PLEASANT Perth was left at last. We wended our way through the country once hunted by James Moray of Abercairney, and then by John Grant of Kilgraston, but now unhappily devoted to wire fences instead of foxes, and so on past Auchterarder, whose humble steeple (with what looks like a golden bird pluming its wings to fly, but proves on closer inspection to be a griffin), marks where the Kirk of Scotland was rent in twain. Strathallan Castle and its Shorthorns were our goal that day. His lordship began from Bates (whose Wild Eyes did no good), Robertson, and Stirling, uncle of the present member for Perthshire, and bought his bulls from Yorkshire. The principal tribes are from Julia by Belted Will, descended from Mr. Shaftoe of Whitworth’s stock, and White Duchess, bred at Keir, and bought by Mr. John Gardiner of North Kinkell, an old tenant of the Strathallan family, and very fond of Shorthorns.
The tenants keep a number of cows, generally of the original Perthshire breed, which they put to Short-horn bulls, either their own or his lordship’s, who gives them special facilities at the Home Farm. The calves thus obtained, together with others bought in the district, and occasionally a few stirks from the Falkirks, are reared for stores, which are eventually turned off principally to the Glasgow and Edinburgh markets, at from two and a-half to three years old. The strath of Earn consists more of arable than grass, and is principally on the old red sandstone. Lord Strathallan has about five hundred acres in his own hands, including the Park, which is principally stocked with Norlands or small-sized West Highlanders, which the Northern dealers collect, and drop by scores on the road to their regular customers. They will work up any roughage, and it is not for them that his lord-ship cultivates his favourite green crop of St. John’s Day Rye. He began with it fifteen years since, and generally sows it in June. It is seldom cut before May and then the field is ploughed down, and a green crop is taken.
There is a Leicester flock of fifty ewes at the Castle, of which the tups are sold for a cross to the Ochil Hill farmers, who keep up their Cheviot and blackface ewe stock by buying in lambs; and the half-bred and cross-bred produce go to farmers in the valley, who can now hardly get enough of them. Five or six years ago there was hardly a sheep in the strath and when an old man got knocked down by a bouncing Cheviot, he said, in the bitterness of his heart, they were ” noe better than swine.” Against the latter, there is no prejudice, and his lordship’s Fisher Hobbses are bought up as fast as they can be bred.
The early history of Lord Strathallan’s herd is virtually to be found in one of his photograph-books, which contains his choicest bulls, cows, and heifers, at all ages and in all attitudes. Colonel Towneley’s Barnaby Rudge is there, with that deep brisket and rather staring colour, which he brought into the herd; Dick, with the twisted horn, the high tail, the long quarters, and the – out-shoulder ; the more perfect Retribution, son of Barnaby Rudge ; the sweet white Hautboy, from Abraham Parker’s dam ; Harpsichord, another white; The Squire, bred by Douglas ; Red Gauntlet, by Sir James the Rose, from one of The Squire’s daughters ; and so on to Fosco, the double second of ’64 at the Royal and the Highland, and Allan, son of his conqueror Forth. Old Frolic has not been forgotten ; Julia, Wild Eyes, and Warlabina have all been ” in position,” and so have Cobweb with her promising calf, and Rosa Bonheur and Ruby of the drooping horns. There, too, is his lordship’s old bailiff, James Thompson, who has always dearly loved a shorthorn, and fed his fancy to the full, when he went down special a few years since to look after the very difficult drainage of Towneley Park.
He was waiting for us on the rustic bridge at the edge of the pheasant woods, through which you reach the steading from the Castle. Some blue Spanish, a breed which his lordship especially values for winter laying, were sunning themselves, and the photographer was taking advantage of the gleam, to hit off Rob Roy, son of Bridegroom. The sweet-looking, massive Fosco, who has not misspent his hours since Stirling, and was walking 22i cwt., had just been hit off ; but white bulls never seem to come out so well as roan, and look too much like the Charolais. Allan, of the thick, level form and beautiful fore-leg occupied the next box, and bids fair, although he rather lacks liberty in his fore-quarter, to make himself felt in the show field.
