Scotland – Sittyton To Aberdeen

“LOOK here ! I never saw so much tallow inside a hare in my life ! ” said an Aberdeenshire man to us at dinner. His remark was characteristic of that great feeding county, so especially staunch in its allegiance to King Beef. The struggle among the best bullocks, taking age into consideration, for the Fat Challenge Cup on the links each July is the Derby and St. Leger of the North rolled into one. In ’63 it was a quieter affair ; but last year we heard, and on all sides, how Conglass’s doddie, the first of the breed that ever won it, was the roughest of the three which had that grand finish to themselves ; and when we met him at Islington, we had no doubt on that head.

It was on every one’s lip how undauntedly Tom Swan had stuck up for Mr. Adams’ two-year-old, and how Mr. Moir had the cup dashed from his lips just when he thought his red three-year-old was safe of it, and that it would go to Tarty for ever and aye. This was the fifth year of the Cup, which Mr. Stewart won on the first two occasions, and lost, like Mr. Moir, at the third time of asking.

The leading Aberdeen butchers dearly love to have some choice beast going on for Christmas ; and Esslemont, which lies near the railway, a few miles beyond Newmachar, is Mr. Stewart’s ” training stables.” In ’63 the roan ox was in residence, and strolling magnificently up and down his yard, clad in a sheet, to keep the pile on for Darlington. He was then in all his four-year-old bloom, and those who only saw him on his last Christmas tour, sixteen months after that, never really knew how good he was. His breeder, Mr. Moir of Tarty, won the Aberdeen Fat Cup with him as a two-year-old, and sold him to Mr. Martin, who sold him to Mr. Stewart for the Darlington Cup contest. After winning it, he was sold and raffled ; and the winner of the raffle sold him to Mr. Martin, who trained him for another year, won two head prizes with him at Birmingham and London, and sold him to a butcher for L65. On the sire’s side he is in direct descent from Cruickshank’s Baron ; and for his prize-winning predecessors in the South we had to fall back on our own Christmas recollections, and photographs from Mr. Giblett’s paintings.

First came the white ox (by a Shethin bull) which won the Fat Cup at Aberdeen in ’61, and at Darlington in ’62, besides a prize at Poissy, and the Cup. The red one, which first shook the equanimity of the Durham men, was a very massive fellow, bred by Mr. Garland of Ardlethen ; and when Mr. Stewart had marched his ” red, white, and roan” on to them successively their Challenge Cup departed over the Border. Two Shorthorn cross heifers and a poll brindled ox did good work at London and elsewhere in ’61 ; but ’62 was, after all, ” the exhibition year ‘for Esslemont. Fourteen beasts’ were prepared, and sent off to Darlington, London, Leeds, Birmingham, York, and Liverpool, and when the circuit was over, Mr. Stewart could reckon his prizes by the clad score. This was the year of the red Shorthorn Poll, bred by Mr. Thompson of Dumbreck, which got the Cup as the best beast in the yard at Birmingham, and was only beaten for the same honour in London by a Devon-Shorthorn ox of Mr. Henry Overman’s.

Mr. Moir’s of Tarty is only four miles from Esslemont in the Formartine district, which is divided from Buchan by the Ythan ; and his farm is on the Ellon property, belonging to Mr. Gordon. The neat, gabled house and steading are in Tarty Slack, a slight hollow, only two miles from the coast ; and thirty cows and heifers, some of them with ten or eleven crosses in them, have the pick of 500 acres. The soil is rather light and sharp, and grows turnips to a great size. Its subsoil is the great secret of successful feeding in Aberdeenshire, and Formartine, with its light yellow loam, and the Vale of Alford dispute the grazing palm. In the former the grass is rather earlier, but Alford has more shelter. With liberal top-dressing cattle can be got into the pastures by May morning all over the county, but May 10th is the average time. This grass is pretty fresh till “St. Partridge day ; ” but at Tillyfour, the two last weeks of July and the two first of August are quite the best.

Mr. Moir works entirely with “Shorthorn crosses.” His uncle, who dwelt at Ardlethen, began with Bertram, a Phantassie bull ; and the nephew made his first breeding essay at Tarty with a cross of Jerry and Bertram blood. After that, he used Ury bulls, and had a slice of the redoubtable Pacha, as well as of Cruickshank’s Fairfax Royal and The Baron. His three-year-olds last year were by Shepherd of Shethin’s Red Knight, his twos and his yearlings by Cruickshank’s Lord Stanley (16454), and his calves by Shepherd’s Earl of Elgin (20170); and Duke of Leeds by Lord Raglan was there, to speak for himself, tethered to a stake under a picturesque shelter of rocks and trees. His calves run for about six or seven months with the cow, and he cuts from twelve to fifteen every year, fourteen days after their birth. About September loth they are brought in and tied up. There are no yards here for yearlings or any-thing, as the bleak uplands have something more than ” a kind of starved look,” while the cold blasts come whistling from the German Ocean.

About forty are fed off every year ; and Mr. Martin, of Aberdeen, who bought both the roan and red Aberdeen Cup winners of 1862-63, is one of the principal customers. A fine red cow, The Queen, was one of the daintiest quenes of the herd, and the Darlington roan’s dam had a very deep-fleshed little prize-fighter” by its side, to which good colour only had been denied. The herd was in three or four different detachments, principally according to age, and it was quite novel to hear different beasts told off as they came up the brae. It was “half-sister to Darlington ox,” ” dam of red ox,” ” half-sister to red ox,” ” half-brother to red ox,” and so on through pages of bullock history.

