Down Memory Lane, June 11 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’ – animal health inspector’s tale continued

This week’s Down Memory Lane continues an article written by now-retired police animal health inspector Gordon Caskie in June 1992.

Gordon, from Campbeltown, worked in Paisley when he penned the piece for police magazine the Strathclyde Guardian.

Last week we heard how Gordon, a fellow police animal health inspector and a Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland (DOAFS) vet met with reluctance during a visit to an Ayrshire farmer named Alex.

The trio planned to ‘swim’ Alex’s sheep after he had failed to comply with a compulsory sheep dipping programme.

By last week’s conclusion, Alex had ‘surreptitiously’ removed and hidden the antiquated, cast-iron pump handle required to operate the farm’s well and only water source.

‘I am going to phone the polis’

Without water, there is no dipping.

Each polite request for the return of the missing handle received the same negative reply: ‘There’s nae haunel!’

This was a serious setback as the pump was difficult enough to work with the proper handle and there appeared to be few items lying around with which to improvise.

Perhaps Alex would be more helpful once the sheep were gathered in.

The ‘shepherds’ walked out round sheep opening some gates and closing others so that they were all set to drive the sheep into the pens close to the dipper.

This was our first sight of the sheep and they appeared to be descendants of the Suffolk and Leicester breed, although Mr Heinz had obviously had an interest in the breed policy.

It was the first time I had seen bales of wool with legs! Some had an estimated three years’ growth of wool on their backs and with such an extra weight – possibly 30 plus lbs – to carry, were hardly able to walk.

One aged tup had to be helped through a muddy patch in the field as at each step, he became bogged down and was too weak and emaciated to lift his feet out of the mud.

Alex witnessed the tup being assisted and bawled out: ‘Cruelty! I am going to phone the polis to come.’

That was good news because more help would have been useful.

Whilst the ‘shepherds’ were intent in gathering the 31 sheep from an outlying field prior to driving them into a smaller field closer to the dipper, Alex was seen approaching the gate.

Good, we thought, he’s beginning to see sense and coming back to help us gather the sheep.

It transpired, however, that such a helpful thought was not uppermost in Alex’s mind.

He stopped at the gate the sheep were about to be driven through and closed it before running off towards the farm.

The ministry man was closest to the closed gate and, as he opened it and looked towards the farm, he saw that Alex had reached the dipping pens for holding the sheep and was attacking the pens with a hammer, in an attempt to destroy them.

The ministry man went towards Alex who, having destroyed one pillar, retreated towards his house, uplifting the bucket and two packets of sheep dip en route.

The ministry man was in hot pursuit. ‘Here Alex, that’s not your property, you are stealing DOAFS property!’

Alex stopped and considered, then lifted one packet from the bucket and threw it at the official who, with great skill and agility, managed to catch the packet and prevented its landing in the thick mud.

The second packet came through the air and, with a skill normally seen only in test cricket, it was also held.

Now, supremely confident, the ministry man shouted as Alex made off: ‘Now our bucket!’

Alex also appeared to possess some cricketing skills and this was his best throw. A slow motion movie camera would make a better job of recording this piece of action but the outcome was that the bucket, after an irregular journey through the air, made good contact with the ministry man who, now badly off balance, fell headlong face-down into the wet, oozing mud.

He did not appear overjoyed as he slowly resumed the upright position with some mud sliding off him.

To be continued next week.