The Shephard and the farmer
/ The Shepherd and the Farmer /
“I’m what they call a ‘Doonhamer’ - from Mid Dumfries originally,” Archie tells us as we bounce across the hilly fields in a 4x4 buggy. “I’m the ‘Mad Scotsman’ like. But it’s only to find work that I’ve come here.”
We’d met Archie the evening before. We had parked up to admire a long-haired highland cow chewing a hedge.
“You like them, do you?” The Scot shouts over to us. “Yea, they’re gorgeous,” Jo shouts back. “It’s quite unusual to see Highland cows this far south, right?” “Aye, it is.” Archie says as he walks over to us.
He invites us to come out with him the next morning to see the rest of the herd.
The next morning at 6am we’re in the back on his 4x4, dogs around our feet after being shooed off the back seat. Archie works as the general stockman, on an estate near Hexham (Northumberland), for the owner, Julian. But Archie’s a shepherd by trade.
We tell Archie what brings us to the area.
“For me, there’s no difference” he starts. “But I’m lucky. I’m quite healthy and the house comes with the job. But if I wasn’t…well there’s more free in Scotland, like, such as prescriptions and even the council tax here is three times what it is in Scotland. But I think if they want to go independent, let them go, aye. Why not? I think they’d be better off if they could make more of their own decisions.”
As a Scot living in England, Archie won’t get a vote. “I can’t understand why. It’s a small country and there’s English people living in Scotland who have the vote. Why should they be voting? It’s not their country, like.”
The noise of the engine driving across the fields disrupts the morning’s silence. As we near the herd Archie turns the engine off and lets the animals settle before getting out.
The horned beasts’ large eyes peek through golden fringes. They’re camouflaged in the tall shimmering grass. When Archie steps out, they approach him, in anticipation of food.
Julian joins us later. He is what the locals call a ‘gentleman farmer,’ a descendent of old landed gentry.
“They’re interested in what we think about Scottish Independence,” Archie fills Julian in. “We’ll all become bootleggers and smugglers,” Julian jokes. “But we all hope desperately hope that it isn’t going to happen. The Status quo works perfectly well.”
Julian has been engaged in conservationism in the last few years. He used to farm intensively but now it’s all entirely natural. “We bought the highland cattle because they take all the bad stuff out of the old dead rank grass and chew on it thoughtfully and then the heather grows back naturally. “Aye, they’re good for the land,” Archie adds. “They know how to graze the hills properly.”