Mr. Martin’s stud was in a long barn at Mr. Fiddes’s of Wateridge Muir, not many miles away. There were the red Tarty ox which had just won the Cup at Aberdeen, and a great grey Shorthorn-West Highland ox which stood forcing till the Christmas of the next year, and then took the Liverpool Cup, as the best fat beast. We fancied him more than the red, and well might Peter Allardice, their trainer, observe that ” he fills a string well.” Still, amid all these good ones, Peter could not forget the Esslemont roan, and styled him “the dashest ox I ever saw.” With a candour so rare that it deserves mention, he still expressed a doubt whether Mr. M’Combie’s big black of ’63 should not have “beaten that red there” at Aberdeen ; and when his Poissy recollections were evoked, he spoke in concise and appropriate rapture of certain Boulogne cookery.

The Formartine, Ellon, Buchan, Alford, and Garioch districts may be said to have about thirty leading feeders, averaging, with the exception of Mr. M’Combie’s, from about forty to seventy bullocks each. In old days, when they were entirely dependent on the Aberdeen butcher’s custom, four to six was thought a spirited venture. They all breed as well as buy, and finish them off their third Christmas at about £30 a-piece. Doddies are very rare in their lots ; and Mr. Bruce of Mill Hill is the only one who has imported the white faces from Hereford fair. Within the forty years prior to 1865 turnips increased a hundred-fold, and swedes in a still greater ratio since the time of the foot-and-mouth plague in ’39. In fact, steam and bone-dust have worked quite a beef revolution. At first only very few turnips were grown on the North-East coast, and the farmers attempted to feed a portion of their cattle. They had, however, attained no proficiency in feeding science, and no method as to the times of feeding or the quantity of turnips to be used ; cattle men had double work in consequence, and the beasts grew in years, but not in weight. Drovers came in the spring, and generally took them off to Barnet fair, with the exception of the supply to the Aberdeen market, and the few heavy-weights which went to Glasgow. The cattle generally were about half-fed, and only in fresh store condition. Mr. Anderson, of Pitcarry, Kincardineshire (who is still alive and managing his own farm at eighty-five), was the first man who ever sent cattle by steam from Aberdeen, and the first that were ever trucked by rail were a lot of Highlanders belonging to Mr. Hay of Shethin. This gentleman and Mr. Whitehead of Methiick had once a great Shorthorn-bull trade, but the latter retired in ’56, and when Mr. Hay died, his nephew, Mr. Shepherd, carried on the herd, and sold 140 of them by auction in ’63. Shethin has no mean name in Shorthorn annals. First Grand Duke (10284) was there for a time as a calf, and was then sold to Mr. Bolden, who sold him to the Americans for 1000 gs., and Bosquet (14183) and Second Cherry Duke 14265) left their decisive mark.

Red is the fancy colour of the county, and eight-ninths of the beef come from Shorthorn crosses, nearly all of which, if their breeding were looked into, could satisfy the ” Herd Book ” conditions. The cracks are generally picked up as yearlings by the ” racing butchers ” as quickly as the London horse-dealers descend on to a young hunter in Lincolnshire or the Midlands, and kept by them for 2 or 21 years for the Aberdeen Fat Cup and the English Christmas prizes. One or two of the best have been Shorthorn-Poll ; but this hornless cross is not so common, and Shorthorn-West Highland is as much liked as long as it is kept to the first cross, which will make its 424 easily at two years old.

Black has always been the fashionable ” doddie” colour ; but brindles, duns, yellows, and greys were once very prevalent, in Aberdeenshire. The yellows especially had a character for early maturity, which was not shared by the brown-back and brown-mouth sort. Many of them had white horns with black points, and as wide-spreading as a West Highlander. In fact, a horned Aberdeenshire was quite as highly thought of as a black poll, and the Huntly and Strathbogie districts were their especial strongholds. Northamptonshire and Leicestershire men were very fond of them, and some of the leading Cumberland jobbers would, occasionally carry away as many as 120 in one lot . from the Falkirk October, and winter them in their yards till spring. They were then passed on to Barnet fair, and sold fat out of the Essex marshes in July, August, and September. Old graziers shake their heads mournfully, and say that no such beasts browse the marshes now. Thirty years ago the trade was at its height, and so were the Millers, Billy Brown of Carlisle, Jemmy Reay, and the Temple Sowerby men. The brothers’ Armstrong, as oral history avers, have been known to go back to Yorkshire from the fairs North of Aberdeen with 600 horned and polled runts, none of them less than three, and generally four years old. Gradually the lots became half horned and half polled ; and then the Cumberland men, finding that the horned beasts took up so much room in their yards, tired of them, and turned their attention to sheep and Irish beasts ; while the Lothians and Fife, which had once clung very tenaciousiy to the polls, veered round to Shorthorn crosses. The result is that only the ” very trash of Aberdeen polls” are to be found at Falkirk now, and a very slight sprinkling of Galloways.

The Aberdeen butchers, who are formed into a guild, and elect a deacon annually, supply themselves in a great measure from Ellon, which has a stock market on the first and third Mondays of every month. Its supplies are chiefly drawn from Buchan and Formartine, and in some of the best spring ” markets off turnips ” nearly four hundred beasts will be pitched. Old Meldrum has also its fortnightly gathering of crosses from the parts round Udny and Tarves; while polls come thicker at Alford, and are found occasionally at Huntly from the Garioch district. A few sheep are sent to Turriff, Huntly, and Inverurie ; but the great majority are to be found at Brechin in April, and more especially in June, and at Trinity Muir in the same month. The first “Muir” market is more for fat cattle and two-year-old grazing stock, and so is the April fair at Glesterlaw in Angus. Still, the leading Aberdeen butchers do not depend on these casual supplies, and take grass parks in summer and turnips in the winter, and buy half-breds or black-faced wedders from the hills to stock them.