The red Towneley Violante was in the next box; and then came Rosa Bonheur, who has been placed second and third at the Highland already, Rosebud, Rosa Lee, whose day seemed almost over, the useful roan Warlabina, Fair Maid of Perth, of sound, old-fashioned Ladykirk look and blood, Princess Royal, and Jeanette, a little red, who was third at Kelso, and, save Rosebud, the only Dick left. There were thirty-eight in all, and the calves principally by Allan, one of them as wealthy as himself, but throwing back to the staring, flecked coat of Barnaby Rudge through his dam. Still, the pair of West Highland calves which had come very kindly to hand were quite the little:. pets of the place; and two or three score of black Essex pigs, old and young, were out at work among the potatoes, in those long hurdled yards which radiate from the sties. Another look at Fosco and Allan, and then we rode on once more to Keir, and, leaving our mare in good box-quarters for a fort-night among the Peggies and the Jessies, we made a dash by rail and foot for a day in the Western Highlands.
The. tourist time was over ; but, nothing daunted by the snow-cap on Ben Ledi, we left Callander, stick in hand, and, scorning; the turn to the Trossachs, we pointed away towards Rob Roy’s grave. There was little to see at starting, save the light-brown oak and underwood of the Pass of Leny, where the Scotch fir seemed fairly driven off the ground to an islet. On our left for miles were two lazy lochs, Lubnaig and Voil, joined by a lazier stream. Nothing was sailing on them save a couple of swans ; but there is no swan hopping, no municipal marking of cygnets there. The ash, had lost its leaf, and the Birk, rich with materials for many a bobbin frame, grew by its side ; and goats, black, white, and grey, were just visible on the face of a large rock, where it is hardly safe for the sheep to climb. The farms along the road have generally a share of the low ground and of the hill behind. They vary in size from a hundred to a thousand acres, and carry flocks of blackfaces in proportion.
Valley operations were rather at a standstill, owing to the rain, and in fact many of the cottars are under water a good part of their time. Some of them were on their housetops deep in the mysteries of fern thatching. The best ferns for the purpose are those with a slender feeble stem from eighteen to twenty-four inches, which are hardly able to support their own weight without leaning. From June up to the middle of August they are too soft and spongy for use ; and about ” Holyrood Day,” when they have withered under a September sky from red to yellow, they are pulled up by the roots, bound in sheaves, and stacked, and then laid in straight and regular rows on the roofs, and tightly bound with osiers. The layers require renewing every fourth year ; and the fern also does good service as bedding for the cattle and cover for the turnip heaps.
A belted and booted police sergeant stalked along the valley, presenting rather a suggestive comment on the days when the Queen’s writ would have run in vain to the lawless braes of Balquhidder. There are tracks in plenty, not of the ” hot trod,” but of High-land beeves and sheep, along this great North road, which is wakened up summer and autumn by the drover’s cry. The Skye and Lewis droves all come this way by Badenoch, Lochaber, Glen Dochart, and Tynd Drum, to the Balgair and Falkirk trysts ; but our road turns off at their wonted resting-place, King’s House. We still work on by the side of Loch Voil, among wire fences and Ayrshire dairies and when we asked about the cheese, we only heard that they “made Cheddar, and tried to make Stilton.” A chapel with a graveyard on a dark fir knoll gave birth to another query, and we were told in still darker speech : ” It’s no Rob Roy, it’s MacGregor that’s stop-ping there.” Farther on there is the ivied shell of an old church, which still denies its successor the seisin of the bell ; while the forthcoming meeting of the parochial board is nailed on an ash hard by. One stone has no symbol save a horse-shoe ; and a half-broken slab, with a broad sword rudely carved, marks the grave of one whom we must now try to regard in the tenderer light of an eminent cattle dealer. There are historic doubts as to whether Rob’s deeds were equal to his fame ; but his voice, at all events, as it echoed across Loch Voil, rivalled in its volume that Greenwich innkeeper’s, to whom Richardson the show-man left £1,000 ” because he was such a bould speaker,” and ” could be heerd all over the fear.” We still see on the other side of the loch the thatched cottagein which his mother died. That strange chasm in the rock summit still seems to open and shut as it did beneath his gaze ; but many a freezing east wind has blown since then, and the heather and the bleaberries have all gone from the braes of Balquhidder. A few deer pass with the storm from the Black and Glenartney Forests, but the blackfaces have the hills pretty nearly to themselves, and the brindled Dun-can wanders by the side of the loch ” just as canny as a horse,” with a dozen of his calves, and cows and heifers in a troop, among the beech, fern, and hazel of Monachoyle Moor.
