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Janet sent her life story to be shared.
By Janet Pringle, Isle of Skye
October 22, 2009
"I was born in 1973 in Irvine
Ayrshire Scotland. At that time my mother was teaching and my father was
working on a dairy farm. I only have very odd memories from the dairy
as I was very young, but we moved when I was around four to
Ardnamurachan Estates on the West Coast of Scotland. It was here and in
the surrounding area that I grew up. I went to High school in both Fort
William and Portree.
Looking back over those years of
growing up on farms surrounded by cows and sheep and always loads of
dogs, I remember how my dad always hated dogs tied up or shut away in
sheds so ours always ran about free and because of that requirement we
always seemed to have good natured dogs. There were some great
footballers among them. Old “Queenie” a beardie, we always said could
play on a team! My dad would ban us from football at certain times as
occasionally the dogs would be too tired for sheep work.
I wasn’t always pleased to be
among the sheep. There were plenty of days spent dipping sheep when I
was 13 or 14 when I would have rather been doing something else, but
tractor work I loved. I ploughed, made silage, spread dung anything
really that needed a tractor. Probably unusual for a girl.
We were taught to drive as soon
as our feet reached the pedals, and I actually drove on the main road at
times as well. That was in the lorry (a truck). I do not think that safe
now, and I’m sure I wouldn’t let my nieces and nephews do that.
I liked the cows being inside in
the winter, and I think I will always remember the New Year’s Day that
my sister Catherine and I cleaned the cubicle shed (about thirty cows
had been in it) with a small tractor; my grandfather had bought the
tractor the year before I was born. It was as International Harvester
454. My dad got it after my grandfather sold his farm. I ended up with
it until I eventually needed some lights to work. I sold it in 2007, and
I replaced it with a Case JX80. I like to think my grandfather would
have been pleased. I would have liked to keep it in the family; I still
keep tabs on it so who knows I may get it back. I got my first Beardie pup when
I was 19. My dad’s dog, Tote, was mated with Jimmy Mitchell’s Paddy, who
wanted a pup. Tote only had one a wee bitch, and that was all she ever had.
I got it. Mollie. A good all-rounder, and she had a few litters of
pups too that went far and wide. She lived till she was 15 and then took
ill very suddenly and died. I still get confused when out gathering and
I shout for "Moll." Her real talent was catching sheep out in the
open. During lambing my neighbour would phone to bring the dog over
rather than get his own.
The Beardies are special, and
they have to suit you and you them. Mollie would go to the hill with my
dad, but if he raised his voice at her she just went home. We joked that
she didn’t like raised voices, swearing, or poor manners of any kind.
I have had half-Beardies as
well, but they are not quite the same. My young dog at the moment is
Bonnie (a Beardie). She has been terrible about matting. I had her
shaved at the beginning of the summer but is getting bad again as her
coat grows back. But a great wee dog. Dead keen. She is working both
sheep and cattle but mainly cattle and not scared at all. Barks when
needed and quiet the rest of the time which I like. She sits on the bike
and is a harmless creature among people.
We currently have 35 cattle and
just a few sheep, but if I could get a bit more ground we could soon
change that. I work full time for the Fire and Rescue Service; that job
is very interesting, and I am lucky that it fits in well with my
Winter is here and we are just
about to start thinking about feeding. Calves kept for stock
replacements have been getting fed this last month. My cows are mainly spring
calving with some heifers calving at the back end of autumn/fall. We buy in all the straw and
will use about 150 big bales through the winter along with maybe seven
ton of concentrate. The new tractor in 2007 made a big difference to the
work load, and we now have a shed planned for 2010. Once that shed is up
we really will be making progress. Maybe then we will start building a
house for ourselves."
Janet sent some pictures to
reflect some of what she was writing about. One photo of Janet moving
cattle was similar to a painting rendered over 100 years before.
Nigel and Ginny Stacy-Marks
graciously allowed a photograph of a painting they owned to be placed on
this website. The painting was by Gourlay Steele, an artist who lived
from 1819-1894. He was no stranger to Highland Catle. The painting from
1878 was named "Highland Drove Through Callander, Scotland." The
painting shows cattle being driven through the village. Callander is
next to Loch Lomond (seen in the background).
Below, more than 125 years later
from the date of the above painting, Janet was driving cattle through Ardvasar, a village on the east side of the Sleat peninsula on the Isle
of Skye. Water between Skye and the mainland of Scotland can be viewed
in the background of her photograph. The cattle seen here were being
moved from one pasture to another one in order that the cattle could
continue grazing. The males were being grazed until ready for market.
The females would be kept for breeding.
The white bull was being cooperative, as were the
drivers of the automobiles in the background.