Down Memory Lane, June 4 2021

The article appeared in the June 1992 edition of the Strathclyde Guardian.
The article appeared in the June 1992 edition of the Strathclyde Guardian.

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‘Gie’s back wir haunel’ – an animal health inspector’s encounter with a reluctant farmer

This week’s Down Memory Lane feature was written by a now-retired police animal health inspector almost 30 years ago.

Gordon Caskie, from Campbeltown, worked in Paisley when he wrote the article for the June 1992 edition of the Strathclyde Guardian, a magazine for the now-defunct Strathclyde Police force.

It tells of an unfortunate encounter he, a fellow police animal health inspector and a Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland (DOAFS) vet had with a reluctant farmer a decade prior.

Gordon, who retired in 1996, told the Courier: ‘When the UK joined The Common Market, Strathclyde Police was advised to employ agricultural-type civilians to enforce the Animal Health Act.

‘In 1976, four uniformed animal health inspectors were given that task for the Strathclyde area. I worked out of K Division in Paisley.

‘As well as policing the Rabies Act, animal cruelty acts and so on, the job included licensing animal movements, attending markets, keeping records of sheep dippings, checking farmers’ animal movement records and even the disposal by burning of diseased farm animals and the occasional reports to the procurator fiscal in serious cases.’

‘Gie’s back wir haunel’

The compulsory sheep dipping programme has been completed for another year and whilst rumour in the farming industry has it there will be no more compulsory dipping, we will have to wait for confirmation or otherwise.

On reflection, I recall a dipping incident of about 10 years ago, when an elderly hermit-type Ayrshire farmer had flatly refused to comply with the dipping regulations.

For two years he had complained that his sheep did not have ‘scab’ disease and that he should not be compelled to dip them, but each year after gentle (?) pressure he had complied.

This third year, however, he declared that he would not purchase sheep dip insecticide and would most definitely not make any effort to dip his sheep and, by the expiry date of the compulsory period, he hadn’t.

A conference of DOAFS animal health vets and Strathclyde Police animal health inspectors decided action was required to reduce any sheep scab disease risk by carrying out the dipping themselves.

Consequently, on a bright morning in late November, three hardy individuals – one ministry vet and two police animal health inspectors – arrived at Old Alex’s farm to ‘swim’ his sheep.

After half an hour donning protective clothing and reconnoitering the layout of the dipper, sheep pens, gates, fields, sheep, etc, the ‘shepherds’ became aware of mutterings in the background.

This was our unfriendly farmer Alex. Again, the reasons for our presence were fully explained to Alex but he continued to claim that his sheep did not require dipping, and assured us that no assistance would be forthcoming from himself.

He also appeared to have uncovered some facts on the parentage of all three officials!

The dipper was full of last year’s – or maybe the year before’s – stagnant, foul-smelling, slimy, liquid-like substance and had to be emptied and refilled with fresh clean water.

Our only source of water was an old well from which the water was raised by means of an antiquated pump, operated by a removable, antiquated, heavy, cast-iron pump handle.

We located this handle and found that it operated the pump most effectively when ‘elbow grease’ was used with it.

At this stage, we made our major error! It is a big mistake not to recognise the opposition, but a gross miscalculation to underestimate him – and we suffered for that.

Alex surreptitiously removed and secreted the ‘handle’ and it was some minutes before we realised it had gone and some further time elapsed before we were fully aware of the truth of his muttered, ‘Ye’re no gaun tae dip ma sheep!’

To be continued in next week’s Courier.