Shepherding Legend Takes Argyll & The Islands Award

94-year old Bute shepherd Sandy McKirdy is region’s stalwart

Bute shepherd Sandy McKirdy is this year’s recipient of the Stalwart award, presented annually by NFU Scotland’s Argyll & the Islands region at its AGM.

The AGM, which took place in Tarbert on Friday (11 January) saw Regional Chairman John Dickson and well-known hill farmer Sybil MacPherson, from Dalmally, present the award to 94-year old Sandy.

The award was created in 2016 in recognition and memory of the dedication shown by Mull’s Bert Leitch and Lachlan MacLean.  Both Bert and Lachlan, who represented NFU Scotland’s farmers and crofters both regionally and nationally for many years, sadly passed away in 2015.

The award is presented annually to either a NFUS member who has followed in their footsteps and given their time and effort to the work of the Union in Argyll & the Islands or someone who has made a significant contribution to agriculture in the area.  The inaugural winner in 2017 was Sybil MacPherson while the 2018 winner was the late Ronnie Campbell, a Mull crofter who represented the island and the region for more than 25 years and who sadly passed away last year.

This year’s recipient, Sandy McKirdy is a legend in hill farming circles having spent a lifetime working with Blackface sheep and sheepdogs.

He started farming with his father at Dunagoil Farm on Bute then going on to work as a shepherd in Argyllshire before heading back to spend almost 40 years shepherding for Bute Estates and the Marquis of Bute.   Although he retired at 65, Sandy keeps a daily routine that sees him check on ewes and hoggs while training and trialling his sheepdogs for the local trial, where continues to win prizes.

Regional Chairman John Dickson said: “Given that the award is in memory of Bert Leitch and Lachlan MacLean, it is fitting that it has gone to Sandy in recognition of his lifelong commitment to hill sheep farming, his forty years working for the 6th Marquess of Bute and the quality of the stock he produced.

“The true measure of someone considered a stalwart is the respect and admiration they get from young and old.  The fact that Sandy’s advice and experience continue to be sought after and valued just underlines the esteem in which Sandy is held by his fellow farmers.”

In making the award, Sybil MacPherson said: “The definition of stalwart sums up Sandy perfectly, someone of outstanding strength and vigour of body, mind and spirit, loyal, reliable and hard working.  Sandy is one of nature’s true gentlemen and an exceptional and inspirational character.  Indeed, he is quite unique and held in the greatest respect by all who know him.

“Very few people, if any, will have spent over 80 years tending sheep.  Fewer still will have his level of knowledge, interest, care and dedication, and none with the ability to ‘ken’ sheep like Sandy. There cannot be a worthier winner of the Argyll & the Islands Stalwart award and I am sure the late Lachlan and Bert, in whose memory this award is presented, would be in full agreement.”

A great turnout of delegates attended this year’s regional AGM in Tarbert, where Bute farmer John Dickson continued as Regional Chairman with Peter Kennedy from Glendaruel and Duncan Macalister from Glenbarr remaining Vice Chairmen.

Delegates also herd from the three candidates who are currently contesting the two Vice President roles within NFU Scotland.  Current Vice President Martin Kennedy, Livestock Chairman Charlie Adam and Combinable Crops Chairman Ian Sands have put their names forward for the vice-presidential positions. Voting will take place at the Union’s Council meeting at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow on Friday 8 February 2019.  The Union’s AGM, conference and annual dinner will be staged at the same venue the previous day (Thursday 7 February).   

Notes to editors

  • A picture of Argyll and the Islands Stalwart Award winner Sandy McKirdy receiving the award from John Dickson and Sybil MacPherson is attached.

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 03/19

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About The Author

Bob Carruth

A dairy farmer’s son, I joined NFU Scotland in 1999 after 13 years as an agricultural journalist. Following spells as a regional manager and policy lead on milk, livestock and animal health and welfare, I became Communications Director in 2008.

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