Tributes

Within the section we will include tributes/obituaries to former Belted Galloway members.

David Bell

George B. Sproat

John McTurk

Irene Wilson: 1931-2016

Flora Stuart - 1941-2005

 

David Bell

It is almost 30 years since I first met David Bell, I had moved down from Scotland where I had acquired two Simmental heifers and had decided that as I had a little more land I would like to increase the herd. I had been to a couple of sales in the area and David had introduced himself but it wasn’t until I knew him a little better that I realised we had a common love of the Belties!  When I had decided to buy some breeding animals in Scotland the choice had been Simmental or Belted Galloway, but my neighbour persuaded me to go for the Simmies, saying that Belties were “wild, bad tempered beasties”!!

David introduced me to his Belties,  who all seemed pretty quiet and friendly, no evidence here of “wild, bad tempered beasties” , although at the time he only had a couple of cows which had come from Jackie Yeandle.  He had regularly been attending the Rare Breeds sale at Stoneleigh, flying the Beltie flag and generally selling a bull each year.

After the awful times of 2001 with F&M I decided I would like to concentrate more on the Belties & sought David’s advice on the purchase of a bull.  His knowledge of the breed and its breeders would prove invaluable & he know that Christopher Marler’s females had all been sold to Sir Martin Arbib, but the stock bull Bolebec Concorde was for sale & suggested we should go & see him.  One couldn’t help but be impressed with Concorde and as David was a friend of Christopher’s we not only say the cattle but had a tour of all his exotic birds and extensive property. Friends in high places!!  Collected the bull was yet another adventure with David, it was nearing the end of the F&M restrictions but we still had to have a Ministry escort all the way from the Marler’s Buckinghamshire farm to my home!

It is so easy with the passing of time to forget the little things and the kindnesses that were just in his make up, but my son reminded me what a lovely man he was. When I told him that David had passed away his first reaction was “ Oh, how sad, he always looked out for me at shows”, my son is now 36 and this would have been more than 25years ago, but Julian’s lasting memory was not one of David’s cows, but of a kind and caring person.

David’s knowledge of so many cattle breeds is perhaps unrivalled, he judged many native and continental breeds at some of the major shows, but he was never too  proud to help some of the smaller shows, especially by supporting them with a lorry full of show cattle and his support of these shows will be sadly missed. He worked tirelessly supporting both the Simmentals and the Belties, for years he would take all the penning for the Simmentals down to the Royal Welsh Show and other events, always putting the promotion of whichever breed before his own cattle.

Only the week before he passed away he was rallying breeders from the south to attend the Belted Galloway World Congress & was happy to offer other  breeders space in his lorry to make the journey north to Dumfries.

The enormous number of people that turned out to his funeral is testament to the high regard that his friends had for him and his family.  To his great friend Judith who had worked alongside him with the cattle over the past 10 years  I extend my deepest sympathy, his passing leaves so many cattle breeds without a great ambassador and so many of us without a great friend.

David Bell (Crackley Belties)

My first meeting and subsequent memories of David stretches back to the 1970’s when we both competed in stock judging competitions for Warwickshire Young Farmers – David competing in the Senior Section and myself in the Juniors.  He was always successful having a clear understanding of both breeding and prime stock and that natural gift and “an eye for livestock” stood him in good stead in subsequent years when he teamed up with Mr Tom Booth to form a formidable partnership of Booth & Bell instigating the well known, noted and highly successful “Crackley” prefix.

Initial pedigree breeding favoured the Simmental breed with purchases in the early 1980’s from the famous “Cloford” herd forming some highly regarded cow families which, over the years, came to the fore not only in the sale ring but also having long and highly deserved show successes including Championships at the Royal Show not to mention an unending list of top awards at National, County and local shows.  He was also a pioneer in the breed’s polling programme importing several poll genes from across Europe.

His great and enthusiastic regard for the “Belties” followed a similar path with quality always uppermost in his breeding programme.  Many breeders will recall “Crackley Nero” winning Breed, Interbreed and Champion of Champions at the Traditional Breeds Day at the Three Counties Show, 2013.

He was also proud to win many other top awards not least Reserve Interbreed Pairs Champion at his local Kenilworth Show.

David was, without doubt, a Master Breeder with vision, clear thinking and a deep knowledge of the livestock industry, an accomplished breed judge of several breeds and genuinely known and respected from Scotland to Cornwall.  As a modest, hardworking, reliable, honest man he would always help fellow breeders, be prepared to guide new breeders and the industry as a whole will be a lot worse off for his passing.

