You are visiting the "Shepherds/Farmers" page.
The other main sections for this site can be accessed by clicking on any
one of the above links. The links in the box to the right will take you to other pages
within the "Shepherds/Farmers" section.
A shepherd, as presented on this site, is usually employed by a landowner or farmer (referred to
as a "governor," "boss," or in Scotland, a "laird," or other names
depending upon geographical area). Some shepherds are self-employed and
contract their services out to farmers who do not employ a full time
shepherd. Under those circumstances, the individual is called a contract
shepherd. There are also individuals appearing on this site who
would be referred to as sheep farmers for whom sheep are the main or
sole enterprise on their farms. A sheep farmer could be an individual
who is tending their own flocks, employs a shepherd, or contracts some,
or all, of the work out to a contract shepherd. Shepherds work long
hours in all kinds of weather. The individuals presented on this site
appear only by a first name and the region where they reside (unless
permission was granted for a surname to be used). It may be that some
individuals wish to respect their employer's privacy, and therefore, did
not want last names used.
A stockman is someone usually engaged in the
business of raising cattle to be sold for meat. A herdsman, on the other
hand, usually works with dairy cattle, though some people refer to a
herdsman as someone working both kinds of cattle.
The Old Shepherd drawn by Edwin
This image appeared in the publication
The Illustrated Christian Weekly, September 15, 1888
Shepherding, at the beginning of the 21st century, seemingly is
diminishing as an occupation in many countries around the world. Several
British shepherds/farmers have stated that it is especially true for
their country. Some, when interviewed, talked about how there used to be
"14 or 15 of us," but now there are "few" left.
Author, Matt Mundell, spent 14 years gathering material for articles
to be featured in The Scottish Farmer. Mundell had a special love
of dogs. His book, Country Diary was later published in 1981 from
those articles. One chapter in the book was entitled "The Long Gather."
Wonderfully written, it gives the reader a view into how shepherds were
gathering sheep from the mountains in preparation for an annual sheep
sale. On page 36, the following words appear.
Three hours before the sheep were finally penned that 1977 day
we had disgorged from a Land Rover and horse box which was weighed
down by man and dog so much it was difficult to steer. Thirty
collies suddenly loosed together means freedom and bedlam unlimited.
And at that stage all answering everyday names.
Ernie MacPherson whose own hirsel is the Stobb on the south side
of the Glen, lit off for the top with four dogs including his
hunter—a barking type of sheepdog—called Cora. There is a different
atmosphere up there on the very heights, said the Cairndow 'herds.
You can stride for miles and miles without a falter. Just so, but
only after a stiff climb.
That worthy, Kit Reid on his own ground, fitted in below Ernie,
combing the high pads with one of the
country's most colourful dog squads including blue-merles Cora and
Corrie and the grey Rock on his first-ever gather and A.W.O.L. at
the end of it. He would come back no doubt later that day. Kit had
with him too, as well as these Skye-blooded rarities, the tough red
beardie collie Rhuardh with the blood of Mull."
Kit Reid, of Scotland, gave telephonic interviews several times before
he eventually succumbed to illness. Kit passed away in June of 2003, but
some of his words appear on his page under "Scotland."
Tommy Muirhead (1936-1994), another shepherd from Scotland, has been
credited with breeding working Beardies long after many other shepherds
abandoned the breed during the second half of the 20th Century. We are
fortunate that Tommy's son was able to provide us with several pictures
of his shepherding life though Tommy first owned dogs of another type.
Mundell mentioned how Tom's Beardies were trained on the farm. Writing
about Tommy's dogs and Tommy's training of them, Mundell wrote: "Perhaps
a bit slower to break than regular hill dogs, they were sometimes
trained by working on ducks. Part of the training was educating them to
Again, turning to Mundell's book, another chapter entitled "Strangers on
the Hill" brings forth some insight about Tommy and his dogs when he was
shepherding at Birkcleugh in Duneaton Water near Crawfordjohn,
Lanarkshire. Mundell wrote that Tom usually took three of the beardies
to the hill in the morning and two in the afternoon. Quoting Mundell:
"Bonny dogs too. It was a great sight to see his line-up of
shaggy-coated workers—grey Nap, the black and tan Meg, brown Fly, black
and tan Sally and grey, white and tan Gyle—kenneled at the back of his
Mundell quoted Tommy:
"They can go longer than the ordinary collie, at least the majority
of them. They are hardier and will not give in. I have never
seen Nap beaten, for instance. They might not be just as quick at
running out for their sheep but they will certainly cast out wide
and they are steady and canny to work. At lambing time I can drive a
single ewe and her lamb with no bother. You can let these dogs away
and once they are round sheep you can leave them and go on to
another heft. The beardies will bring on the first lot of sheep to
you no bother."
Mundell wrote in this same chapter: ". . .for my tramps amid hill men have
many times brought the pleasure of seeing able beardies—the bewhiskered
hair-faced, long-wooled collie strain—and also stumpie-tails, merles and
even a full-blooded Australian Kelpie. Clever workdogs all of them."
Mundell also mentioned Robert Brown, a shepherd from Calroust, Yetholm,
and how his beardies went "out right to the English border at 1,800
feet." Brown had Beardies for at least two decades. Mundell quoted
Brown: "I like the half beardies." "With the full beardie you have to
wait on them and be patient before they are ready to train for work but
the half-beardie comes on a bit quicker." Brown was talking about
breedings of Beardies to Border Collies.
There are still a few shepherds/farmers that keep several Beardies to assist
in working flocks (numbering from hundreds to thousands). These
individuals can't imagine doing such difficult work without the
assistance of their faithful Beardies. Shepherding and farming was never
an easy life, and it is still true today. Shepherds work long hours.
Therefore, it leaves little time for shepherds to look up old pictures
(so that their pictures could be scanned for placement on this site), or
to take new pictures reflecting how their Beardies worked their lands,
or to write about their lives, their dogs, their sheep, etc.
July 23, 2009, John Baxter, of North Glen Farm near Port Glasgow,
Scotland, gave a telephonic interview where he said approximately 5,000
hill sheep were recently sold at the Stirling markets; he was of the
belief they would not be replaced.
Several people have assisted in making this section possible. These
individuals are to be commended for their efforts.
Fortunately, some of the modern shepherds/farmers (or a family member)
realized how the shepherds' words and pictures on a website would enable
people around the world to have a window to look through where one could
see, and read about working Beardies doing what the dogs' ancestors did
for hundreds of years. Several books have been written about the
shepherds' lives, but prior to the late 1800s, few photographs existed.
Artists rendered paintings, drawings, etc. of the countryside, the drove
roads, and other pastoral scenes, but it would be difficult to prove
that any such artwork reflected what the artist's eye actually saw.
The writings, on their respective web pages, belong to the
shepherds/farmers. Some shepherds wrote their own words, and then they
proofed printouts of their pages before the materials were finalized for
publication. Others, however, were unable to put forth written
communication. In those cases, verbal accounts were put into writing by
a relative or a friend. Other shepherds like the late Kit Reid did
telephonic interviews. If no last name appears for any individual(s), it
is because that person(s) asked that their surname not be used.