Except on a Friday, it is rather difficult to find any of the leading Aberdeen butchers at home. They are always scouring one of the three beef counties—Banffshire, ,Mora shire, and Aberdeenshire—to look after their beasts in training, or to buy for their shop and the cattle r dead-meat train. The Crimean contracts gave a great spur to the thing in Aberdeen. Forty or fifty extra bullocks were killed every day for the army, and me who went into the carcase business have never left since. The dead-meat is rather superseding the live-stock trade with the South. Butchers not only send them up cheaper this way, but the hide and tallow are worth quite as much at Aberdeen. Dundee buys the heads and feet, and the tongues, livers, and hearts never go begging at home. In fact, more beasts are slaughtered weekly in Aberdeen than in Glasgow. The butchers kill two and three year old bullocks, queys, barren cows, &c., and dispatch the heaviest supplies from Christmas till the middle of May. In the height of the season the Messrs. Martin will slaughter as many as one hundred sheep and forty beasts, and send very little of it away. Mr. Stewart has also more of a home trade ; while Messrs. Butler, Knowles, Skinner, and White send off large live and dead-beef supplies, but comparatively few sheep carcases. The dead-meat train goes at three o’clock, morning and evening, during the season, and the cattle train at one p.m. on Thursdays ; and the live stock are pretty equally divided between the steamer and the railway. The latter carries them on the average in thirty-six to forty-two hours, but beasts get more knocked about in the trucks ; and the steam companies charge 4t a-head, and are their own insurers to the full value of the cattle as well, Hardly any dead meat leaves Aberdeen by the steamer, and the average in 1861-63 was only 87 tons against 8,943 by rail. In the last-named year, 13,798 head of cattle were sent off from Aberdeen southwards by rail, and of these 9,623 went direct to London. Caithness, Orkney, and Shetlands in that year exported no less than 8,740 cattle, 23,124 sheep, and 844 pigs and of the 6,000 odd from the two latter places (which are said never to have any disease), two-thirds were landed at Aberdeen, and the rest went on to Granton.

But M`Combie and the polls were still unseen. ” The powerful, pushing, and ^ prosperous race ” of M`Combies are first heard of in Glenshee and Glenisla. The name signifies “son of Thomas,” and the family is especially mentioned as Clan M`Thomas in the clan-roll. They were all men of large stature; and the “great M`Comie” kept the Cateran in such check, that one of their number thus announced his death ; ” Blessed be the Virgin Mary! the great M`Comie in the head of the lowlands is dead, for as big and strong as he was.” One of his descendants, Donald M`Contbie, settled in the North, and an ancestor in direct descent of the cousins at Tillyfour and Easter Skene was buried just 15o years since in the parish of Tough. His grandson William began to farm Lynturk in 1748, and was reputed to be the strongest man in seven parishes round. He had also, like ” the big M’Comie,” seven sons, of which the three youngest—Thomas, Peter, and Charles—all became lairds. Thomas was an Aberdeen baillie, and left Easter Skene to his son William, the present possessor, who also got Lynturk through his uncle Peter ; and Charles, who did not care for the quiet life of an Aberdeen merchant, and preferred the more exciting. one of a lean cattle dealer, invested in land, and left Tillyfour and Tullyriach to his eldest son, the Rev. Dr. Charles M’Combie, minister of Lumphanan, who lets them to his brother.

Easter Skene lies midway between the Dee and the Don. Its owner succeeded to it in 1827, and since then he had reclaimed the whole of the estate estate from heather and bog, and, with the exception of some on the northeast side, had planted every tree on it. The plantations alone extend over 130 acres, and the stone fences to 30 miles, supplemented, when-ever shelter is required, by a hedge of beech or haw-thorn. Many of the fields have been in grass for nearly twenty years ; and when they are broken up, only a single crop of oats is taken, and then turnips. This root is never known to fail, and finger-and-toe is unheard of, which seems to suggest that the disease is rather the result of exhaustion, and the remedy to be found in rest, and not in stimulating manures. The view from the house, a tasteful building in the Elizabethan style, is one of the finest in Aberdeen-shire. In the foreground you catch a glimpse of the loch of Skene, and rising just behind or as distant outposts are the Hill of Fair Corrie, of the Birds, Stone of the Mountain, The Fairies’ Hill, where, in obedience to the Hogg codicil, a bonfire blazes on the eve of May Day, the Cairn of the Eagle, and the Mountain of the Boat. The huge figure of Morven looms against the Western sky ; and Ben Avon, which guards the southern approaches to Banffshire, can be seen best from the farm of Drumstrone, where the renowned laird of Drum sat down and made his will ere he strode, claymore in hand, to his doom at the Battle of Harlaw.

The Easter Skene herd is not so numerous as the Tillyfour, but it has held its own right well in the show-yards. It was first in the cow class at Aberdeen, in 1853, with Queen of Scots,. beating Lord Southesk’s Dora and ten others ; and also headed the yearling bull class the same year with Rhoderick Dhu {89) Another of its bulls, Alaster the Second, beat Fox Maule{305) on the same ground, and the only occasion that he was ever beaten. Royal Scot also took a silver medal there and the ox with which William M’Combie gained the first prize, the last time that the Highland Society met at Glasgow, was born, and bred in these pastures.

The pilgrim from Aberdeen to Tillyfour must keep two great directions, positive and negative, in his head—firstly, change your train at Kintore ; and secondly, don’t get out at Tillyfourie station, as scores have done before you. That ” i.e.” is anything but demonstrative in this case. Cluny Castle, which is said to be the finest granite building in Britain, the woods of Monymusk and Fetternear, with Ben-a-Chie towering behind them, are all pleasant landmarks in the twenty-three miles ; and the fertile vale of Alford just opens upon you, and gives a bright foretaste of the Braes of Mar, as ‘you leave the train at White-house. Tillyfour is only three miles from this point, but the outlying farms are more easily reached through Alford. The wind was not in the East, and therefore we were promised a dry day at last, and a really fine sight of the vale, which, save Ellon and Tarves, is said to carry bullocks to a greater size than any in the North. Its barley is in especially high favour with brewers and distillers. It suits turnips, both Aberdeen yellows, purple tops, and swedes, remarkably well; but there are no mangels.