Clive Roads
McCartneys LLP

George B. Sproat

George Burns Sproat died on the 7th February, 2015 ten days after his 79th birthday and nine days after attending what turned out to be his last Council meeting.

George was the fourth generation of his family to farm Belted Galloways, the herd having first been established in 1854 at Holm of Almorness, Dalbeattie and then the herd moved to High Creoch, Gatehouse of Fleet then to Boreland of Anwoth in 1903.  The Boreland prefix was established as one of the foundation herds of our Society in 1921.  George’s Grandfather being a founder member of the Society and until this February a member of the Sproat family has always been on Council.

The Family moved to Borness, one of the best farms in Borgue Parish in 1953 and George by this time had spent 6 years ‘at the end of the halter!’  At Borness the Boreland herd flourished and became one of the largest herds in the country.  From there Belted cattle were exported worldwide including New Zealand.  Boreland herd were always to the fore at the summer shows and in 1968 won both the Belted Galloway and Black Galloway Championship at the Royal Show at Stoneleigh.

George enjoyed the Show season and would take charge of much of the pre-show organising and this involved local haulier Wullie Archer taking his ‘holidays’ for a fortnight trip to the Royal Show then Great Yorkshire.  The show team stayed in the lorry and George was in charge of cooking the evening meal.  Many Stewartry stockmen/farmers and others went in their teenage years on this trip – often the first time they had been from home, their parents comfortable knowing that George would keep them out of trouble.

George was one of few who could understand how to organise the class judging at the Royal Highland Show and was called upon by the stewards to assist whenever available.  He was also responsible for much of the sale organisation in conjunction with Wallets’ Mart at our October event, seeing numbers which started with six cattle rise to the event of recent years.

The Boreland Herd was dispersed in 1998 when George retired from farming.  His involvement in the Breed continued as strong as ever.

During 1970 – 1995 the Belted Galloway Society was principally run and organised by a group of three - the secretary of the time, Miss Flora Stuart of Mochrum and George Sproat.

Miss Flora was President but as she preferred not to Chair the Council meetings George took charge of the meetings.  They had a special relationship and much of the work for the agenda would have been done prior to the meeting day when George took charge of rubber stamping it!

George’s other interests were rugby and many other sports, was an able singer having sung in the local choir in the past.  He was ever present at the Lairg Cheviot sales acting as buying agent, a great supporter of Stewartry Show and a qualified SFA Referee.

He was a most competent judge and performed at many premier events including the Royal Highland, Great Yorkshire and Royal Show as well as many of the smaller shows.

Retirement also gave him time to visit herds and assist breeders who had lapsed with registrations or just need a bit of assistance.  He enjoyed his many trips to south west England where, with assistance of Mr & Mrs John Hodge, he based himself for several days and visited herds, registering cattle and inspecting bulls.

George was one of our Vice Presidents at the time of his death and had served in such a position for several years.

At our AGM, Dinner and Presentation evening last October he was awarded the Flora Stuart Trophy.  This award is given annually to a person who Council feel has made a major contribution to the promotion of the Belted Galloway breed.

George was very proud to receive this award and as events turned out it was more a lifetime achievement award.  We shall miss George, he led a major part in the development of our breed and already we realise the expanse of knowledge of Belted Galloways that is no longer immediately available to us.

John McTurk

John and I got to know one another some 40 odd years ago when we were members of Stewartry Young Farmers Club.  John was brought up at Gateside, Lochfoot into a large family who were noted breeders of Hereford and Galloway cattle and Blackface sheep.  John often sacrificed a good night with young farmers to pursue his passion for the game of Rugby.

When John and Monica set up home at The May they built up a small select herd of Belted Galloways.  Monica had received a heifer, prior to John arriving on the scene, from Miss Flora Stuart of Mochrum, who was the Land Owner of The May and President of the Belted Galloway Cattle Society.  The May Herd competed at shows as far north as the Highland at Ingliston and south to the Royal at Stoneleigh and taking in the Great Yorkshire Show at Harrogate on the return journey.  In 1995 May “Wafer” was winning all the Shows and John received the Stockman of the Year Trophy.

