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.
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 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.
Lady Mary Mumford – 2017
It is with great sadness to learn of the death of Lady Mary Mumford of Lantonside, Caerlaverock Estate, near Dumfries on 7th April 2017.
Lady Mary ran a herd of Belted Galloways on the farm for many years, and was a great supporter of the Society, always attending the local shows and the AGM.
As Lady in Waiting to HRH The Princess Alexandra she was instrumental in the Princess becoming our Patron.
The Princess has her own Belted Galloway cow at Lantonside, given to her by John Corrie, and John regularly visited to inspect her cattle. The Princess loved her Belties, and often came to Lantonside to see them.
It is hoped that the new owner will continue to rear Belted Galloways.
Bryan Walling – 2017
Bryan Walling, renowned in cattle breeding circles, passed away recently. He used to say that he wanted to be known as a cattle breeder rather than as a farmer. Indeed his influence on cattle breeds in the United Kingdom is widely acknowledged by those in the industry.
Throughout his life, Bryan tackled everything with energy and lively enthusiasm. He was ambitious and had a single minded determination – from nothing he built up pedigree herds of Herefords and subsequently Salers that were recognised world-wide.He was born and brought up at Crosthwaite, Cumbria, an area where his family had been for generations. Much later he moved to a farm near Selkirk, in the Scottish Borders. As a child, despite his family’s wishes, Bryan was determined to get into farming and animal breeding. This was against all the odds as his father was not a farmer but a cattle haulier – and there were no farm buildings or land for him to use.
It all began when he was given a Northern Dairy Shorthorn calf and he kept White Leghorn chickens to earn some money – he then built up the numbers of dairy shorthorns, rented some land and had a portable milking parlour.His successful dairy herd gained awards for top butter fat percentages for several years and he began to be recognised with wins at breed sales and shows including at the Great Yorkshire Show. Also in the 1950s he began to breed Hereford cattle, eventually with his cousin Bob Hudson joining him to form the partnership Cumbria Cattle Breeders. Bryan and Bob began to be successful in the show ring and were recognised for the quality of their cattle and the way they were turned out. Bryan was a perfectionist. He maintained that it was his skill at art and a good eye which led to his interest in animal conformation and breeding show cattle. Some may remember from the early daysthe Hereford stock bull Haven Ben whose progeny won top prizes for Cumbria Cattle Breeders at most of the major shows in Scotland and England.
Bryan was always forward thinking when it came to cattle breeding. In 1975 he imported a Hereford bull and 20 heifers from Canada to introduce the poll factor to his herd and to breed the larger more modern type of Hereford to suit commercial breeders. Included was the polled bull Battledore Challenger who, after 12 months was sold to F. W. McMordie& Son, Northern Ireland where he became Bull of the Year on several occasions. Another famous Hereford stock bull used in the Cumbria herd was PF 1 Landscape who was overall champion at the National Poll Show in 1977.
Bryan had never been involved in the Angus breed, but back in 1975 – when he was looking for his Polled Herefords to purchase in Canada – he spotted an Angus heifer that he liked the look of. She was imported with the Herefords and produced and shown by Bryan and Bob on behalf of the breeders. This heifer was Cee Bar Favourite 8th. She was sold for 20,000 guineas and achieved Supreme Champion at the Royal Show of England in 1980 and Highland Show in 1981. She has more show winning descendants than any other female in modern times and is listed as one of the most influential Angus females in the world.
Another breed whose potential Bryan spotted was the Dutch dual purpose red and white Meuse Rhine Issel. He believed it could have a contribution to make in the UK dairy herds, particularly in improving the value of the dairy bull calf. He imported the first MRI cattle and launched the MRI Cattle Society of the United Kingdom, with his wife Fiona taking on the role of secretary. He also travelled to Australia and brought in the llawarraShorthorn – an extreme dairy type – which was used in several local Shorthorn herds.
