Renowned master livestock breeder Graham Scott McClymont, of The Cuil, Newton Stewart, passed away recently after a short illness, aged 75, in Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, with his family by his side.
More than two hundred years have passed since the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland was established. Among its ideals, which continue to the present day, was to improve the quality of the cattle and sheep produced in this country.
To promote this endeavour, the Society annually presents the Sir William Young award to the person who in their opinion has done most towards those lofty aims. In 1998, Graham Scott McClymont received the award for his outstanding contribution to livestock breeding.
His achievements were mainly linked to Blackface sheep and included, in 1976, one of his tups, Cuil Superstar making the then record price of £13,000; the first time the five-figure barrier had been breached in the sale of a
Graham was born on the family farm which was later to become the base for his life’s work. He was never enthusiastic about school and his youth was dominated by his love of livestock. While he embarked on a course to study
agriculture at Barony College, Dumfries, he opted out just two weeks after it began. He hitched a lift home to The Cuil only to arrive at the same time as the postman who was delivering a telegram from the College to say he had gone missing.
Following the route towards becoming a farmer, he became an active member of his local young farmers’ club,
Stewartry Western, where he quickly climbed the ranks to take on the role of chairman.
It was at this time he was revealed as a true “kenner” of livestock – those who can identify the strong and weak points of individual animals. With this skill, he triumphed in local and national stockjudging events, going on to win the overall Scottish National Stockjudging at the Royal Highland Show in 1966.
He enjoyed all young farmer events and he also won the national speech-making competition, as well as doing well in sheep shearing and local root and produce shows, where he exhibited sticks – a hobby which he kept up to the end of his life, with beech head “Cuil sticks” being seen at many farm sales.
As a young boy, Graham fished with his father, and went to clay pigeon shoots, before taking up curling. He was proud to be a member of Kirkmabreck Curling Club and down the years had considerable success at the sport, winning the Stewartry Cup, the Ayr Bonspiel, the Galloway Cup and the Dalrymple Cup, the most prestious weekend competition at Stranraer Ice Rink. He also skipped a rink that won a province under 30s competition. But his greatest curling achievement was getting to the final of the National Royal Caledonian Curling Club Championship, in a Kirkmabreck rink skipped by the late John Hutchison. In a tense final at Falkirk, they lost by one shot in the last end.
Socially, what he enjoyed most was dancing and that was where he met his wife-to-be Christine Milligan. They married in 1967 and in the following years Patsy, Shona and Colin were born.
Blackface sheep were his passion and after many years striving to improve the flock’s genetics, he produced the record-breaker. Such was the demand for his type of Blackfaces, that Cuil dominated many of the Newton Stewart sales for the next three decades. But it wasn’t just the pedigree side of the equation that was important to Cuil, as he was often known. He advocated the need for size in the breed. In the few years he exhibited in the Blackface fat lamb competition, Cuil lambs straight off their mothers won the championship on two occasions and the individual carcase title another year.
Local agricultural shows were also close to Graham’s heart and his sheep regularly won the breed section at Wigtown, Stranraer, Dumfries and Stewartry in the 1980s and 90s. In 1985 he won the Craig Cup for the ‘Champion of Champions’ at Wigtown Show with a Blackface ewe called ‘Barbara Dickson’. The other Barbara Dickson there that day presented the trophy!
At that time, he was also showing pedigree Hereford and Saler cattle, the former being his first love. His involvement with the latter saw him being first in Scotland to have Salers from their native France.
At the bull sales at Stirling, in February this year, he topped the Salers section with a bull at 8,000 guineas.
A keen showman, his advice was well sought-after and freely given, and he was a popular choice as a judge both locally and nationally. He was believed to be the only person to judge the inter-breed sheep and several years later the overall beef cattle championship at the Highland Show.
Further afield, he judged the inter-breed sheep and Salers cattle at the Balmoral show in Northern Ireland and the
Salers at the Great Yorkshire and Royal Welsh.
In addition to his Sir William Young award, Graham was a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Society but the award which touched him most, however, was when his fellow Blackie breeders presented him with the Connachan Salver in 2012.
Despite his achievements, Graham was always happiest at home as he loved the countryside, birds and wildlife and cared particularly for smaller birds, where a major concern for him was the huge increase in predators.
He was a regular attender of local shoots, and loved the open air camaraderie and the lunches that went hand-in-hand with these most social of gatherings. Fellow shooters would smile to themselves at the sight of Graham, a no airs and graces man, rolling up in his dusty red pick-up, to park alongside the more well cared for vehicles.
Graham cared for his fellow man and was always ready to help if he could. He made time to chat with neighbours and was always on the phone with friends and family. A modest man, always with a ready smile, his only boast would be how many moles he had caught this year!
He was retired but remained actively involved in the farm until the end, enjoying nothing better than a run round his Cairnsmore hirsel and, of course, his garden where he spent many hours.
Graham is survived by his beloved wife, Christine, daughters Patsy and Shona and son, Colin, with grandchildren, Scott and Finlay and Ellie and Angus.