In 2002 the May Herd was sold off when John and Monica relinquished the tenancy of the farm and John was proud to become Manager of the Mochrum Herd, - one of the oldest and World renowned .

In 2013 Mochrum Lilac the 3rd attended eight Shows and won every one of them. Also that year over 100 people enjoyed a fine Sunday afternoon at an open day at Mochrum discussing the merits of the breed and having a guided farm tour with John outlining his plans and preferences for the Belted Herd.

John was a capable judge who was in charge at the Royal Show in 2007 and also had officiated at Straiton and the Great Yorkshire in other years. He would have been called upon to be decision maker in many other show rings had he not been on the end of a halter, as an exhibitor.

John was a Belted Galloway Cattle Society Council Member for around 20 years and he was a good attender at meetings, who took great interest in the activities of the Society.  He was never afraid to put his point across. If he felt something needed said he would say it!

John was always keen to assist new members with advice and guidance whenever requested.  One member who described John as ”one of the most genuine people I have ever met” was new to showing at the Highland in 1988 and had prepared his animal which was awaiting haltered and ready to be called to the ring, when John strolled past and casually commented “it could do with a little bit off the tail”  The exhibitor suspected that this may be a wind-up but went ahead and trimmed the tail.  On John’s return he said that it looked better but would perhaps benefit from a little more off.  So off it came and the bull went on to be reserve male champion.

Another member said he was one of the first people I got to know in the Beltie fraternity and he was always friendly and helpful.  He always had a twinkle in his eye and was always ready to see the humorous side of a situation.

On October 1st 2014 Wigtown Book Festival organised an event at Mochrum where guests were given a short talk on the history of the Belted Galloway and there-after escorted on a farm tour of the herd.  Around 80 delegates, on a day of near perfect weather were taken round the Herd where John explained his views on what he liked in a good animal and answered questions from visitors from many corners of the World.  All delegates had a most enjoyable day judging by their comments and facial expressions as they left.

At the Highland Show 2014 John quietly but swiftly secured the purchase of the Champion Bull ahead of other potential purchasers.  This swift action and opportunity taken must have been learnt on the rugby field but could leave Mochrum Herd with the John McTurk stamp for many years to come.

Robert K Graham

Irene Wilson - 1931-2016

The society is very sad to announce the passing of Irene Wilson on Sunday 22nd May 2016, at her home 'Airylick', Port William, Newton Stewart. Irene was a long standing belted galloway society member and stalwart supporter of the breed. Her late husband Basil served on the BGCS council for many years. Irene and Basil travelled along with their special friend Miss Flora Stuart to Galloway congresses all over the world including Germany, Canada and New Zealand.

Basil and Irene Wilson with their family moved from Northern Ireland to South West Scotland in the late 1960s to the hills north of Newton Stewart at Polbae. With a family history of farming and forestry they came to Scotland to plant forests. However the farm side soon pushed to the surface. Having seen how Miss Flora Stuart’s Belties thrived on a neighbouring farm they purchased 2 heifers from her and by the early 1980s they had in excess of 120 cattle, both pedigree and commercial.

Since the mid 1970s Basil and Irene along with their son Richard showed Belties at local and national shows hardly missing a Royal Highland Show in that time. Irene could always been seen meticulously taking notes of the show results at the ringside and then later in her caravan on site cooking for family and friends.

Richard Wilson, council member, very much carries on the family farming tradition with the Polbae herd which is still very much still to the fore.

Irene will be sadly missed at Beltie gatherings.

Miss Flora Stuart - 1941-2005

The world’s foremost authority on the Belted Galloway breed.

Miss Flora Stuart pictured last summer, preparing her Belties for Wigtown Cattle Show. Scotland’s agricultural community is in mourning after the death of Miss Flora Stuart of Old Place of Mochrum on Sunday, February 27, 2005.

Miss Flora was known the world over for her role as President of the Belted Galloway Cattle Society, and for her dedication to the breed’s promotion and improvement. Such was Flora Stuart’s standing, from Adelaide to Argyll, anyone discussing Belted Galloways would invariably mention her name in the same breath.

Her interest and support for Quarter horses also commanded much of her time, taking her to events across Scotland, most especially to riding courses in Argyll. Her love of rare livestock breeds was not confined to the ‘Belties’. Flora also maintained a small herd of Shetland sheep and assorted goats on her land around the Old Place of Mochrum. It takes a certain tenacity to forge a living from the high moors – and Flora had that in spades. Skilled and innovative in stock-rearing, she had earned a universal reputation for her capacity for hard work, which often found its reward in champion tickets for her beloved Belties.