The West Highland calves generally go with their dam six months, and are weaned in the beginning of October. Their owners prefer them to calve in the house, as the calves always bear the hand better. In fact, the calf is so tameless by nature, that even if it is dropped outside, and brought in at the lapse of a day or two, it is for a long time far more difficult to do with. Nearly, every cow has a name and knows it, and it was curious to. note at the Breadalbane sale how one stopped its wild capers in the ring when the dairymaid was summoned, and adjured it in Gaelic, as “Black Precious,” to desist. The West Highlander’s coat is not in its height till October, and hence bulls which you have met in all their glen glory look very different, not to say dejected, in the Highland Society’s lists. They require a purple heather back-ground and a leaden October sky. Many breeders dislike too much curl in the coat, and more especially bunchiness at the tail-head. The lighter-coloured ones are sometimes wilder, and the “Argyle black ” are generally thought the best and the hardiest, and fetch the highest price. Still, forty years ago the celebrated Dunrobin breed were chiefly brindled ; and Lord Breadalbane hung to duns, and bought a bull of that colour, a few years before his death, from Alick Macdonald of Balchillar.
Red and dun are still the favourite colours for stocking the English policies, and therefore they will always be cultivated. The difference between the tastes of the two countries comes out not only in the colour but the bone, which the Englishman likes to get as light as possible, from the belief that it indicates feeding to a higher weight. Scotland, on the contrary, likes bone and hair to the hoof, and has no sympathy with ” fine offal.” A short head with a broad forehand is what the breeders aim at ; and the horn must be ” sappy,” yellow to the root, of a fine waxy texture, and with blue tips. Good grass of course tells on the goodness of the horn, and ” hard grass hard horn ” is quite a settled belief. The horn grows most at two years old, and if the queys are put to the bull at that age, its growth is stopped, and the handling is spoilt as well. Two-year-old heifers will make from £8 10s. to £13 at Falkirk, and bulls range at all prices from £20 to £80. Off grass the Highland cows ought to kill at 50st. of 14lbs., but the Breadalbanes would average nearly l0st. more. There are seldom more than forty cows in a herd; and no owner has ever equalled M’Neill of Colinsay, who had once, it is said, two hundred calves, and cows still choicer than his bulls. Red Water is their greatest enemy, and they are especially subject to it in a cold, wet May.
A Shorthorn bull was once introduced by the side of Loch Voil, but the climate was too cold ; and even the Cheviots cannot thrive here. Highlanders, like their neighbours, have gone in more for sheep than cattle for ten or twelve years past. The rents of ewe and wedder farmers have been increased ; and the flocks, of which Williamson of Glenlochy and Halliday (who marches with the Black Forest) and his neighbour James Menzies have large ones, are nearly all black faced, with a very slight Cheviot sprinkling.
Once the sprittle or speckled faced were more the fashion ; but now the Irish purchasers like them darker in the face and greyer in the legs. The Aberdeenshire people also look out for the sprittlefaced-not the pure white with spots on the fate–when when they go to West Linton fair. They always think them more growthy sheep, and when they. have not hard but good ” rotten horns” (or open at the end), it is generally symptomatic of much better thriving. The West Linton wedder lambs are generally allowed to go about two weeks longer entire than the North or West Highland stocks, which gives strength to the horn and bone. They are, in fact, a stronger class of sheep, and fully better woolled. Many of the tups used both in Perthshire, Argyleshire, and Ivernessshire, are bred in Ayrshire as well as Lanarkshire, and a large proportion of the ewe hoggs are from the latter county as well. The ewe and wedder hoggs nearly always come down to winter on the grass ; some go as far as Greenhill and Airdrie, and unless they are highly wintered, they will never realize the five fleeces to the 241b. stone.