In the 1980s Bryan managed to purchase the land he had been renting but around the same time the market for Herefords collapsed due to the competition from continental cattle. Not to be defeated, Bryan had been impressed with the French breed of Salers which originated in a region of France not unlike the Lake District. So in 1984 he imported 60 Salers cows and 4 bulls.These were the first Salers to be imported into the country and the Salers Cattle Society of the UK was set up. Amongst them was the well-known bull Vainqueur as well as a heifer that would be the foundation of the Ladybird polled female line. A later import, Bruno, also became famous in the show ring and as a stock bull. Thanks to his foresight and hard work the Salersbreed is now firmly established across the UK. He set up an embryo unit and embryos and semen were exported from Cumbria to countries all over the world.After markets and fortunes changed, Bryan and his family decided to look for a farm in Scotland with a greater acreage and better quality land for livestock.
After five years of looking, the partnership of Bryan, Fiona and Bob, now known as Farmstock Genetics, purchased Over Whitlaw Farm, Selkirk- and the whole family moved there in 1996. A small nucleus of the Salers genetics was the foundation of the new expanding herd which was run alongside a flock of pedigree Lleyn ewes. Bryan also began to re-establish a small herd of his beloved Shorthorns.
In the early 1990’s, after being asked by J. Jeffords from the USA to source some quality rare breed cattle, Bryan also extended an interest in Belted Galloway, Longhorn, White Park and Kerrys. These were to be flushed for embryos to be exported to America and beyond. The most noteable of the Belted Galloways came from the famous Broadmeadows herd. The Bull was Broadmeadows Wipa and the females included Broadmeadows Susan and Barbara and of course Pipa. They were shown at various shows, Pipa winning the overall champion at the Royal Highland in 1996 (see photo). Belties became a part of Over Whitlaw’s hills up until very recently with the bull, Southfield Major Ronaldo, shared with and bred by Julie Strachey, being shown successfully, gaining male champion at the Royal Highland and Great Yorkshire shows.
Bryan was well travelled. He said he’d travelled the equivalent of 4 times around the world, visiting Chile, Argentina, Zimbabwe, Iran, Thailand to name but a few. He was president of the International Salers Federation in the late 1990sand judged in many countries. He made lifelong friends as a result of his love of western Canada and his annual pilgrimage to theNational Western Stock Show in Denver, USA. Success in the show ring continued with winners nearly every year at major shows with both cattle and sheep. Bryan also became a well-known face at the LLeyn sheep sales in Scotland, where Farmstock Genetics would regularly achieve the top prices for ewe lambs. One of the greatest achievements within the Salers herd was recently when Farmstock Genetics bred and sold back to French breeders the homozygous polled bull Cumbrian Joker. Joker was well accepted in Franceand now his semen and embryos are selling worldwide. The Salers herd at Over Whitlaw remains one of the most prolific in the breed.
Bryan always made it clear to others that he was indebted to Bob Hudson for his commitment and for his expertise in turning out cattle to high standards at Shows and Sales. Also the fact that his children Katie-Jo, Tom and Ian had obviously inherited their father’s eye and standards, when it came to animal breeding and showing, must have made him proud and been a source of great satisfaction to him. They are his legacy who will be carrying on his life’s work in the Scottish Borders and beyond.
Christopher John Sydney Marler – 1932 – 2019
Christopher Marler was a remarkable Englishman, with a wide variety of interests and a life-long passion for breeding animals and birds that touched many people and organisations.
Christopher was an enthusiastic aviculturalist, a highly knowledgeable and successful cattle breeder and a keen follower of thoroughbreds; both breeding and racing. Christopher was honoured with roles in many organisations. He was Liveryman of the Merchant Taylors Company, Patron of the British Waterfowl Association, President of the Avicultural Society, Past Council Member of the Avicultural Society, Past Council Member of the Zoological Society of London, Past Chairman of Whipsnade Zoo, Award winner in 1977 for outstanding achievement in Swan breeding by the International Wild Waterfowl Association and Honorary Life Member of the Beef Shorthorn Society.
