Shepherding on Ardkinglas, Cairndow in the 20th Century

The landscape of Argyll was shaped by blackface hill farming for much of the 20th century. However 17 years into the 21st century its traces, and the people who remember working on the hills, are disappearing fast.

In order to boost order Ardkinglas as a stalking estate, sheep were taken off Glen Fyne in the early 1900s. Niall Duke of Argyll walked from Dalmally over into the head of Glen Fyne in 1905. He was given oatcakes and milk by a Mrs MacPhee, wife of the shepherd there. He writes that at the time the last of the sheep were being taken off the hill.

That year Sir Andrew Noble bought Ardkinglas Estate of 45,000 acres from the Duke of Argyll Estates. Archie MacCallum, was employed as game keeper/stalker in Glen Fyne, his tasks included feeding the specially imported big stags. (His grandson Alastair was shepherd in Glen Fyne from 1959 until 2010)

And so began the confrontation of deer versus sheep.

When Sir Andrew bought Ardkinglas Estate, Archie MacIntyre was a shepherd at Inverhorachan in Glen Fyne, He was moved down to Clachan and in 1914 was on his forlorn way from the mart at Stirling having sold the last of his flock. He composed this poem.....open link to document.

There were few if any sheep on the hills of Cairndow from1914 until 1929 or 1930. In 1931 100 hoggs were put onto the Newton hirsel in Glen Fyne, Archie MacCallum’s son Duncan went to live at Mark Park as shepherd. Five years later there were 600 head of sheep there.

During the 1939 – 1945 war, with Britain’s food supply lines threatened at sea, home production was subsidised - this continued into the post war years and hill farm subsidies increased.

The 1950s probably saw the greatest number of shepherds here, there were some fifteen shepherds, and presumably the greatest numbers of sheep too. The wool price even for blackface was so good that shepherds were expected to pull the wool off months old corpses of sheep carcasses which had been smothered by snow.
The story was the wool was sold to Italy for matresses.

Ardkinglas Estate was devided in 1966 becoming Ardkinglas and Carindow Esates, the latter continued with hill sheep to a greater extent than Ardkinglas.

Now all sheep are farmed by the Jackson family from Pole farm, Lochgoilhead.

At Here We Are we are fortunate to still have two or three men (now in their seventies) who have been shepherds here all their lives and their fathers and uncles before them. We want to capture their knowledge before its gone.