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The Foundation of the Douglas Highland Fold

For over one hundred years Highland Cattle have contently grazed by the banks of the Douglas waters and the fields in and around the old Douglas Castle policies. This ancient home of the Earls of Douglas since the 13th century was demolished in 1938 due to subsidence, the effects of coal mining in the area.

Through the latter years of the nineteenth century and the first quarter of the twentieth century, Mr Patrick Sellar, the Estate Factor, had developed a policy to buy every autumn between seventy and one hundred 2 ½-year-old Highland bullocks at the Speedy Brothers Livestock Mart in Stirling. They were then transported by rail to Douglas to be grazed on the Broken Cross Moor and then brought into the Douglas Castle Policies for fattening, to be sold fat the following autumn in Gorgie Market in Edinburgh.

There was however one bullock which was never to make the journey to Edinburgh and he went by the name of “Old Jock”. He was bought in 1896 when 3 years of age and was eventually put down at New Mains in 1915 when twenty two years old. “Old Jock” purpose in life was to help manage and control the annual consignment of Highland bullocks, many of which would never have been handled and quite unaccustomed to the confines of Parkland grazing. Old Jock’s calming influence was sure to control the new arrivals and lead the way whenever they had to be moved to new pastures or had to walk to and from the railway station.

The successful policy of finishing Highland bullocks was to continue up until 1926 when an important Estate decision was made to start a small Pedigree Breeding Fold. The view being taken that “it was better to breed and finish one’s own stock, if possible, rather than buy and fatten other people’s cattle”.

The Douglas and Angus Estates at this time was under the factor-ship of Mr James McLaren and it was his meticulous selection of the foundation stock that ensured the Fold’s early success in establishing a particular type, which can still be seen in the character of the Douglas Highland Cattle to this day.

Without question, the foundation of the Fold was built around the Baravalla’s bought at the Killbery Fold dispersal and the astute purchase of Fuinary Queen 2nd (9043) born in 1917 and bred by Gerard Craig Sellar of Ardtornish, Morven. Her Sire was the highly successful Marmion of Castle Grant (2170) and her Dam none other than the triple Highland Show Champion in 1909, 1910 and 1911, Fuinary Queen (7705). The breeding of this particular line can be found in the Fold today in the Mairead, Seonaid and Cuailean families.

The Killbery Fold dispersal in Oban Mart on the 13th October 1928 was to provide the Douglas Fold with an unrivalled opportunity to secure some of the finest breeding. The Killbery Fold in Knapdale, by Tarbert, Argyllshire was founded around 1877. The Glasgow Herald newspaper report of the dispersal stated:

“Something of the old spirit was manifest at the preliminaries introducing yesterday’s sale of pedigree Highland Cattle at Oban. In pre-war years, breeders and their patrons dinned, sang songs and had pipes playing on the eve of the Bull Sales. This time, the dining event was set for the night of the Autumn Sale and it proved a great success. English and other buyers were guests at the tables and the aftermath was fit to drive dour dull care to the outer fringe of threatening things. The Sassenach element from the counties of York and Lancashire were specially jubilant and for the rest there was a wealth of native talent in music.” (It is good to note that this old tradition still prevails)!

The report went on to add:  “ That the main event on the selling card was the late Lieut. Colonel Campbell’s Killbery Fold dispersal. The best lot on the whole were descendants of Baravalla (932). It was the descendant s of this particularly good line which topped each section of the Sale selling to a top of 42 guineas for heifers”.

It was the astute purchase by the Factor Mr McLaren of the 2-year-old heifer Baravalla Maiseach v (9905) which was to establish the very good Betidh, Ealasaid and Barabal families in the Douglas Fold. Also purchased that day were two excellent 3-year-old heifers Baravalla Measarra 2nd (9894) and Baravalla Og Riabhach 2nd (9898), both of which were sired by Carrick Alaric of Logan (3078) bred by Mr K.M. McDougall, Logan, Stranraer.

The annual Breed Sales in Oban were to provide many a good purchase among which Tangy Ruadh of Killean (9617) bred by Mrs J McAlister, Hall of Killean, Tayinloane, Kintyre. She was by the home bred bull Rob Uasail of Killean. The Milis line within the Fold today are descendants of Tangy Ruadh.

Three females from Mr James Carnegie’s Stronvar Fold at Balquhidder were to become part of the Douglas Fold, these were Morag Ruadh 3rd of Stronvar (9637) by Tormaid Buidhe of Atholl (2848). She was a descendant of the old Glenartny breeding of the Earl of Ancaster, along with Annag Bhoidheach VI and Annag Bhoidheach IX. The former was sired by J.F. Christie’s great bull Auchmar (3053) and the latter was sired by Douglas V of Achnacloich (3541). This good line traces back to the Annag Riabhach of Atholl. Contributions from other Highland Folds included Annag Bhuidhe 3rd of Garth (9220) sired by Raonull Buidhe of Atholl (3009), Dossena of Netherton (9198), sired by Fleasgach Uasail (3116). This female line was highly successful in the Achnacloich Fold and traces back to the Robag’s of Duntulm.

A purchase from the Earl of Southesk added Princess Caroline IV (9742) and from Mr John Stewart’s Bochastle Fold came Proiseag Buidhe IV of Bochastle (9723) by Dailacarn 2nd (2923).

It was at the Oban Bull Sale of the 25th February 1926 that James McLaren set out to buy a stock bull. The Highland Cattle trade in general was good at this time with a growing demand for heifers for crossing with white Shorthorn bulls. The demand outstripping the supply, a total of 44 females averaged £25, with 3-year-old heifers averaging £30, 2-year-olds £24 and yearling heifers £25. This, along with a growing interest from overseas, such as the Falkland Islands and Peru, to which the Duke of Atholl exported five young bulls, meant that there was more optimism in Highland Cattle ranks than there had been for many years.

The Championship on the day went to Messrs A and W McEachern, Small Islay with the 1st prize stirk, An-Tulibhileach, a son of Marquis of Achnacloich (3164). He was sold to Mr R Livingston, Ardachoil, Mull at 67gs. It was the Reserve Champion that caught the eye of James McLaren, this was the light Dun An-T-Uramach of Errol (3499) bred by Brig. Gen. James Dalgleish, Heriot Maitland of Errol by the record priced An-T-Uramach (3050) bred by D. A. Stewart of Lochdhu (Ensay), which had been Champion at the Oban Bull Sale of 1920 and selling for the record price of 400gs. An-T-Uramach’s (3050) Dam was the outstanding Show cow of her day Laochag Iseabal (7396). An-T-Uramach of Errol’s Dam line was just as impressive. His Dam, Lydia of Errol (9562) had been sired by Morven Tormaid (2791) who himself was Champion at the Bull Sale in Oban in 1914. His Dam being none other that the aforementioned Fuinary Queen (7705). Lydia of Errol’s Great Great Grand Sire was the outstanding Show bull Laoich (1260), winner of the President’s Medal at the Highland Show 1896, 1897 and 1901. There can have been few bulls presented at Sales in Oban before or since with such a wealth of good breeding and at 80gs, the Douglas Fold had a bargain.

Note: This article is © Copyright of Angus R. Mackay. It has been reproduced with his permission.
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