Stewart’s Inn, to which grouse-shooters and tourists resort in the season, and find no “puree of horsebeans,” but good hare-soup awaiting them, was our first halt. The entrance-hall is -hung about, not with “pikes and guns and bows,” but with enormous foxskins ; and it is some consolation, when one thinks of that terrible sacrifices of good fox-flesh, that the Iandlord sends South all he can get out alive from the hills, and that ten brace, “with black four inches up the pad,’ were transported to one English county in 1863. Alford owes much to the cottage architecture of its principal proprietor, Mr. Farquharson, whose mansion, as well as Whitehaugh and Forbes Castle, is a leading object to the right, with the heather hills as the glorious back-ground of all.

Still we wanted ” hoof and horn figures in our landscape, and a short ride past the well-filled pastures of Mr. Reid, a successful grazier and prize-taker, and the forge of Mr. Sorly—the ” Professor Dick” of the Vale–and so along the banks of the Don (midway between which and the Dee, Tillyfour may be said to lie), brought us to Dorsell’s, the first of Mr. M`Combie’s four farms. It belongs to Sir Charles Forbes, of Newe and Edinglassie, and consists of about 64o acres equally divided between arable and pasture. Ninety beasts were billeted on it, and when we saw them they had been nearly a month off grass, and had kept up their bloom on tares three parts ripe, which given in this state do not induce scouring, and have much finer feeding properties. Green tares make milk rather than beef, and Mr. M’Combie has long abjured them. The first lot were eating their oat-straw and Aberdeen yellows, and the sheddings were judiciously darkened to encourage digestion and repose. They were all threes-and-fours, and ” just good commercial beasts,” to adopt “Tillyfour’s” favourite term, when he is not especially sweet on anything. Not a twoyear-old found a place ; as their fore-quarters are seldom good, and their tallow supplies are short. The London butchers have been bitten once too often by them. Three-fourths of the ninety were hornless Aberdeenshire, and the rest blacks with white legs, greys, and reds, brindles, half-bred Shorthorns with poll heads, blacks with the loose scur (which is the saving clause of ” Doddieism “), blacks with horns pointing one up and the other down, and here and there one with the infallible ” mark of the beast ” on his buttock, or the real Pagan roan.

The sample grew higher as we proceeded, and reached the Christmas-table candidates for both metropolises, and Liverpool as well. Twenty of them stood in at £23 12s. 6d., twenty-eight at £25 5S., and twenty at L20 10s.—all from Mr. Robert M`Kessack’s, of Grange Green, near Forres, while a smaller lot of seventeen came from Dandaleith in Morayshire. On we went through the rest—four blacks together, and very difficult to whip apart ; three “heavy Scotch greys,” one of which was pretty nearly the head of the lot; and then, close by a red roan with quite Marma duke crops, stood a spotted monster of full seventeen hands. Mr. M`Combie drily polished off this Magog as ” just a heavy beast for shipping,” and he was finally sold by Mr. Gibbons at Liverpool for £52. “That completes the eighty,” and then came another lot loose in the sheds, ready to take their place in the double stalls as soon as the Christmas beasts have gone. We had not time to go in search of the bull Champion, as it was long past noon, and an October day was not to be trifled with; and with a glance at the beautifully cross-gartered oat-stacks, which stood in platoons four deep, with William Turner, the bailiff, as chief architect, we once more sped on our way.

There was nothing to take us to the Castle of Craigie Var, whose strong black loam on the granite has furnished Mr. M’Combie with some of his richest pasturage, and we turned off to the ” training ” quarters at Bridge End. Its 230 acres are rented by Mr. M’Combie from his cousin at Easter Skene, and John Benzies, with his blue blouse and Kilmarnock bonnet, is captain of the depot. His military decoration is the Dutrone medal presented to him at Poissy, as the servant longest in command of polled cattle ; and he has also the Smithfield diploma as the feeder of the best Polled Scot. John is a perfect almanack on the subject of fat shows, which seem to act as milestones on his journey of life. Birmingham and its foundry and factory people have long been a great terror to him. ” They are a dreadful lot,” he observes, ” with all their pinching and poking; the gentry are very civil, but this gas it punishes the beasts worst of aught.”

After all his travels by sea and land, he may be said to have lived so much among the shunts and the breakers (of which his master has given such a vivid catalogue in a recent controversy) that it is only wonderful to see him in the flesh at all. The neat-boned Rifleman by Rob Roy Macgregor (267), from Pride of Aberdeen, who was first in his class at Battersea, is his peculiar charge ; and then came seven dozen bullocks, of which at least seven-and-twenty were “tops,” and getting specially sent along upon cake and corn. Three of them, however, were on the reserve list for the next year’s shows ; or were at least to have the benefit of the doubt, when their companions were dispersed by March into many a British larder.

The whole of the shedding is more useful than ornamental, and heather, tiles, slate, wood, and thatch, all play their part in the roofing. It was here that the great Poissy bullock was fed, and John waxed eloquent at the remembrance of him, although neither he nor his master have heard his weight to this hour. Thrice has John crossed the Channel, left six bullocks behind him and brought back £370, a Cup, seven gold medals, two great gold medals, and silver and bronze galore. A Tillyfour ox was second for the Cup, on the first occasion, to the Duke of Beaufort’s Shorthorn, when Mons. St. Marie’s casting vote was said to have decided the day. The Poissy ox, par excellence, was bred by Mr. Tough, of Deskie, Aberdeenshire, and sold for £28 at two years old. He was then resold twice ; purchased by Mr. M’Combie, for £45, from Mr. Shaw of Bogfern, kept two years, and finally sold to the Emperor’s butcher for £84, after winning £285 in money and cups. Nine-eight was his best girth and he had this peculiarity, that he would never touch corn. His training was not unchequered. After Smith-field, John escorted him, along with the Birmingham cup heifer, to Mr. Maydwell’s farm in Surrey, and lived with them there till the middle of April. It was not a jovial time, as they brought a Christmas-box along with them in the shape of “foot-and-mouth and although the bullock bore up bravely, and only bated an inch, the crack heifer ” took off six or seven inches as level as it went on,” and had not recovered her bulk when she went to Poissy. Mr. M`Combie first saw her at the Dumfries show, and his mind was not at rest till he had given her breeder (the Duke , of Buccleuch) a fifty pound cheque for her,which she returned with interest.

