Three Blackface Sheep Breeders

The Blackface Sheep Breeders’ Association recently celebrated its centenary. Among the 34 farmers who met in the Clydesdale Hotel in Lanark on the 20th August 1901 to discuss the setting up of the Association, were two from Glencairn – Robert Macmillan of Woodlea and John Macmillan of Glencrosh.

John Macmillan was elected to the committee which met a month later to draw up the rules of the new association. Following the retirement of the first president in 1912, presidents were then elected for a 2 year term of office.

The 4th President was D.M. MacRae of Stenhouse, Tynron, who would have served for 1917 and 1918 but unfortunately he died on the 28th November 1917, aged 52. Donald MacDonald MacRae, who rented Stenhouse from 1892, bought it in 1907 followed by Maqueston, Kilmark and Strathmilligan in 1912. Mr MacRae was an enthusiastic member of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, to which he was admitted in 1895 when their Show was in Dumfries, where he sent 2 stallions under 12 hands, ‘Ivor’ and ‘Tommy’.

In 1908 Stenhouse paid £ 105 for the top priced B.F. shearling at Lanark from Woolfords, having won prizes for shearlings at the Royal, Newcastle and Dumfries shows. In 1909 when the Highland Show was at Stirling Mr MacRae took a B.F. ‘tup above one shear’ – ‘Goldwolf’ – and he was 2nd with a B.F. gimmer. In 1910 the show was again in Dumfries where he took an Aberdeen Angus bull, a cow in milk and a heifer. He also entered two B.F. shearling tups, a B.F. ewe with lamb at foot and a B.F. gimmer which was 3rd. In 1911 at Inverness his tup was commended and his gimmer was 3rd. At Cupar in 1912 both Stenhouse gimmers were commended and the following year at Paisley ‘Goldscott III’, a B.F. tup was 3rd. At Perth ram sale in 1916 the Stenhouse pen of five outwintered shearling rams won first prize.

Robert H. Macmillan (1865-1937), a founder member of the Association in 1901, had been a member of the Highland and Agricultural Society since 1895, as were his brothers John and Thomas, with whom he formed a farming company following the death of their father John, who had been a member since 1870.

The company specialised in breeding Blackface tups. In 1895 when the Highland Show was at Dumfries they entered a class for ‘five shearling tups’ and in 1897 they won the Champion Cup for the best Blackfaced ram at the Kilmarnock Farmers’ Society’s Show. At the Highland Show in Glasgow their tup was commended. In 1898 the Highland Show was at Kelso where, in the class ‘for Blackfaced Sheep carrying their fleece best adapted for protecting the animal in a high exposed and stormy district’ Messers Macmillan’s entry was highly commended. ‘For Blackfaced Sheep carrying the fleece best adapted for manufacturing purposes’ they received 2nd prize.

Robert Macmillan was the 9th President of the Blackface Sheep Breeders’ Association 1927-28. He was elected a Director of the Highland and Agricultural Society in 1912 and chairman in 1935.

John James Macmillan (1869-1954) was a partner in the Glencrosh farming company. He was a founder member of the Blackface Sheep Breeders’ Association and its 11th President – 1931-32. When the Highland Show came to Dumfries in 1910 Messers Macmillan entered 2 B.F. shearling tups and in 1922 again in Dumfries their ‘B.F. ewe above one shear with lamb’ was commended while their ‘B.F. ewe unclipped, taken off hill after 1 June’ came 2nd.

1924 was a successful year for Glencrosh tups at Lanark ram sale where their No. 1 which had been a winner of the first prize and championship at Dumfries Show in August sold for £ 340. No. 2 went for £90 and No. 3 for £70.

Stenhouse and Glencrosh did their best to dominate the Blackface sheep lines when the Dumfries Agricultural Society started annual shows in 1899, and vied with each other to take the top honours until 1914.

The Blackface Sheep Breeders Association had 45 Presidents during its first 100 years, three of whom farmed in Tynron and Glencairn.

© A.B. Hall

Sources: The Blackface Sheep Breeders Association Journal 2001, 2002

The Transactions of the Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, and Show catalogues

Tynron Glen by John Shaw, 1996.

Note: Much help has been provided by Jane and Antony Heald by copying some of the Macmillan family papers. Thanks are also due to Lee Davies of Riskenhope, Yarrow.