Christopher was born in 1932, the youngest son of Leslie and Doris Marler and brother to June and Richard. Christopher spent much of his childhood during the war years at Wavendon Tower in Buckinghamshire and then nearby at Fen Farm, when the Tower was requisitioned by the Department of War and a group of academics moved in – some accounts say that the Tower was a recording studio for black propaganda broadcast to Germany but certainly had associations as accommodation for the codebreakers at nearby Bletchley Park. Christopher was given his first pair of Carolina ducks when he was four which fostered a life-long love and interest in water birds. In 1936, an interest in cattle began, when his father purchased six champion dairy shorthorn cattle from the Pierpoint Morgan Herd. From this time Christopher began to understand what breeding meant and how seriously it should be taken.
School days for Christopher were not as memorable as earlier and later years of his life but at Stowe he became keen on middle distance running and ended up training the school cross-country team to great success.
In 1949, Christopher became joint partner with his father in the dairy farm and decided that he would enrol at Cirencester Agricultural College. Christopher enjoyed his time there and it fostered a life-long ability and love of farming. Christopher found the dairy farming focus a bit restricting with the emphasis on how to deliver maximum milk yield from a dairy cow. He wanted to learn more about beef production and organised a student field trip to the Islip Breeding Centre. This helped introduce beef farming into the curriculum at Cirencester.
In 1952, Leslie Marler bought Pheasant’s Nest farm. Christopher moved with his brother Richard into the Manor House at Weston Underwood. This dated back to the early 18th Century and had belonged originally to a prominent Catholic family, the Throckmortons. The farm was a 600 acre arable farm and the dairy herd was relocated there. Christopher gradually turned this property into a beef farm and over the successive decades built up herds of Galloways, Belted Galloways and a big commercial herd of Blue Greys. Christopher bought two Aberdeen Angus Bulls which helped boost production. Christopher was very successful in cattle production winning at Smithfield Show, and many other fat stock shows across England and Scotland.
Christopher met Shirley Van Moppes at a hunt ball in 1956, followed by a first date at Crufts Dog show – they were to meet at the Great Dane judging area. They nearly missed each other with a mix up over rendezvous but all was well and they married in 1957. Christopher and Shirley had three children – Julie in 1959, James in 1961 and Serena in 1965. Five grandchildren followed, Jonathan, Daniel, Portia, Lucien and Araminta. Christopher was a very loving and devoted father and husband and the family was vital to him. The family were bought up surrounded by animals and birds which was a normal existence for them, as well as for the wider family and friends.
Christopher was influenced by the revolutionary book ‘Silent Spring’ by Rachel Carson written in 1962. This book that not only outlined the dangers of pesticides on farming practices in the United States but on its similar impact on the countryside of Britain devastating ecological communities and native fauna. Christopher managed his farm with little or no chemical inputs and the health of the soil is still evident on his farm toda
In the late 1960s, Christopher spent time working in the family property business when his father Leslie asked him to go to Australia over several extended trips to look after properties and business interests there. He cut back the farming during that period.
In the early 60s, Christopher commenced the bird and animal collection that became known as Flamingo Gardens and Zoological Park in Weston Underwood and began in the Walled Garden. He later utilised his beloved Wilderness and the surrounding fields and parklands. Ponds and lakes made up at least 30 acres of the zoo. In time, this became one of the largest private collections of waterfowl in Britain. lt contained all six species of flamingos, all eight species of pelicans, all known species of geese, owls, birds of prey, parrots, bison and of course, the pedigree cattle. The gardens became known for several national and world ‘firsts’ in breeding. Black Spur-winged Goose in 1971, Red -Winged Starling in 1973, the Painted Stork in 1983 and the Bald Eagle in 1986. By 2004, Christopher had bred twenty-eight American bald eagle chicks, the most ever achieved by that date in captivity.
In the mid-1980s, Christopher went back into Beef Shorthorns. In all, he achieved ten Royal Show Championships in the early 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Christopher liked to personally ‘take the halter’ and show the cattle in the ring. He had a life-long desire to win the Royal Show with Beef Shorthorns. He did win the Interbreed Championship, the Burke Trophy in 2005 which was the pinnacle of his exhibiting career. This led to judging appointments nationally and internationally. Christopher was invited to judge the Burke Trophy at the Royal Show and several major shows in Australia and New Zealand, including Christchurch, Canberra, Adelaide and Melbourne. On these trips he travelled with Shirley, Julie and her husband David to wildlife hotspots including Kangaroo Island in South Australia.