Of the great prize ox of ’63 which occupied the box of honour, Mr.M’Combie might well observe, prophetically, that “a little man would not be able to see him without assistance”; and in default of a ladder, John adjured us then and there to mount the manger, and survey (in Athelstaneford phrase) the vast plateau” of roast beef.. ” Have you ever looked over more pounds ? ” was his triumphant query, as we descended. In that low-roofed tabernacle there seemed but one reply. Still the Islington building quite dwarfed him, and we should not have remarked on him as a veritable Great Eastern among the bullocks there. In his leading points he was rather rougher than some we have seen from Tillyfour but if he lacked the bloodiness and levelness of the Angus, he was, in Benzian phrase, ” beef to the root of the lug,” He cost. £48 at two years and three months old, and was bred by Mr. Stephen, of Conglass. His first prize was won at Garioch ; £40 and a gold medal were his two-year-old guerdon at Poissy ; and at Liverpool, Aberdeen, and on the “grand tour,” he gathered £130 in all. Still, what with some 2,000 miles of travel on his head, and the keep of eleven dozen weeks at ten shillings, there was no such great margin of profit even after a ,£80 sale. Still he had the honour in his death of being bracketed in point of price, head of the Beef Tripos of the year, with Mr. Heath’s gold medal Here-ford ox.

Two or three work oxen were being fed off, and laying it on pretty satisfactorily, seeing that flesh has too often a tendency to run to tallow after these furrow gymnastics ; but no coaxing could push on the bloodiest black about the place. He was such a beauty that for two years Mr. M’Combie had been at him every way, in and out of the house ; but his stomach refused its office, and the tape only told of eight-feet-five, and there he stuck month after month. He would have gone to ” some side show ” that Christmas, but his level, high-bred form melted his owner, and he kept him on to West Highland years of discretion. His great beauty was his breast and neck vein, but he was rather light in the twist and flank. In the spring he began to take a start, and reached 9 ft. 3 in. ; then he went back again, and finally girthed 9 ft. 1 in., and won the head prize both at Birmingham and Islington. By way of set-off to the expenses, the ever wakeful “Tillyfour” sent some turnips in the truck with him, which took a two-guinea prize in Bingley Hall. On the journey he lost very little, and, in fact, it is only the half-trained beasts that go to pieces then ; but his appetite failed sadly, and all the fire was out of him when he had gone through the dreaded Birmingham ordeal, although he was so wild at home that he required six beasts and four men to coax him to the station. He was tried with every kind of food ; but bran, oatmeal, and barley-meal never exactly suited him, and what he digested best was linseed well steeped in hot water with a little bran and meal in it.

By way of a change, we stepped aside to see one of the cleverest jobbers in the county, not more than two bow-shots from Tillyfour. His white pony was grazing in the meadow below, and the journeys of the pair would fill a Iedger. We had seen variety enough that morning, but nothing to be compared to his long byre. A large spotted cow, which cost £1 a leg, was at the far end, next to an eight-guinea Dutch one, and a big black; and two out of the trio made £29 10s. Then there was a cross-bred heifer, hobnobbing with a black polled yearling, two dun West Highlanders, a brown sunken-backed cow, two polled heifers and a yellow polled ox, and, to crown all, a Shorthorn bull with a pedigree and another without. We asked how the former was bred, and his owner responded that he was of the ” Viper tribe,” and at once produced his printed pedigree from his waistcoat pocket : ” Rodney got by Jasper, granddam Viper by Second Billy.”

Mr. M’Combie’s father bought Tillyfour with the century. Five-twelfths of its 1,200 acres are arable, and one-sixth old grass. Its heights and hollows furnish fine natural shelter, and it is well-watered by burns rising in Bletoch, Tillyriach, and Corannie. It was here that William M’Combie was born in 1805, and learnt that fine experience from his father which caused him for many years to be regarded both in Great Britain and the continent, like Jonas Webb in another sphere, as quite a grazier king. Mr. M’Combie senior was equally eminent in his business of a lean cattle dealer ; and his son has thus written of his early career, in the North British Agriculturist :—” When a young man, he went to the far north to Caithness, Sutherland, Skye, and the islands, and bought large droves of Highland cattle, and brought them home ; they were often disposed of by public roup in this county, or driven to the southern markets. At that time there were few regular markets in these counties but the dealers when they went to the country ` cried a market,’ or published that they would meet the sellers on a certain day, and at a convenient place, and in this way the trade was carried out. Large profits were obtained, but the dealers were liable to heavy losses, especially in spring, the cattle being then but skin and bone, and many dying in the transit. My father lost in one night, after swimming the Spey, seventeen old Caithness runts. There were no bridges in those days. It came on a severe frost after the cattle had swam the river. Their bones bleached in the sun on the braes of Auchindown for more than thirty years, and remains of them were visible within the last few years. My father not only carried on a very large trade at the Falkirk markets, but had a very extensive business to England he kept a sales-man who attended all the great English fairs, particularly in Leicestershire, and sold drove after drove that were bought by my father here. Referring to documents in my possession, I find he had in one year 1,500 cattle at the October Falkirk tryst, 900 of which were Highlanders, and the remainder Aberdeen cattle. The Highlanders were grazed in Braemar, on the Geldie, Boynach, and Corryvrone, the property of the Earl of Fife. These were, in fact, his special glens, and the greater part of the £3,500 which he made at Falkirk in two successive years came off them. Prices of cattle were very high at the time of the war. I observe the prices of three heavy lots of horned Aberdeen cattle sold into Cumberland, viz:, £22, L23 10s., and £25 a-head. A Carlisle carrier, I have often heard my father say, was the purchaser. He declared that he bought them for eating up the horse litter. Heavy losses were sustained when the peace came. The late well-known George Williamson had a very large drove of cattle in hand when the news of peace arrived, and he was passing through Perth himself with his drove at the time the bells were tolling the merry peal on account of the peace. ‘Old Stately,’ as he was called, often said that this merry peal was a sorrowful peal to him, for it cost him £3,000. From my father’s books it appears that the expense of travelling was trifling from the north in the end of the last and beginning of the present century. Men’s wages were is. 6d. a-day, and they received no watching money. There were no toll-bars. The roadsides and the commons afforded the cattle their supply of food.”