Mr. Lucas of the Bridge of Allan is the largest dealer in these parts, and sends carcases to London, and wedders, of which he keeps many hundreds on turnips all the winter principally in the neighbourhood of Perth, to the Glasgow and Edinburgh markets. He buys most of his fat stock in Fifeshire, but deals largely with the Forfarshire, Perthshire, and Stirling-shire men as well. The largest sheep-farmers in Argyleshire are said to be John M’Kay of Succoth and Martin of Loctraig and the Perthshire stocks of the Richmonds of Balhaldie and Dron, Elliot of Laighwood, and White of Glen Prossan will run from eight to ten thousand. The black faced stocks through-out the two counties range from one to four thousand. White of Glen Prossan and Mrs. Kennedy of Glenmaye (on the Grampians) have perhaps the best blackfaced wedders, which are simply Lanark lambs kept for three years. The cast ewes are generally sold at home, and many of them go as “Grit ewes” to the House of Muir market, and are bought up by those who have grass parks. Both 1816 and ‘818 were years of grievous loss for lambs from snow and starvation ; and in 1860 they were taken off the braes altogether to the low countries, and then they travelled with the greatest difficulty.
We had no such difficulty, as we fell in with a good lift back from the braes to Callander, and then spent the afternoon in a sort of mountainous journey past the ” Old Woman’s Burn (so called from one who was drowned there), after M`Laren’s cow which was first in her Highland Society class at Perth, and first also at Glasgow as a heifer. Mr. Gourlay Steell selected her as the most perfect female type of the breed for the gallery of the Highland Society, and he has done full justice to this buxom mountain mother with the yellow hair, and the three white legs. Her daughter has taken prizes as well, but she has bred, so far, nothing but bulls, and between them they made up quite a red and yellow clan M’Laren, of which any man might be proud.
Deanston is not far from the rail between Callander and Dunblane. Well nigh thirty years before, we had been there, when Mr. Smith was in the flush of success with his subsoil plough ; but, boylike, we attended more to his luncheon than his lectures, and we remember little beyond than his hustling ways, his sturdy, little figure, and the glass frames in the flower-garden, which acted as skylights to the work-shops below. This was in ’35 ; and three-and-twenty years before that he had brought out his reaping machine. The first was too weighty, and the second broke part of its wheel-work by a sudden jolt in a hollow during the trial. Hence he did not win the £500 given by the Dalkeith Farmers’ Club, but was consoled with a tenth of that sum for “meritorious endeavours.” The Highland Society awarded him a plate for it, and so did the Emperor of Russia. Earth and water were alike his care. Draining and subsoil ploughs will always be associated with his name ; he devised a salmon ladder with a 3o-feet ascent ; and then, with true cosmopolitan fervour, he invented and patented a dip for sheep.
Argaty, the old home of that fine prize-bull Van Tromp, is not far from here ; and on Doune Green there stood the green sentry-like boxes of the bankers, awaiting the last tryst, and the skeletons of the tents wherein toddy has been drunk and the handsel given on many a flourishing day.
The carse of Stirling, where St. George’s cross met St. Andrew’s in
” As red and rude a fray, As e’er was proof of soldier’s thew, Or theme for minstrel’s lay,”
well nigh six hundred autumns ago, was a land of mist that evening. We could scarcely discern the proud old Castle and Craig landmarks, which still bear their mute witness to the meeting of those mighty hosts, when the ploughshare no longer turns up the rusty pike-head, and even the memory of the ” battle-sheaves ” has died away ; but Dunmyot shrouded itself less sullenly behind us, and we caught occasional glimpses of the range of the Sheriff-muir Hills, with the little homestead of Pendrich clinging to their side. Gallows Hill, where many a “neck verse” has been sung, was on our right, and then a ride of a mile and a-half brought us to Keir Mains, the residence of Mr. Alexander Young, factor to the estate. Keir includes about 1,000 acres within its policy wall, and a large portion of it is in Perthshire (the Yorkshire of Scotland), which Mr. Stirling has represented since 1852.
