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Arrival of the Cheviot working beardie:
Matt Mundell Meets Robert Brown of Calroust, Yetholm

by Matt Mundell

The below retyped article was published in The Scottish Farmer, February 13, 1971
on page 21. It appeared in a section entitled "Sheepdogs and Handlers - 6."
Permission to reproduce has been granted by Ken Fletcher,
Deputy Editor The Scottish Farmer, 200 Renfield St, Glasgow G2 3PR.
This article remains under copyright. Do not reproduce
without obtaining written permission from this magazine.

"THERE is a tale they tell to this day in the long glens splaying out from the Big Cheviot about the coming of the working beardies to that airt.

Dealers, they will tell you, were up in the north to buy the cattle beasts of the Highlandmen. They took a fancy to a dog a beardie they had seen working at one homestead. And, as dealers, they were liberal with their offers. But the owner would not sell.

The beardie mysteriously vanished from his Highland home. And today around Yetholm, Wooler and the other townships where the dialect of the Cheviots is spoken, there are still many working beardies. Strange country for them, maybe, when one considers some of the drifts of winter and the effect of snow on long-coated hill dogs.

But there are ways to beat that, too one soul rubs the dog's legs with vegetable oil and hies [sic off into the snow.

From high-lying Calroust up Bowmont Water the beardies have gone out right to the English border at 1,800 feet for 20 years at the heels of the head shepherd there, Robert Brown. In recent years, they have been at the hooves of his garron.

HORSE ESSENTIAL

Along with another shepherd, Robert has been tending some 1,100 ewes, 300 hoggs and the tups on hirsels totaling between 2,000 and 3,000 acres, and his own hirsel and a-half comes to 1,500 acres.

The horse has been an essential part since the single 'herd at Calroust was done away with. "It's fairly good riding but pretty steep," says Robert who is due to leave at the May term. It means a 7:30 a.m. - 11 a.m. spell in the morning to see his own ground.

He will take with him a strain of beardies he has been connected with even before he came to the Yetholm glens. Among them will be the 10-year-old merled Craig whose progeny can be found in many Border homes and as far afield as Speyside, Inveraray and Wiltshire. Craig was bred in the Framington direction and it is thought his forerunners could be linked to the Rogerson's Betty blood.

At work he is accompanied many a time by the blue beardie Shep, a two-year-old grandson, and for future work there could be the half-beardie Rob, who was 14 weeks old when I called recently at Calroust.

"I like the half-beardies," says Robert. "With the beardie you have to wait a bit on them starting; the half-beardie comes on a bit quicker. Sometimes the beardie is 18 months old before he starts to run.

They all are nowadays and they are also good for cattle. I've heard folk say nothing can weir trough-fed hoggs like them. The only thing is that their rough coats are maybe a drawback sometimes at the faulds or in snow."

BETTER WORK

Robert keeps bareskinned dogs, too, for his herding, but reckons he gets better work from the beardies. "They will gather as far out as you can get them. They never baulk and it's seldom I've seen one hold a sheep. They also have a tremendous 'eye.' A lot of folk don't think this, because in the old days they had little 'eye.' But not now these dogs just creep the ground."

The Calroust head shepherd is one of a few around the Cheviots trying regularly to inter-change the beardie blood and he also has had quite a few bitches of the show type to Craig when people are looking for an out-cross.

"A lot of sheep men are wanting them for the hill," he says. "There are a canny few in the Borders and Northumberland working them. I think it is the power that they are wanting. But there are some 'herds who get them and don't want them once they find they are not early starters."

"They are hardy. That old dog has done a tremendous amount of work and he can take any fence in his stride. They are also great lambing dogs up here and will shift any kind of sheep. He was great with a big bulk of sheep, working about the dipper or loading sheep on to wagons."

TAKING A LOAN

There are always at least five "good" dogs at the Calroust kennel. Not all are beardies and usually three or four follow the garron on the morning round with fresh ones at night.

"They sometimes are inclined to take a loan of me when I'm on the horse," said Robert. "Keeping them at the horse's foot is the biggest job. When you are on the ground yourself, you can keep them right."

Craig is a powerful dog, good for cattle work and at dealing with trough-feed hoggs."


 

 

 
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