Christopher had a long association with the Avicultural Society serving as President, and he sat on the board of the International Wild Waterfowl Association with whom he attended conference and field trips for many years including in 2018. However, it was Christopher’s association with the British Waterfowl Association that held a special place in his heart. At the start of the 1970s, the BWA only had three hundred members, with a low renewal rate and like many associations at that time was struggling to stay alive.
Christopher, with his passion for waterfowl and belief in the Association’s worth, was instrumental in making sure that the BWA could continue. Along with three others; President W.A.T. Morecambe, Rex Hudson and James Heard, he agreed to underwrite significant overdraft facilities with the bank. At the Council meeting in January 1973, he was elected vice-president off the BWA. He served as president between 1978-82 and then again between 2003-05.
The current BWA president recounts that ‘Christopher’s support for the BWA for over 50 years has been immense. His infectious enthusiasm for discussion and conversation was matched by his deep knowledge of his subject. Livestock was his passion and he was an expert in all species that he kept. We shall cherish his stories and humour, shared at BWA council meetings. Christopher’s good humour could lighten a room. Many of us shared entertainment as he conducted an auction. You’d do well not to stand still, or you might find yourself or your hat fetching a good price. As well as making everyone feel valued, his advice and sensible perspectives kept us connected, by our mutual love of waterfowl. When Christopher spoke, everyone listened, such was his knowledge on a variety of subjects, not just waterfowl. We always enjoyed his measured views, his jovial conversations and humour. His approach to stock was the same, whether with farm animals or when he kept a zoo, Flamingo Gardens; success would come if you have a good eye and study what makes the breed ‘right’. Breeders up and down the country will remember him with respect and admiration, and he will be missed by all and remembered as a friend and as a Patron of the BWA for all he achieved.’
Christopher had a passion for bloodstock. He knew every pedigree of every major horse and loved the sport. His first memory of watching racing was the King George in 1948 won by the great Cottage Rake. Christopher’s equine favourites were Arkle, Frankel, and Galileo. In the mid-1960s, Christopher was asked by his father Leslie to take over management of the Bolebec Stud on the death of his brother Richard. Until that time, the stud was dedicated to breeding hunters and point-to- pointers. Christopher wanted to expand into bloodstock and set about getting finance for mares and for purchasing stallion nominations. Christopher built a relationship with key trainers at the time including Henry Cecil and Dick Hern and the stud successfully bred winners including Jan Ekels and Duc De Bolebec – creating bloodlines that still exist today. In later years, he still loved his trips to Newmarket, but was also happy to sit and watch from his armchair.
In the early 2000s, Christopher’s success in breeding and showing cattle came to the attention of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and his English manager at Shadwell, Richard Lancaster. The Sheikh was entering the world of cattle breeding in England and Christopher was invited to start an Aberdeen Angus stud at Shadwell in Suffolk. Christopher bought Foundation cattle in Scotland and this led to many showing awards including Junior Champion as well as Supreme Aberdeen Angus Champion. In 2004, Shadwell won the Interbreed champion at the Royal Show a well as many others. The herd is currently 100 females and still breeding champions. Christopher was advising Shadwell up to his death in July 2019.
Christopher had a shared passion for athletics with his son James, also a mid-distance runner and a keen triathlete. Christopher met the great mid-distance runner John Landy in Melbourne during the 1980s and saw Harrison Dillard in the 1948 Games, but his real hero was Emil Zatopek. James regularly bought tickets for the Athletics World Championships and Christopher went too. At the Paris World Championships on 2003, at the final of the 10,000m when Bekele beat Gebreselassie for the first time, James recalls Christopher’s excitement as he shouted out support, recognising the significance of one of the great races of all time.
Christopher was always supportive of young people interested in birds, animals and cattle and over the years was assisted by a wide range of staff and volunteers. Emma Graves, a local Weston Underwood horse breeder and trainer, helped Christopher with the collection through the last 5 years of his life, and supported him in the management of the place and the physical works that entailed. Others recalled how incredibly supportive Christopher had been at each stage of their education and careers and how much they enjoyed working with him.
