NSA Wales and Border Ram Sales Supported by the Queen Mother

As the NSA Wales and Border Ram Sales celebrates it's 40th anniversary, an early supporter was Her Majesty The Queen Mother. She regularly sent consignments of her beloved North Country Cheviot sheep from her Longoe Flock at the Castle of Mey in Caithness.

Longoe Farm, one of the most northerly farms on the British mainland, is currently managed by Danny McCarthy and his brother, Sandy, for the Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey Trust. It was set up in 1996 by The Queen Mother to safeguard the future of her work at the Castle of Mey.

 Danny & Sandy McCarthy

Danny & Sandy McCarthy

It was always the Queen Mother’s wish that, when she died, her Caithness home should be continued in the way she had established and nurtured it for nearly half a century. Danny and Sandy are the grandsons of the Queen Mother’s first farm manager at Longoe, Sandy Swanson, and vividly recall her enthusiastic involvement.

Danny says the old farm diaries show that the Queen Mother, the breed’s patron, first sent North Country Cheviot rams to Builth Wells in 1981. The idea was to promote the breed further south and to boost flock numbers in Wales. The practice continued until 1997, when it was felt that the breed was well enough established there.

He said:
“They went down to the sale as part of a consignment from Caithness. There would have been maybe seven or eight flocks that would enter sheep – sending between one and four rams. They all would leave from a collection point, then stop off in the Borders to rest and pick up some more rams before carrying on the long journey to Builth.

“One person went down to look after all the rams. My father, Donald, and a friend went one year and thoroughly enjoyed it. I remember on one occasion we had the highest breed price at Builth.“

Danny explained that the Queen Mother bought Longoe Farm a few years after purchasing the Castle of Mey in 1952, soon after the death of the King. She decided to keep two traditional Scottish breeds, North Country Cheviot sheep and Aberdeen Angus cattle and remained actively involved, showing and selling both breeds.

He added:
“The Queen Mother would be up in Caithness in August, before the rams were entered for the sale and she always asked how many were going this year and how the trade would be and she looked forward to hearing how the sale had gone.

“She knew her animals well and was always interested to hear how lambing and calving went. She used to wear a blue raincoat and would pop down to the farm and have a chat and catch up with all the news, always being very much a part of the farm when she was up here. She loved to have stock in the fields that surround the Castle when she was in residence.

“She was a great person, a great countrywoman. She was very proud of her sheep and cattle and did a lot to support the breeds. One of the objectives of the Trust was that we would continue to preserve and promote both breeds.

“She came up to the Castle of Mey for the month of August and again in October. I think she welcomed the contrast after being in London for ten months of the year. She could walk about anywhere and nobody bothered her.”

The North Country Cheviot is now well known throughout Britain for its hardiness, its wool and its great maternal qualities. There are three main breed types: the Caithness, the Border and the Lairg Hill. The breed is very popular and the number of flocks is continually rising.

The Queen Mother established the Longoe flock in 1960. Her Majesty explained her decision in the foreword in the 50th Anniversary edition of the Flock Book ‘…as it was considered to be the best breed of sheep. I have seen no reason to change my opinion over the years as it is still the best all round breed with its ability to thrive on all kinds of ground and in all weather conditions.'

Sheep from the flock have won the Breed Champion award nine times at the Royal Highland Show at Ingliston near Edinburgh. In 1991 the shearling ewe, Longoe H3, won the Breed Champion award and the Supreme Interbreed Sheep Champion out of 2,500 sheep entries as well as the coveted Queen's Cup – the latter resulting in a visiting HRH Princess Anne presenting a Trophy given by her mother to her grandmother!

Then, in 1996, Longoe Majestic, a shearling ram won the 50th Anniversary Show of the North Country Cheviot Society. There was a record 245 entries.

NSA Ram Sales

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