But Flora, at heart an intensely private woman, rated winners tickets some way behind the furtherance of the breed as a whole, and it is largely because of her endeavours that Belted Galloways are so well known around the world. Only a few weeks ago Flora was beginning to select her cattle in preparation for this year’s shows.

Always in great demand as a judge and adviser, Flora made many trips abroad, helping to ensure the international success of the breed she loved. Farmers in Germany, Australia, the United States, New Zealand and Canada were among those to benefit from her advice and know-how, and to send their respects when they heard of her passing.

Loved and respected for her warmth and courtesy, Flora also found time to pursue her hobbies of spinning, an evening at the ballet, and music. She would regularly attend the monthly meetings of the Wigtownshire Spinners, Weavers and Dyers group in Glenluce, and members would spend many a Saturday spinning out at Culshabbin at Flora’s invitation, her quiet conversation enjoyed by all.

Miss Flora Stuart was born on the Isle of Bute in 1941, and moved with her family to Wigtownshire in the post-war years. She was the daughter of the fourth Marquis of Bute’s third son, Lord David Stuart, and Lady David, Ursula Sybil Packe prior to her marriage. Tragedy struck Flora’s family in early 1962, when her 15-year-old sister Rose was killed in a car accident, a loss Flora felt particularly keenly. She subsequently devoted her life to hill farming in the moorland wilds of Drumwalt, under the shadow of Airylick and Craigeach fells.

One of Scotland’s true cattle enthusiasts, Flora prided herself on the quality of her stock. She built up her herd of Belted Galloways to become one of the finest in the land, a fact she took great satisfaction in. Flora bred all three varieties, Black, Dun and Red, to the breed’s immeasurable benefit worldwide. She inherited a great family tradition in rearing cattle and through hard graft, careful husbandry and astute stockmanship built on the foundations laid down by her ancestors. Miss Flora’s grandfather John Crichton-Stuart, the 5th Marquis of Bute started off the herd and her father, Lord David Stuart continued the work in turn.

Though she will be sorely missed by all those who worked closely with her and knew her, she leaves the Belted Galloway breed in good heart. Last summer, when I had the privilege of interviewing Flora in the week before Wigtown cattle show, she must already have been ill. To what extent would have been impossible to determine, for her stoicism and fierce sense of independence ensured her energies were directed solely at the job in hand. Self-reliance, not self-pity was ingrained in Flora’s character.

Flora was a staunch supporter of all the local and national shows, and was always enthusiastic about the Belties’ prospects. “There’s just an incredible demand for the cattle – hardly a day passes but there’s a phone call from someone asking ‘how can I get a hold of some cattle? We’ve already got orders for cattle that haven’t been born yet,” she told me then. She never contemplated retirement, though her illness, especially latterly, must have been sapping her strength. Neither did she ever think of calling it a day with her Belties, even in the dark days of BSE and Foot and Mouth. “There was never a time I thought I would give them up, especially now when there’s such a demand for them,” Flora had resolutely said.

Over Craigeach, Drumwalt, Challochglass and Airylick Flora’s Belted Galloways still range, the last farm holding some extra special suckler cows. There Flora crossed some of her Beltie cows with a White Shorthorn bull to produce distinctive Blue Grey sucklers – but still with the trademark polo-mint stripe round their middles. In turn these cows are crossed with a continental bull – in this case a Blonde Solaire – to produce beef animal containing the best qualities of both the Scottish and continental varieties. Flora felt such innovations were helping to secure the breed’s status in the Scottish beef industry – and she was right in her optimism about the future, judging by the latest Galloway sales prices.

I once asked her what had been her biggest ever highlight in a long history of showing Galloway Belties. She thought for a little while and remembered the moment when one of her cattle won the Champion of Champions at Wigtown Show – “the highlight of my year” as Flora called it – in 1992 or 1993. “She was a cow called Mochrum Kestrel, the mother of Mochrum Kingfisher, who appeared in ‘2000 Acres of Sky’,” Flora said.

Miss Flora Stuart will be laid to rest next her parents and sister at the family’s ancestral home at Mount Stuart, on the Isle of Bute, on March 10th.

Text by Stephen Norris Copyright © The Galloway Gazette, February 28, 2005.
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