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Drew Pringle gave lengthy telephone interviews on
November 2 and November 8, 2009.
Drew can trace his family back to the 1500s. The
Pringles were one of the family names on the Scottish side of the
Borders that were a part of the Border Reivers’ history. There are
several books on the subject of the Border Reivers; they were unique in
the history of Britain.
The Pringles of the Reivers’ era lived in the areas
of Roxburgh, Galashiels, and Hawick. Today, visitors can still see
Smailholm Tower located between Melrose and Kelso. The Tower was
originally built in the middle of the 15th century by members of the
Pringle family. This Tower was often attacked by English raiders. The
Pringles’ raids crossing over the Border ceased after 1548 when John
Pringle promised to no longer raid England.
Drew’s belief is that his great
grandfather, Gideon Pringle, had been a drover. There is a section on
the drovers in the “History” part of this website.
Drew’s grandfather, John Hutchison
Pringle, was employed as a shepherd. He had four boys. Three of his sons
(to include Drew’s father, Gideon) followed in their
father's footsteps and became shepherds. Gideon Pringle married Mary
Ferguson; they had five children: Anna, John, Drew, Anthony and
Robert. John, Drew and Anthony all engaged in shepherding work.
Drew, when very young, started
working on the family farm (named Tannielaggie Farm), which was located
in Newton-Stewart in the south of Scotland. Thereafter, Drew went off to attend the
Scottish College of Agriculture located in Aberdeen. It was here that he
met his wife, Kathleen Corrigan, and they married when Drew was 21 years
of age. They are the parents of Gideon, Catherine, Janet and Ian. Janet
is also featured in the Scottish shepherding section; she resides on the
Island of Skye. She is the only one of their children engaged in farming
Drew’s first job was working for
the Gourlay Farming Company, at Halfmark (near Dalry,
Kirkcudbrightshire). Drew’s father and his brother, David, worked as
shepherds for John Gourlay’s father.
Drew left Gourlay when he was
offered a position to manage both sheep and cattle on an estate located
in Argyll. He managed about 100 cows and about 600 to 700 sheep.
Drew next moved to Ayrshire where
he accepted a position managing about 120 dairy cows: 120 suckler cows
and 150 sheep.
Drew also became a tenant farmer
for approximately twelve years; he is now employed as a stockman near
Drew indicated he was not
particularly good with dogs. He preferred that his dogs run loose. He
liked the “rough and ready” attitude of the Beardies; though sometimes
they managed to embarrass him. The Beardies were good, reliable, hardy;
he could lie them down at his doorstep, and he could count on finding
them there the next day. The fact that the Beardies didn’t run off, and
had force (power) to shift, or push, the livestock is what Drew
particularly liked, and still likes, best about them.
History has demonstrated that many
things change over time. Just as there were once Border Reivers who engaged in the
stealing of livestock for a food source, the need for sheep and cattle
as a food source did not end in that era.
Even though the drovers (as a
profession) no longer were needed after the late 1800s, the need for
sheep and cattle to supply food once again did not end.
Drew believes history will repeat
itself; the need for food will remain. Naturally,
there will continue to be changes in farming. Drew once drove sheep
across six miles of land in order for them to be sheared (see the
working pictures). Nowa- days, most shepherds would choose to use a quad
bike as opposed to walking.
Drew is hopeful that the working
Beardies will continue to exist. Drew is counting on the next
generation, like his own daughter, Janet, to continue the breeding of
such fine working animals.
When Drew retires, he and his wife,
Kathy, hope to buy some land and continue on as “magic peasants.” This
term means a “man/woman of the soil” or “living off the land.” Drew said
that the magic part has disappeared in the U.K. over the past 25 to 30
years. But Drew remains an optimist. He thinks the “magic” will return.
He and his wife are hopeful to see
at least one of their four grandchildren grow up to continue Drew’s way
of life as a farmer/shepherd/stockman. Perhaps one of them will continue
the tradition of working with livestock and have the pleasure of using
working Beardies in their own farming activities.
Drew said he was “not good with
dogs.” Others might agree—perhaps Drew is not good with dogs. Instead
they might say he is EXCELLENT with dogs.