The white nose of Peggy, was stretched affectionately over the hurdles in the beech-grove paddock to answer Mr. Young’s greeting, as we started on our round. It was a lucky moment for him when he espied her as a twoyear-old at her breeder’s, Mr. White of Renfrewshire, as she has never been second save at Kelso, and completed her score of firsts at Stirling. A row of neat ploughmen’s cottages, with a butt, ben, and middle room, face the entrance lodge to the steading, which is kept by the head shepherd. The weighing machine is in the hands of his deputy, and thus all the oilcake and artificial manures can be checked on their arrival. On the left is the stack yard, under whose wall the Scotch ploughs, all radiant with green paint, stand in file, along with rollers, grubbers, reaping machines, and haymakers. The steading is built round a court-yard ; every division and passage in it has a separate letter, and A to Z exactly suffices. So complete are the arrangements that the very warmth of the engine-house is turned to account, and the hens are lodged over it, with a good plating of zinc between, to foil the “lively fleas ;” while the engine is so close to the smithy that the blacksmith can manage it by means of a handle and an index.
The freestone of the country has been used, and the floors are laid with Arbroath flags, neatly and closely pointed upon six inches of stone metal. Nearly the whole of the interior walls are lined, like the tower, for about six feet, and beyond that with squared rubble, which avoids the necessity of plaster, and does not afford vermin the faintest hope of gaining a settlement. The principal entrance is at the north-east corner, near the granary. Beneath it, on the east range, are the cart-shed fitted with grease-pot niches, the barn, the straw-house; and behind them the sawpit, the smithy, and the engine-house, where a gigantic flywheel works an eight-horse power engine. At the corner of the south range is a twelve-stall stable, eleven feet high, and divided by a harness-room. Future Robert Burnses could have no more comfortable ingle to ruminate by, as the fire flashes cheerfully on the polished pine wainscoting ; and the bump of order among the six must be feebly developed indeed, if with so many aids to neatness on the walls, they cannot keep their harness bright, and in its own domain.
Each of them has a separate bin, holding the exact weekly allowance of oats and beans. The stalls are nine feet by six, and iron-bound ; the water (which is drawn from cocks in the stable), hay, and oats are all kept strictly to their three compartments in the manger, where the rope of the halter acts in a long square tube, and is untied from below. The overseer’s house forms the centre of this east range, and is connected with the dairy, in which the delf dishes rest on large Arbroath flags, and the Guernsey milk is placed in tin bowls as being an essential cream-raiser. Polished tiles from the Hague, which represent a girl milking, a cock and hen, the Ranz des Vaches, ” Genesins,” and Noah, are let into the walls, and the gallery above gives us a nearer view of fully 200 Moorish, Persian, and Italian plates, which are hung up like shields below the ribbon motto which encircles the ceiling : ” Cleanliness is next to godliness.”
Next in order are some loose-boxes, including one without corners for the especial use of a mare when she is about to foal. After a tour up the clock-tower stairs, at the south-west corner, to the future business room, we descended to the byre, which composes, with the cowman’s house, the whole of the west range. The byre itself is 128 feet 6 inches long, and is so constructed that it may very easily be divided into three. It is built for thirty-two cows, which stand, two-andtwo, in stalls of polished flag, each with an iron rack of its own, which is filled by the aid of the tram-road in front. On the north side are the piggeries, the calf-houses, and the lumber-shed ; and fifteen loose-boxes and two boiling and store-houses stand in the centre of the square, and encircle the manure-heap. The latter is so constructed as to be covered or not at pleasure ; and the contents of the adjacent urine-tank can be pumped on it by means of the engine.