After his father’s death, in 1830, Mr. M’Combie settled at Tillyfour, and followed, until up to about the year 1850, the lean cattle trade to which he was bred, besides keeping a few milch cows and grazing 200 or 300 cattle. There were invariably 6o horned Aberdeenshire beasts among them, which were gene-rally the “tops ” at the October Falkirk, and after wintering in Cumberland passed on to Barnet in the spring. As a young man he was fond of coursing, and once won, and again divided the All-aged Stakes at Turriff with Amy of his Buy-a-Broom sort, which he still remembers ” as going from the slips like a shot.” He also delighted in shooting, and made some very large bags, but his health has been more delicate of late years, and all his field sports have been given up one by one. The Vale of Alford Society was his first show-ground, and he had not been much more than two years at Tillyfour before he was placed first with a bull which he had purchased from Morayshire. He won again in 1837, and since then he has gradually fallen into the round of the Vale of Alford, the Royal Northern at Aberdeen, and the Highland Society. Inverness and Aberdeen (twice over) have been his greatest weeks with “the Highland,” as he swept almost everything in his way ; and his blacks were ” well on the spot ” on the only four occasions–Windsor, Carlisle, Battersea, and Newcastle—that there has been an opening for them at the Royal English. He sent fat beasts to the Birmingham and Smithfield Shows as early as 1840, but it was not until 1859 that he and his black brigade became a leading feature there. During the six years prior to 1865 he had taken the Smithfield first prize for the polled Scot bullock, besides the first in 1861 for the heifers. The latter not only won the gold medal for him as the best. female, but took the cup as the best beast in the yard at Birmingham (where his bullock firsts during the same period are only one below Smithfield) ; and both English and Scotch papers might well unite in their protest, when Mr. Faulkner’s Shorthorn Dolly, a year older and two inches less in the girth, and by no means a perfect specimen of her kind, was preferred by the Shorthorn, Devon, and Hereford judges in the contest for the Smithfield gold medal to the beautiful ” sable interloper.”

He laid the corner-stone of his fortunes by the purchase of Queen Mother by Panmure (51) from Mr. Fullerton, then of Mains of Ardovie, near Brechin, and now of Mains of Ardestie, near Dundee. She was then a yearling heifer, and cost but 18 at a cheap time. As she turned from her few first services, she was put for a penalty to draw wood, and did all the ridging up of thirty acres of turnips as well. She then proved in-calf to Monarch (44) (who was bought by Mr. Ruxton at the Ardestie roup), and the heifer was called after Lola Montes, who was then in the height of her Bavarian conquests. Queen Mother’s first prize was at the Vale of Alford. She was then third at Aberdeen, and even with twelve summers on her head, she was good enough not only to take to the Highland Society’s meeting at Inverness, but to stand second when she got there to her granddaughter Charlotte,* and to beat Fair Maid of Perth and fifteen more capital cows.

From her the family-tree branches off in three directions, through her daughters Lola Montes and Bloomer by Monarch, and Windsor by Victor (46). The last-named was the dam of Windsor (221) by Hanton (228), who was sold to Mr. George Brown of Westertown as a calf, and was passed over by him to the Earl of Southesk (who was first at Edinburgh with him) for ‘180. Crosses for the produce of the Lola Montes and Bloomer lines were found in Hanton by Pat (29), who was purchased at two years old, with a quey, from Mr. Bowie, for £110, and Angus (45) by Second jock (2), which only cost L36 at Mr. Hugh Watson’s roup, and has also done yeoman service to the herd. Angus was used to Lola Montes and Bloomer (which, like Windsor, was first at the High-land Society and Windsor Shows), and Charlotte and The Belle, another Highland Society first, but not with the site of her dam, were the respective results. Hanton, whose show career embraced nine firsts from Alford to Poissy, where even the Emperor could not buy him, got both Pride of Aberdeen and Daisy from Charlotte, who also had Crinoline, nee White Legs, by Victor 3rd (193) ; while Fancy was the produce of him and The Belle, and his son Rob Roy Macgregor (267) followed suit with Lovely. And so the succession has gone on—Monarch, Angus, Hanton, ” Rob Roy” (267), Black Prince by ” Rob Roy,” and lastly Rifleman, who is by “Rob Roy” from Pride of Aberdeen—a son and daughter of Hanton—which is as nearly ins and-in as Mr. M`Combie dares to go, much as he likes the blood. Kinnaird Castle, Balwyllo, Ardgay, and Montbletton have also furnished their contingents in Empress and Dulcimer, Lady Agnes, Zara, Mayflower, and another Mayflower, &c. Mr. M`Combie bought both these ” Flowers,” after they had stood first and – second at Perth, and liked the second-prize one decidedly the better of the two..

