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Matt Mundell's book, Country Diary
was published in 1981
by Gordon Wright Publishing, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Mundell wrote 23 chapters wherein he put forth some of his
experiences and recollections from his 14 years of
gathering material for articles in
The Scottish Farmer. Some excerpts from
the book regarding "beardies" are retyped below.
In the first chapter entitled "Silent
Tracks," page 16, the author discussed dogs working cattle:
"Beardie dogs—probably brought up in
croft kitchens as so many drovers dogs were—were popular among the
In the fourth chapter entitled "The Long
Gather," page 35, he wrote about one of the gathers that he attended.
"Ernie MacPherson and Archie Campbell
had cleaned the tops of sheep at the back of the mountains. Old hand
Jimmy Waddell and Donald Beaton had taken some of the weight of the
ever-enlarging flock along the bottom. Between them, coming from
either side, seven others with brown dog, blue merle, beardie and
hunter had tidied up the face and the rocks, leaving Lechdain's
three mile stretch denuded of stock. Well, almost."
On page 36, he further wrote about the "hunter." One was descibed as
That worthy, Kit Reid on his own ground, fitted in below Ernie,
combing the high pads with one of the country's most colourful dog
squads including blue-merles Cora and Corrie and the grey Rock on
his first-ever gather and A.W.O.L. at the end of it. He would come
back no doubt later that day. Kit had with him too, as well as these
Skye-blooded rarities, the tough red beardie collie Rhuardh with the
blood of Mull. The hunters have value untold on days like that on
the uper rims of rock, scree and gully.
In the ninth chapter entitled "Clan Macpherson," page 73, he wrote
about Andrew Macpherson:
"Andrew is a Strathspey man and in his early teens he was one of
ten-shilling a week shepherds of that airt who took on the droving
of hoggs across to airts such as Banffshire for wintering.
Strathspey was then the land of the half beardie—"good all-rounddogs"—and
there were few trials collies."
Note: Mundell defined "hoggs" as young sheep between weaning
and their first shearing.
In the eleventh chapter "Skywards to the Dogs," page 81, he
"The Huntaway is the specialist noisy dog—now in the UK—without
which the huge spreads of rough, bush, back and hill country of New
Zealand could not be mustered. Their role too is at yarding work be
it at mart, wool shed or freezer works where they bound along the
back of the sheep to clear jammed pens.
They possibly originated with the beardie dogs of our own
rock-dotted north-west Scotland, going out with early settlers and
being developed and tailored to their new environment by the likes
of the McIntyre family, one of those decendants, I met at the New
In the thirteenth chapter entitled "JEK's 'Highland' Jaunt," page
94, he wrote about the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston. He quoting one
of the attendees:
"A bricht-skinned cheviot, a wyce half-beardie wi' spunk and
biff, and roon-heidit well-spread crooks—it's a' that a' man needs.
Which reminds me a'll hae tae be gettin' nearer hame."
In Chapter 22 entitled "Strangers on the Hill," page 162, he wrote
about other types of stock dogs:
"But the Huntaway is not alone in breaking the domination of the smooth,
medium and rough-coated Border Collie for my tramps amid hill men have
many times brought the pleasure of seeing able beardies—the bewhiskered,
hair-faced, long-wooled collie strain—and also stumpie-tails, merles and
even a full-blooded Australian Kelpie. Clever workdogs all of them.
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 this
airt where the rolling hill ribs fuse on the Scottish-English border.
Dealers, they will tell you, were up in the north to buy renowned
easy-fattening cattle beasts from the Highlandmen. They took a fancy to
a dog, a beardie which had been spotted working at one homestead. And,
as dealers, they were liberal with their offers. But the owner would not
The beardie mysteriously vanished from his Highland home. Today around
Yetholm, Wooler and other townships where the dialect of the Cheviots is
spoken, there are still working beardies. Strange country for them when
one considers some of the snow drifts of winter and the effect it has on
long-coated hill dogs.
But there are ways to beat it too. Some rub the dogs' legs with
From high-lying Calroust cottage at the top of Bowmont Water
near Yetholm the beardies once went out right to the English border
at 1,800 ft. For twenty years they were at the heels of Robert Brown
the former head shepherd there. they also followed at the hooves of
his garron during his shepherding rounds.
Mundell defined "garron" to be a small type of horse. He continued:
Robert tended some 1,100 ewes, 300 hoggs and the rams on hirsels
totalling between two and three thousand acres when he had the post
at Calroust which was later to be filled by the McMorran family, one
of the best known in the sheepdog trials business locally and
An attractive member of Robert's collie team when I was at the
homestead in 1971 was the ten year old merled Craig whose progeny
could be found in many Border homes and as far afield as Speyside,
Inveraray and Wiltshire. He was bred in the Framlington direction
over the border in Northumberland and it is thought his forerunners
could be linked to the Rogerson's Betty blood. At work then, he was
accompanied by the blue beardie, Shep.
I often wonder what befell a youngster which was shaping well at
the time, the half-beardie, Rob. "I like the half beardies," said
Robert. "With the full beardie you have to wait on them and be
patient before they are ready to train for work but the half-beardie
comes on a bit quicker."
Craig was a powerful dog, good for cattle work and at dealing
with trough-fed hoggs. His master reckoned the beardies would never
baulk at any work and had tremendous 'eye'—the unseen power of
domination and authority a collie holds over the sheep he is
working. A regular demand for progeny of his dogs was credited to
their ability to pass on power and force when handling sheep."