The size of the homestead may be judged of from the fact that the width of the roadway in the court, which will be paved with squared whinstone, is twenty-four feet. Of this, however, a small portion will be taken up with the tram-road, which will run round it, and thus open up a complete communication between the byre and the dung-heap. The pigs which revel there, when they are let out from the sties which face due south, are principally small white Wenlocks crossed with Wainman boars ; and a wreck-ling was at nurse in the bait ” house, and trembling with anxiety and emotion when the teapot was presented. Among the foals in the boxes was a bay filly, the living image of Champion of the good old Shacabac, Fireaway, and Phenomenon blood. Vesta’s last legacy, a red bull, was in the calf-house, where Forth’s deep flesh was transmitted to a white son and there was the first dividend, another roan heifer, out of the 235-guinea “Another Roan Duchess.” The calves are all brought up by pail, and have two Scotch pints of new milk night and morning, and after the first month (when they run in the paddock if fine) boiled linseed is given them in their milk, and oilcake with bruised grain or bean meal at mid-day. The milk is taken off at the end of four months, and the linseed gruel continued.
There is nothing peculiarly decorative about the buildings, with the exception of the tower, but devices and mottoes have been applied with no niggard hand. Each department bears an emblem of its contents in stone ; and hence a stranger wandering only round the outside can get all the bearings exactly. A horse’s headfor which neither Clyde, Young Champion, Darkie, nor Audubon, son of Birdcatcher, could have stood to the sculptormarks the stable ; but Stella’s and Lady Bountiful’s heads have been copied by him for the cowhouse, and Forth’s, cut in his calfhood, was over the keystone of the main gateway. A wheat and barley-sheaf crown the windows of the granary ; and a brace of reaping-hooks and scythe-stones, crossed, are reserved for the door through which the sheaves are borne to the threshing machine. Mr. Stirling has well acted up to his family motto, ” Gang Forward,” which once or twice had its place with “Paco a Poco” (Little by little) on the walls ; and ” Tak Time ere Time be tent” speaks with apt and homely eloquence from the clock-tower.
The stud of Clydesdales has numbered sixty, but it is kept down at about half-a-hundred, as the colt foals are sold entire, along with Leicesters and shorthorn bull-calves at the annual roup. Some of the neighbouring farmers thought Darkie, who was a good winner under high-weights at The Loo and Eglinton Park, too high-bred for their common mares, and therefore Mr. Stirling bought a pure-bred Suffolk sire ; but the chestnut “bare legs ” made no way. They said that the sort had too much roundness of bone, and a lack of freedom of step, and that the mists affected their eye-sight. The national feeling was also against them on the point of not being such good travellers, either as regards pace 0r the power of long-fasting ; and the fifth Lord Jersey, who had tried large teams of both breeds at Middleton in Oxfordshire, was of the same opinion on these two points. The beginning of the stud dates from Clyde, who was purchased from Mr. Samuel Clarke of Kilbarchan, and afterwards sold to the Speaker. He won a first prize when the Highland Society met at Glasgow in ’50, and his beautiful head and three white legs were known in many a Scottish show-yard. His son Forth was third at Battersea and first at the Four Counties, and Baronet and eight mares and fillies have all taken first National prizes. Snip, Sally, Nancy, and Peggy were first-prize mares at Carlisle, Edinburgh, Battersea, and Stirling. Old Bet has never been in the Highland Society lists ; but she has not shirked good company at Glasgow, Hamilton, and elsewhere, and has been decorated on sixteen occasions.
It is perhaps the prettiest farm sight in Scotland to walk down the Keir stable, when the horses are in from work and all done up on an autumn evening, and a robin redbreast twittering on one of the stalls lent it extra zest. Douglas’s Snip, the winner of three Nationals in her day, stood at the end ; but although the fine fore-arm and leg are still there, a decade of years have told their tale, since Ralph led her out to victory at Carlisle. She was the only one which had crossed over the Irish Channel in the legitimate pursuit of Ribbonism ; but every one of the twelve, save a big half-bred black of the dray order, was a winner. Punch, with that astounding rib, is old Snip’s partner. He was bought by Mr. Young at Banff, when he was judging with Professor Dick, whose lament over his not being in the sire list was at once pathetic and incisive. Star is still more to our mind, with his grand quarters and jet-black legs, and he won in a great ring at Ayr. His Platonic mate is the buxom Lily, beautifully turned, but still not quite so orthodox in her shapes, and with a rich ruby-coloured coat that rhymes but ill with the mealy bay of Jess, which has, however, not kept her back from honours. Sally and Bet were in the boxes, and scarcely do any work now ; but Mally, a bright bay with white hind-legs, is in her prime, and with few to match her for style. She pursues her way with Katey since Bessy was sold into an Edinburgh lorry ; Duchess and Polly are closely akin to Blackleg, once quite a terror to the show-yards and a little pair, Nance and Bell, cast in their lot together. They have always a pail of ” bait “or rather turnips (green-tops in autumn, and swedes in spring), chaff, and a little barley, all boiled togetherwhen they come in about four, and at eight each night the watchman gives them a few raw turnips, to amuse themselves with and gather sleekness withal.