Christopher led a full life, with notable achievements and experiences lived with a sense of enthusiasm and optimism. His death on July 6th, 2019, following a short illness has greatly saddened his family, friends and colleagues. He is survived by his wife Shirley, son James and daughters Julie and Serena, and his grandchildren Jonathan and Daniel Marler, Portia, Lucien and Araminta Gaitskell.
Julie Marler, James Marler and Serena Gaitskell with thanks to Morag Jones and Charli Twyford
I first met Helen at the highland Show in 2000. Dave, my late partner and I, were on the look out for a Beltie bull and we spied a bull calf lying with his mother, above the stall was hand written card saying “calf for sale”. That looks a good calf noticed Dave so we went in search of his owner, the sale agreed on a handshake, and two months later Lullenden The Abbot came to Chapel House. I tell this tale as we were complete unknowns, and subsequently discovered that several more well known breeders had wanted to buy him but Helen has said no he was sold. She was a woman of her word and had huge integrity. Over the next twenty years she became my mentor and friend, supportive, kind and always ready to impart her wisdom and knowledge if asked.
In the same year, 2000, Helen who farmed in partnership with her brother, Alexander, at Bowden Moor, had to reduce her herd due her brother’s retiral, and the farm being contracted out. We were fortunate to acquire six middle aged cows which form the basis of my herd to this day. Ten years later, the contractual period being up, Helen took Bowden Moor back in hand and increased her herd numbers with characteristic courage and verve.
Helen was the second daughter of Ian and Constance and was born in 1929. She was educated at Downe House and from a very young age was steeped in country life and pursuits. She hunted, fished and shot, and depending on the season could be found “up north” in Caithness, Sutherland or at Whitehope in the Scottish borders. She had a competitive spirit which was perhaps best expressed in her love of racing, and of breeding and training national hunt horses, originally alongside her mother, and then in her own right after her mother’s death in 1982. Her most famous winner was Peaty Sandy, bred by her mother, who won 20 races from 25 starts, including the Welsh Grand National in 1981. She also bred Highland ponies and rare waterfowl and of course, Belted Galloways.
It was her great uncle, General Sir Ian Hamilton who founded the Lullenden herd in 1919 at his farm in Berkshire. His stock originated from Knockbrex and Boreland, and later from Allington and Gartmore. Milk from the herd was delivered every day by train to his house in London.
Along with the Fourth Marquis of Bute he founded the Herd Book and breed society in 1921 and wrote a lovely book, “Belted Galloways” in 1930, which gives a lively account of the formation of the herd book and the history of the breed, as well as the prevailing conditions in the beef sector. He was a friend of Sir Winston Churchill and gave him a heifer to found his Chartwell herd. Helen’s father inherited the herd in 1947 when they numbered twelve head. When the family moved to Melrose he increased the herd and like his uncle before him, showed with great success and was a great friend to the Society, serving on council and as President. He was also energetic in promoting the sale of Belties both home and abroad, providing foundation stock for many.
Helen took over the herd on her father’s death in 1971 and continued with the same enthusiasm to breed, show and work on Council, serving as vice President before stepping down in 2010, whereupon she was made Honorary Life President for all her work. She showed fearlessly gaining Supreme Champion at The Royal, the Royal highland and the Great Yorkshire shows as well as Herd of the Year. Credit must go to her and the small band of other breeders and exhibitors keeping the Beltie in the public eye in the 70’s and 80’s as the British beef world was inundated with Continental cattle, sweeping many of the Native cattle to sidelines. She was an astute judge of a beast and carried on producing good stock which provided the foundation for many herds. It was policy she told me once, that Lullenden never kept a stud bull from a mother with a white foot. The photo shows her judging at the Royal in 2005.
