Mull Sheepdog Trials celebrates 110 years

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Last Thursday (August 29) saw the latest outing for Mull Sheepdog Trial, with the event being a special celebration to mark the trial’s 110th anniversary.

However, weather and tide is no respecter of special occasions, and the running was on packets of four Blackface hoggs on a wild and wet day, with entries down due to issues with the ferries.

Hugh Munro, of Tomatin, judged 28 dogs on the day.

Ahead of the event, Jeff Moore wrote to tell us why the event is so special: ‘Mull Sheepdog Trial was founded in 1909, when the Mull and Morvern Agricultural Society formed a sub-committee with a brief ‘to encourage the breeding of a better type of sheepdog in the district and the more efficient handling of such dogs by farmers and shepherds, and thus indirectly, to raise the standard of sheep farming in general.’

‘It must be remembered that at that time there would have been in excess of 100 sheep farmers and employed shepherds working on the island.

‘The Mull trials was one of the earliest to be held on the west coast of Scotland and the trial has been held annually in August ever since, apart from during the war years.

‘The early records were lost during the Second World War and the above information was found when searching records of the Agricultural Society, which are held at the museum in Tobermory.

‘For many years, the entrants were confined to farmers and shepherds living and working full time in the Mull and Morvern area, Coll, Tiree and the Small Isles.

Kenneth MacCaskill of Lettermore, won the trials in 1926 and 1927, and he was the first winner of The Miss Lister of Glengorm trophy in 1926.

‘In 1926, Miss Lithgow of Glengorm presented a fine silver trophy for the winner. This was won for next two years by Kenneth MacAskill of  Lettermore, with his dog Chance. He was also a keen horse man and showed a Highland mare, bought from Calgary, at the Royal Highland Show in 1927.

‘The MacAskill family loved Mull but in 1928, the newly formed Forestry Commission bought all the hill ground at Lettermore for trees, rendering the farm unviable as a hill sheep farm and with regret they had to leave.

‘After the war years, the trial was revived in 1955, when a new committee was formed under the chairmanship of Angus MacGillivray of Glenforsa. Other committee members, who will be familiar names to many, included Alastair MacColl, Ulva, and Lachie Maclean, Knock. The important position of Secretary was held by Doris MacLachlan from Glen Aros from 1960 to 1975, to be followed by Netta MacDougall of Tobermory until her death in 2008. The position is currently held by Enid More, of Gruline.

‘Previous records were missing and there were no funds for prize money and expenses, so an entertainments committee was formed and a number of whist drives and dances were held. Prize money was set at £100, which was a lot of money in those days.

‘With fewer shepherds employed the number of competitors dropped. As a result, it was decided in 1960 to open the trial to the whole county of Argyll.

‘For some years now, the trial has become open to anyone willing to travel, although there are still trophies for the best local entrant and the highest pointed working shepherd. Entries are now received from as far north as Shetland and as far south as Yorkshire.

‘The trial attracts many of Scotland’s top sheepdog handlers including International champion Stuart Davidson from Dunoon and Scottish champion John MacKillop.

‘Spectators are made welcome and the trial is well supported by both visitors and locals alike. Catering is provided on the field and there is a raffle with many fabulous prizes, which make it a great day out.’

This year, as part of the 110th anniversary celebrations, the organisers had doubled the prize money. Jeff continued: ‘We had hope to attract more competitors. There have been very few local entries in recent years, despite the fact that there are still plenty of island farmers working with very good dogs every working day. There was also a special confined class with trophy and prize money for those entering for the first time.’

Results:

1. Brendan Smith, Shetland, Chip, 97 of 100.
2. Stuart Davidson, Sandbank, Dunoon, Queen, 93
3. Michael MacNally, Invergarry, Ash, 91.
4. Stuart Davidson, Maid, 90.
5. John MacKillop, Fort Augustus, Ben. 89.
6. Brendan Smith, Lass, 86.

Outrun, lift and fetch: Alastair Cameron, Callander, Jess.
Best Pen, John MacLachlan, Spean Bridge, Mirk.

Shepherd’s Cup: John MacKillop.

Two-dog aggregate: Brendan Smith.

Local
1. James Shanks, Lochaline, Joe, 85.
2. Enid Moore, Gruline, 82.
3. James Shanks, Kim, 76.
2 dog aggregate, James Shanks.

 

old pic: Kenneth MacCaskill of Lettermore, trial winner in 1926 and 1927, and the first winner of The Miss Lister of Glengorm trophy in 1926.

new pic: Mull & Morvern Sheepdog Trial winner, 2019, was Brendan Smith from Shetland.