There was good stock at Keir in the time of James Stirling, the late laird and uncle to the present. He had a catholic feeling for every kind of animal, but more especially for shorthorns and greyhounds ; and no one fed West Highlanders to higher Christmas weights. He brought ” the Durhams” into Perth-shire, and stood by them manfully, when the Highlanders shook their heads sagely over “those big, painted beasts ; ” and every day during the season he might be seen on the carse, with a brace of ” long-tails and an Argus-eyed groom at his heels. The stock was sold off in ’45, and, seven years after, his nephew came out with fat beasts, and disposed of the three great Aberdeen butchers, Martin, Stewart, and Knowles, with a Shorthorn-West Highland heifer. After this, the Keir showing took a breeding stock turn, and Shorthorns, Leicesters, pigs, and Clydesdales have gathered nearly one hundred firsts between them, principally at the Royal English, the Highland Society, Glasgow, the Four Counties, and Stirling.
The present herd, of which Blencow (11182) of the Gwynne tribe and four or five of the Sweetlips from Boswell’s of Balmuto were the germ, dates from ’52. Leader (11674), bred by Milne of Faldonside, was the successor of Blencow, and then Fawkes’s John o’Groat (13090) by Bridegroom (11203) joined the herd for 200 gs., after he had been placed second to Master Butterfly at Carlisle. The two roans did not meet at Malton, where ” John ” was sent by virtue of a stipulation, and the first honours which he won there were confirmed by the silver medal at the Glasgow Society for the best bull in the yard. Next summer he stood first at Salisbury, and earned from Mr. Wetherell, who is by no means diffuse in his panegyrics, the title of ” the finest big bull I have ever seen.” We cared very little about cattle in those days ; but we happened to be at his stall when ” Nestor” came up to handle and deliver judgment on the roan. After winning at the Highland Society that summer, he was seen in public no more, and was swept down by pleura along with two-and-twenty of his mates. He left a few heifers behind him, and in the roup of the Salisbury year his Marble Cutter from a Blencow heifer made 200 gs., and went to Australia shortly afterwards at an advance. Sir Samuel would have come for a season from Warlaby, but the pleura was too recent to risk the “last slice of Charity ; ” and Hiawatha (14705), by Captain Balco (12546) from Playful, who had been purchased from Mr. Douglas the year before, took the vacant box. Previously to his purchase, he had beaten Colonel Towneley’s Fred and Sparrow Hawk, Mr. Ambler’s Museum, Sir James the Rose, and a rare row of bull calves at ” The York-shire,” and in Mr. Stirling’s hands he beat the class of young bulls at Glasgow, when John o’Groat headed the seniors, and Miss Nightingale was third to Rose of Athelstane and Ringlet. The Keir bull-box has never lacked a great prize-winner, and it is remarkable that on the only three occasions that Mr. Stirling’s bulls, to wit, John o’Groat, Forth, and Eleventh Royal Butterfly, have been across the Border, they won a Royal first.