Scotland is very true to her champions, and when all this thought and energy culminated in the Poissy and Battersea triumphs, four hundred neighbours and breeders, with the late Marquis of Huntly in the chair, assembled to do Mr. M`Combie honour by a banquet, which was one of, if not the largest, ever held at Aberdeen. ” The English agriculturists always maintained,” said the hero of the evening, “that a Scot would never take a first place in a competition with a Shorthorn, a Hereford, and Devon. I have given them reasons for changing their opinion (deafening cheers).” The old champion, Mr. Hugh Watson, was present for the last time in public, and in a few graceful words he tendered his congratulations, and spoke to the glory of the Angus, whose name no time will sever from his own.

“Black and all black” is the password at Tillyfour, and no roans, greys, or brindles, or beasts of any other livery, are allowed within its lines. The fortress lies on the top of a hill, and the steep ascent terminates at last in a little grove of limes and ashes. Behind is the great sky line of that bare and bleak Forest, which once was Royal Corannie, and away to the right is the Glen of Tillyriach, and that evergreen gorse, which knows no Rallywood challenge. The black-cock often descends from his heather heights, and shares, with about thirty Galloway and Angus yearlings and twoyear-olds, the outlying hundred acres of the Nether Hill; to whose rich qualities the perpetual burrow of the blind little ” gentleman in black,” beloved of the Jacobites, furnishes the highest clue. Don Fernando, of Lord Southesk’s breeding, was the field esquire of the milch cows, who do the broom business. The good, solid homestead occupies a square within a hundred yards of the house, and the picked beasts for the great Christmas market swell and fill the stall ranges on two sides of it. The crunch and the groan are sweet music to the soul of ” Tillyfour,” as enveloped in his plaid he takes his rounds, and watches the rich rations wheeled in from the canteen. How he does late to see the dust collect on their backs, and what arguments of non-thriftiness he gathers therefrom 1 They are “their own turnip slicers,” as he holds that half the sap is wasted by the more modern system. The caking, except for the more backward ones, does not begin till within six weeks of the great market, when they get 4lbs. to 6lbs. each ; but when cake reached £11 a ton, they were principally fed on bruised oats and barley. Peas and beans are no part of their fare.

In contradistinction to the Mechian and Norfolk theories, Mr. M`Combie holds that, as a rule, 14lbs. of cake a day is as much as any beast’s stomach can do proper justice to. Only two of the “doddies” had ” sours ” ; but they were good enough to confirm the butcher’s axiom, ” never a bad one with a hanging head” ; and yet there was only one out of the forty-three which Mr. M’Combie had the smallest notion of ” training.” . He is very particular about a fine fore-head and light bone, and if he can ” get the tail as small as a rat’s” they are always quicker feeders. Fifty-nine were away on the Dee side, but we conned the weekly bulletin of them, and wished that half the civil service candidates could send in as smart a precis of the week’s doings. Two men were in special charge of them, and the brush and currycomb are not allowed to grow cool in the intervals between the morning and afternoon meals. Only three yearling bullocks were in the house, one of them looking nearly 7 cwt. already, at nineteen months, and another lacking the scale, but very similar in shape to the Poissy ox.

We found the cows with the heifer calves (which are all setoned and oilcaked when weaned) in the pasture close by the house, busy among . the new grass left over by the bullocks, to whom they always play second. Foremost among’ them was the square-made Lovely (by Rob Roy from the Belle), the first heifer at Battersea, and a cup winner at Aberdeen during the time when Mr, M`Combie held that trophy for three years in succession. She still retains much of the style which pulled her through on that day ; and Elf of Aberdeen by Black Prince was at her side. The Balwyllo heifer rejoiced in her Jet of Aberdeen. There, too, was the once well-named Beauty, from Mr. Watson’s of Keillor, a fine-sized cow, which fetched 62 gs. at his sale, and she too could boast of a rare Jilt of Aberdeen. This species of nomenclature reached its climax in the calf of Zara, the second Battersea heifer.

“None half so fragrant, half so fair, As Kate of Aberdeen,”

says the old song ; and Mr. M’Combie took the hint and named her calf accordingly, and found himself fully justified at Newcastle and Stirling. The dam, which is all going to milk, and has quite sunk her show shape in the matron, was put up in price at go gs. to a gentleman at Battersea, but he chose three others at £35 a-head, and Mr. M’Combie has his consolation. Zara was bred by Mr. Collie of Ardgay, and so was Nourmahal, ” the dusty-haired cow,” and the biggest of the bunch. It is very rarely indeed that any owner can say that he won two first and two second prizes in two classes ; but Mr. M’Combie has done more, as every one of his Battersea winners has had a live calf, to wit, three heifers and one bull.

In another meadow, Pride of Aberdeen by Hanton formed one of five first-prize Highland Society’s winners, which showed side by side at Stirling for their gold medium medals. She is better behind the shoulder, but in her thighs and on the top of the tail she is inferior to her dam old Charlotte. Still youth would be served, when Mr. Hugh Watson late of Keillor and Mr. Graham of The Shawe, two of the finest judges out, of Angus and Galloway stock, judged the pair at Battersea. Charlotte is rising fourteen, and still lacks a whole majority to rival Keillor Grannie. So far she promises well, as there is no patchiness about her, and scarcely any other symptoms of age. Few have been more tried, as she has had foot-and-mouth twice, and lung disease once. Added to this, she had a calf at two years old, and has never missed a year since, but they have generally been bulls, one of which, Defiance by Rob Roy, was sold to the Drumin herd, which has had much local success during the last two years with its females. She began her long list of winnings as first at Inverness, and the first prize at Paris (of which she still bears the brand on her neck) was the result of her only sea journey. She and Hanton were priceless; and therefore the Emperor gave L165 for another cow and L110 for a two-year-old heifer. Walker’s Mayflower, which was purchased by Mr. M’Combie for 60 gs., was also here ; and Crinoline, another first as a two-year-old at Inverness, but never after, seemed to be wearing better than the Fair Maid of Perth by Angus.