Whilst discussing showing and Helen’s wider life I must bring in Val Nyberg, who went to work for Helen’s mother as a temp, and became groom, shepherdess and cattle handler par excellence for Helen. Val gained stockwoman of the year several times and since her own retiral the Lullenden animals have not appeared in the ring. As Helen’s health declined over the last couple of years it is thanks to the support Val and her daughters that she was able to remain at home. Helen died peacefully at Whitehope on 3rd March 2020, after a long life well lived, leaving so many memories. I hope one of her nieces will carry on with the Lullenden herd.
We were all shocked to hear of the death of Nancy Sloan on 5th December 2019, aged 61 years, as it was only at the Society sale and dinner in October that we recalled a pleasant sociable time with her had her husband Hugh. What most of you hadn’t known was that she had been fighting cancer for several years and typically did not want it to define her. Nancy had grace, dignity and courage carrying on with her work; she had built up a very successful secretarial consultancy, and life. She loved her Belties and her and Hugh founded the Burnfoot herd which lived alongside the Beef Shorthorns at Burnfoot Farm. Known for the quality of their cattle they were regular sellers at Society shows. Nancy also loved gardening and had developed a beautiful one at Burnfoot. She was sociable, kind and great fun to be with.
Her popularity and huge esteem in which she was held was evident by the huge turnout at Melrose Church for her memorial service. Our sympathies go to Hugh and Nancy’s wider family.
It was a heavy heart that I heard that Roger had died on 6th January 2021. His obituary in the local paper described him as: teacher, writer, and journalist, director of plays, wrestler, shepherd, mole catcher and Beltie breeder. And I would add that he was a devoted husband and family man, and friend to many, his warmth, wit and good humour and kindness touched all those who knew him.
Roger was born and brought up in North Northumberland, in a family of farmers and mole catchers. It was on the farm of his uncle that he first saw a belted Galloway, a bullock which made £147 in 1956 at Alnwick Mart. He went to school in Alnwick and his father taught him mole catching, and the raft of country and animal husbandry skills that served him so well in his life. He also taught him the basics of Cumberland wrestling, his first win was in the under 11’s at Rochester Show. He stayed involved in the world of Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling for the rest of his life. Roger went to Durham University to study English, graduating in 1964, along with a silver medal for cross country running, major wrestling wins at Grasmere and Braemar, and Jill’s hand in marriage. HE taught at Barnard Castle School, began his own flock of Northumberland Black face sheep, before moving to St Aidans in Carlisle as Head of English where he stayed until taking early retirement when he was 51.
Jill and he purchased eighteen acres of what Roger described as “bank sides, bracken, cliffs and ancient woodland” which was to become Castlefield, their family home, along with 30 cast blackies and eight blue/grey bullocks. The Belties arrived in 1976, Roger had so admired the herd of Tommy Telford at Linhope, and needed a breed that would fit around d his very busy working life – easy care, out wintering and belts so they were easy to see in the dark. He always bred his own stock, choosing good feet and natures and tall enough to lean on to enjoy the view. The whole herd and the Blackies were taken out in the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic, and with great courage, he and Jill re started their herd. A handful of heifers came from Paul Coppen and Castlefield stock was offered back from friends. Over time more land was acquired and a shed built, trees planted and a poetry stone installed.
Roger served on Council for many years; his wisdom and clarity were hugely valued. He started to produce the yearbook in a lovely colour format, a feature that endures to this day. He was a well respected judge and served on the bull inspection panel for many years. It was he who approached me to put my name forward to stand for election to council. He was a source of support and wisdom for any Beltie folk, and especially encouraging to the young and to new owners.
The wretched illness that had shadowed him for over twenty years began to be more and more demanding. During our last e correspondence in December 2020 when I said how much I had enjoyed his book, “The Understanding”, Roger said that he was then having to endure fortnightly blood transfusions. He died peacefully at home surrounded by his family. He is survived by Jill, his wife for over 55years, son Simon, daughters Heather and Catherine, six grandchildren and sister Anne. His going will leave a huge hole in their lives and in all the worlds he inhabited in his lifetime.
As some of you will know, the family purchased some trees with some of the collection at his funeral, and a copse has been planted at Castlefield in his memory. I was thrilled to hear that Catherine and one of her daughters will continue the Castlefield herd.