The original steading has been gradually absorbed into the pleasure-grounds, and the site is occupied by a small cupola, and planted with Turkey oaks and variegated planes. The beautiful dish-head and the Godolphin crest of Champion are laid low, to the deep grief of TomLiddle, after ten seasons; and his old box in “Clydesdale Lodge” (which has a large high-walled yard attached to it for exercise) is filled by a Clydesdale of the lighter sort, and fully a hand less than Baronet by Rob Roy, who came from Renfrew-shire. In the home-field below, Duncan in his Scotch bonnet was leading the lengthy, fine-loined and short-legged Eleventh Royal Buttefly for his morning constitutional ; and he might well be proud of the office, for Towneley has bred but two to compare with the high-mettled roan. The little man totally despises poles, and manages his 400-guineas charge in all his caracoles with nothing but a rope and a small cart-whip. The latter is in strict keeping, as he always addresses him, either for warning or encouragement, in strictly cart-horse language. The capricious Master Groat and Knight of the Border were not his peculiar charge ; John o’Groat and his 150 Dutch stone he could mould like wax; on the eve of harvest festivals he has often taken a nap in Forth’s box, and the bull only licked him as he slumbered ; but ” The Royal ” is not to be trusted so implicitly, and therefore Duncan guides his slumbers with discretion.
There are only two John o’Groat’s among the herd which is grazing beneath us, and both of them good to know from that peculiar mode of poking out their heads, which they derived from the old bull. Miss Groat is one, and so is Anna Rose, the dam of Forth, and so ludicrously like him in shape and colour that we found her as easy to guess as we did the dam of Sir Richard at poor Tom Rea’s. Annie,WellingIonia, and Lady Airlie form a deep red trio with all the traces of their sire Hiawatha in the head and the set of the horn. Minnehaha by Heir-at-law was there with her broken horn, and so was Miss Wetherell, the only relic of Windsor Flower, and the only calf, save Forth, that Florist left behind him. The sweet, short-legged Vesta, who kept such high company in the days of Frederick’s Fidelity, Rosette, and Queen Maki, has gone the way of Windsor Flower ; but the slashing Miss Nightingale by Grand Turk, who was also just over-weighted in the prize-lists, was there, “with milk for any two”; and a daughter, Nursery Maid, to speak for her as well.
Mr. Binning Home’s Van Tromp, Forth’s strongest opponent, has his say in White Rose ; Baroness Cherry represents the Roan Cherry tribe ; and Heiress of Killerby the “single speech ” prowess of the Heir of that ilk. Rosy from Syme of Redkirk had just headed the last roup with Knight of Stirling (75 gs.), and Princess of Cambridge the preceding one of ’63 with her Allan (92 gs.). Winning Witch, like Vesta, recalls ” Tallant and Bushey ” ; Another Roan Duchess with the unmistakable Frederick roan carries us back in the spirit to the great days of Towneley and her invincible dam ; Mysie 13th keeps up the honours of a useful tribe ; Princess of Cambridge strains on her sire’s side to Bolden’s Grand Duke ; and Maid of Athelstarie wanders a maid forlorn.
A few of the Leicester ewe flock are in the Home field as well, and among them several black ones, selected by Mr. Young out of the forty which were sold by the late Mr. Boswell at his last roup, with his other fancies, the Shetland pony pairs, Semibreve and Octave, Tivy andTantivy, Gippy and Tippy. About 40 Leicester tup lambs are brought into the roup ring on the slope near the main gates each October, and mostly go north of the Forth to cross the black-faced ewes. The last average was £4 3S. all round, and several of them have made £5, £7, and £10.. The Leicester blood is a combination of Lord Polwarth’s with Cockburn’s, Simson’s of Blainslie, and Bosanquet’s; and there is also a slight infusion from Brown of Burton, Roy of Nenthorn, and Carter of Richmond.
Now we peep into the heather-covered platforms, where a century of peacocks roost at night, and take a round among the bullocks, Leicesters, and Clydesdale fillies in the park. The north wind had stripped the leaf from the beech, and was whistling through the tassels of the larch ; and the silver ball reflects nothing but wintry barrenness in that carse, in which Dean Stanley saw such a vivid likeness to the Plain of Sanur, but Keir is still green and fair. You can still ramble among thick laurel hedges with standards, silver and golden hollies, costly deodaras, and cedars of Lebanon ; and “Homo quasi flos egreditar et conteritur” whispers its warning in sea-pinks as you wend your way to the Rhymer’s Glen.