Stepping within doors, we found the walls of the dining-room a perfect epitome of French and British triumphs. Mr. Hall Maxwell looked out at us from the post of honour, as he had done in many a home-stead, during our wanderings, and beneath him was the great gold medal of France awarded to Mr. M’Combie “pour l’ensemble de son exposition.” The academy of Paris, which seems to devote itself, among other things, to the protection of animals sans corns,” furnishes a written diploma ; but if they could have seen the rush when Mr. M’Combie half-opened the door of Black Prince’s box, and our very narrow escape from being pounded to a jelly, they might have felt that their Angus bull sympathies are sometimes misplaced. The hornless are quite competent to take care of themselves. The Albert Cup at Poissy was the centre object of a line of six, which deck the sideboard on high days and holidays. Cups are hard to win ; but the trouble which Mr. M’Combie had to get seisin of an English. one, when it was won, would form quite an edifying chapter on generalship; and serve as a hint to agricultural societies. The medals have a velvet stand of their own, surmounted by a gold snuff-box (the gift of Mons. Dutrone), and twenty-three gold, forty-four silver, and four bronze hang from its dainty tiers. They are, however, only outward types of a far more solid consideration in the shape of nearly £11,700.

The first Tilly four prize taker at the Highland Society is there, dating as far back as 1840, in the shape of a dun Aberdeenshire horned ox, which was sold for £70, and has as his touching Smithfield epitaph, ” 236st. of 8lbs. and 28 1/2st. of fat.” There, too, in the shape of a black ox from Fair Maid of Perth, is the first-prize winner bred at Tillyfour that ever ” burst,” not ” into that silent sea,” but the Baker-street Babel in 1859, or the “Beauty’s Butterfly” year. It fetched its £70 and weighed 16 1/4 cwt. The Bloomer has her place with a view of Windsor Castle behind her ; and so has Victor (46), taken when he was not in good condition, and Young Charlotte, “who did no good.” The late Mr. Maydwell, of the firm of Maydwell and Hoyland, who had by virtue of his seniority the first choice of the Islington market ground (and to whose firm, as well as Mr. Giblett, the Tillyfour beasts are consigned), has no reason to regret his proximity to such a glorious specimen as the Buccleuch heifer. ” Poissy, with his fine large eye and his ears laid back like a blood horse (no proof of ill-temper, but of the contrary in an Angus) is over the sideboard, looking like life, and faced by those ” bloody jades ” Pride of Aberdeen and Charlotte, both of which have that white on the udder which has always been popular milk mark of the sort.

Both in point of quality and number of prize ” commercial beasts,” it was not one of Mr. M’Combie’s greatest years. He can tie up 300 on the farm at a pinch, and, in fact, he has had as many as 400 (at home and out on turnips) in hand for market at one time; but last year he did not venture on above fifteen score, and a herd of about fifty—half of them cows and in-calf—made up his home ranks. Twenty years ago he only fed twenty. The heifers are generally put to at two years old, and the calves are dropped as early as possible in the year, to suit the Highland Society, which dates from January 1st. It has generally been the Tillyfour practice to have a sale every other year, and the average in ’62 was £32 10s. The calves not kept for the bull trade are never cut before they are a month or six weeks old, and sucked, like the heifer calves, for fully five months.

Hanton and some others of the Tillyfour blood went into Morayshire at beef price, and it is from this county that Mr. M’Combie, who buys every beast himself, draws his principal, and, in fact, eight-tenths of his supplies. Forfarshire, Aberdeenshire, and Banffshire are also placed under contribution, but he does not care much for the Caithness and Ross-shire crosses. ” Morayshire for sweetness and quality” is a cardinal point of his creed ; and he attributes this superiority in a great measure to the quality of their cows, and their county habit of keeping the beasts in the straw-yards. He would readily give £1 to 30s. more for a straw-yard bullock, as he finds them thrive so much better when they are put to grass. Elgin and Forres are his principal markets, once a month, from December to July, but the owners send him word, and the great majority of the beasts are bought at their own yards. Only one year has he missed the great Elgin April market, viz., when he accompanied his bullocks to Poissy, and then Forfarshire stood in the breach with forty. Captain Kennedy, of Stranraer, in Wigtonshire, used to send him a lot of Galloways every year ; and it was from him that he got the black steer, which was first at Birmingham and Baker-street in 11 860. These curly heroes of the shaggy frontlet, the thick hide, the odd placed eye, and fan-haired ear, are often better in the thigh but invariably bigger in their timber and more sluggish feeders than the Anguses ; still they will pick up their crumbs royally on the poorest hill land ; and this prize winner weighed 14 cwt. clean, and realized £55.

All the bullocks are tied up by the middle of September, and begin to go to the markets at the end of October, in lots of from seven to sixty weekly, and the supply is generally out by the end of March. About 30s. is the average of expenses to London by rail or sea, and last year thirty-nine of the best averaged £38, after all expenses were paid, which gave fully £10 a head for nearly eight months’ keep. Three-fourths of them go by the steamer from Aberdeen, and with tide and wind in their favour they sometimes arrive nearly as quickly. In fact, Mr. M’Combie prefers even adverse tides and winds to the eternal shunt, or at times the dreary wait for the missing manifest when they do get to the journey’s end. Still, he has only lost condition so far, and none of his blacks have gone down, as the hapless blood yearling Fandanguero did after the eleventh concussion in the station-yard at York, and fairly yielded up the ghost. They came up sixty, two strong, four and five off, to the great Christmas market last year. Eight more went to Liverpool, and sixty-eight of them sold at all prices from L52 to £36, and the other two for L34, and year after year we have the same report from the Smithfield salesmen that “no other feeder had so many good ones in the ranks,” and that they died, as of yore, true to their lean flesh charter.