Obituary: Robin Christie, farmer and rally enthusiast

Farmer and rally enthusiast steered 2,000-acre business to commercial success. Picture: Jim McEwan

Farmer and rally enthusiast steered 2,000-acre business to commercial success. Picture: Jim McEwan

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Born: 4 May, 1943 in Norfolk. Died: 14 December, 2015, in Port William. Aged 72.

Robin Christie was a shepherd’s grandson whose agricultural heritage and astute mind helped to turn a family business into one of Scotland’s most successful farming ventures.

Along with his father Henry, a co-founder of the Dourie Farming Company, he steered the 2,000-acre business to commercial prosperity, making it the hub of economic activity in the Port William area. And, like his father, he was an innovator and staunch supporter of the National Farmers’ Union, deeply involved for many years in the milk, pig and poultry committees and the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board.

Perhaps his greatest achievement was his work with a group of local dairy farmers to found the Farmers’ Creamery Co-operative, which he also chaired, and which re-opened the Galloway Creamery, securing the future of many dairy farmers in Wigtownshire. But coupled with his business acumen was also a great pride in his workforce and he delighted in knowing every family and the fine detail of their history.

His own family history traversed the country from the shores of an Argyll sea loch to Norfolk, Yorkshire and finally Dumfries and Galloway. His paternal grandfather was a shepherd at Creggan on the shores of Loch Long then a tenant at Hill Of Camstradden, Luss, and as a result his father grew up acutely aware of the tough life farmers faced. During the Second World War his father contributed to the war effort managing under-farmed land and estates and honing an ability to spot potential and turn it into profitable farming.

He was working in Norfolk when his son Robin was born in Kings Lyn, weighing in at 10lbs – unusually heavy for a baby born during the war when food was rationed and an achievement that earned him the nickname “The Norfolk Dumpling”. The family then moved to near Harrogate in Yorkshire where young Robin began his education. He later attended Ravenstone School and the Douglas Ewart High School in Newton Stewart, an area where his father had been working in a management role.

The Dourie Farming Company was established by his father and other backers in 1954 whilst his son was still at school. An academically able pupil Robin Christie excelled in both the classroom and on the athletics field, where he was a talented middle distance runner and a Scottish Schoolboys’ triple jump champion. Like his father, he studied for an agricultural degree and immersed himself in student life at Edinburgh University, leading the 1963 campaign to elect James Robertson Justice as rector of the university for a second term.

After graduating he went to Dourie to begin his farming career, always his true vocation. His father was constantly coming up with new ideas which Christie implemented – a double-act that helped the business flourish into such a great success, an achievement of which he was enormously proud. Alongside their own farming interests both men were dedicated to, and prominent figures in, the National Farmers’ Union: his father had been vice-president from 1977-82 and an elected member of the Milk Marketing Board. Robin Christie too worked tirelessly for the union throughout his farming career. He had been a director of NFU Scotland, chaired its milk committee and, as local vice-chairman, was involved in the so-called Beef War in 1997 when the ports of Stranraer and Cairnryan were blockaded to prevent cheap beef being imported from Ireland.

He married Susan Henderson in 1972, with whom he had four children, and lived at Airlour, Port William, a house re-built by the Dourie workforce after falling into disrepair.

Aside from family and the farming business, his other great passion was motorsport, particularly rallying. He loved speed and was a daredevil behind the wheel. He competed in the Scotsman Scottish Rally Championships, the Snowman Rally and he and his team were just pipped to the Challenger’s Championship trophy in 1980. Although he regularly finished in the top six of contests he participated more for the sheer fun of it than the competitive aspect.

He was also immensely dedicated to the Machars Car Club and after his own competing days were over he continued to organise and run events and provide practical support, including setting up stages, marshalling and clearing up. He was made honorary president of the club and took great satisfaction in seeing subsequent generations work to keep the club flourishing.

In 1995 he married Rose, whom he had first gone out with when she was a teenager and whose son Andrew also became part of the Christie family. The couple were married for nearly 20 years and enjoyed holidays to New Zealand and Barbados, latterly taking to the seas in their yacht Balandra which he crewed in the same spirit as he drove – mainly interested in its speed in knots.

He is survived by Rose, his four children, his brothers Ian and Peter and wider family.

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