Bute shepherd is top of the flocks

Argyll and the Islands Stalwart Award winner Sandy McKirdy receiving the award from John Dickson and Sybil MacPherson.
Argyll and the Islands Stalwart Award winner Sandy McKirdy receiving the award from John Dickson and Sybil MacPherson.

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

The award was made at the group’s AGM in Tarbert last week, with regional chairman John Dickson and hill farmer Sybil MacPherson presenting it to 94-year-old Sandy.

Sandy has 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 checks on ewes and hoggs daily while training and trialling his sheepdogs for the local trial, where he continues to win prizes.

NFU regional chairman John Dickson said: “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.”

Presenting the award, Sybil MacPherson said: 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.”