is called a "stumpy" due to the length of his tail.


Another view of Craig.


Look at the similarities between Mr. Norman's Craig and the Old Welsh Grey shown in Hubbard's 1947 book, Working Dogs of the World.


Another view of Craig where the stumpy tail can be seen.


The male pup, age one, which is half-Beardie.



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