Obituary: Michael Dun, sheep farmer and jockey

BORN: 6 May, 1960, in Haddington, East Lothian. Died: 1 February, 2015, in Gilston, Heriot, aged 54.

Sheep farmer and amateur jockey who was known as a great 'kenner of stock'. Picture: Contributed
Sheep farmer and amateur jockey who was known as a great 'kenner of stock'. Picture: Contributed

The Scottish Borders community was shocked to hear of the untimely death of Michael Dun, at the age of 54, on 1 February, less than 24 hours after he had done the commentary for the West Percy point-to-point, where he had been his usual exuberant self.

Michael was born in 1960, the son of Robin and Sheila Dun and brother to Gordon. He was educated first at Blacksheils Primary, then boarded at Merchiston Castle School, before attaining an HND in Agriculture at Auchencruive College.

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As a young boy, Michael was a member of the East Lothian Pony Club and took part in Prince Philip Cup games and tetrathlon, excelling in the swimming and riding phases.

From this he progressed to riding in point-to-points and rode his first winner at Mosshouses in 1976 aboard Carndonagh, at the tender age of 15. He won the Northern Area Men’s Championship in 1979 and again in 1993, and his career tally included 52 between the flags and 14 in Hunter Chases.

One of his career highlights was in 1979, when, aged 19, he won the BMW Men’s Final at Chepstow aboard Carndonagh, winning a BMW and £4,000 in prize money. He also rode Nijanna to land the Heart of All England Hunter Chase at Hexham in 1987 and partnered Davy Blake to finish fourth in the Cheltenham Foxhunters in 1995.

His last winner in point to points was aboard Two For One in 1995 and his final ride was on Kings Lane in the Lauderdale Members in 2000, when he was beaten by a head. While still riding he took out his permit to train and enjoyed success with Coqui Lane – bred by his father-in-law George Hutchinson – and River Alder, who he bought for 2,600 gns and went on to amass more than £50,000 in prize money.

More recently, Michael had deployed his knowledge of racing as an excellent commentator at many fixtures in the Northern Point to Point Area.

Michael had not only a good eye for horses, but sheep as well – he was a “great kenner of stock”. He built up the Gilston flock of North Country Cheviots and won the championship at the Royal Highland Show in 1993 with a home-bred tup, Gilston Protector, and again in 2004 with a home-bred ewe.

His natural ability to pick a winner or a breeder’s tup took him all over the country to sales which included Builth Wells, Lairg, Dingwall and Thurso. Locally he sold tups at the Borders North Country Cheviot Sale, firstly at Hawick, then St Boswells before it moved to Lockerbie, where he judged the show before the sale in 2014. Michael’s most successful buy was Sebay Saint Jovite, who was bought at Thurso in 1992, and went on to sire four sale champions at the Borders North Country Cheviot Ram Sale. The dearest tup sold off Gilston was Gilston Motivator, who fetched £4,500 in 2012.

He was well respected as a judge and officiated at The Royal Highland, The Royal Welsh and The Royal in England, as well as many county shows.

His ability in dressing sheep was second to none and recently he had been passing on these skills to his nieces and nephews who affectionately called him “Mad Mick”. Only last year at Peebles show his nephew, Hamish Weir, won the regional young handler competition, under Michael’s guidance.

Michael served on the North Country Cheviot Society Council and was president in 1994 along with being a member of the Scottish committee of the NSA. Another of his talents was auctioneering, which included sellers at Musselburgh, Hamilton and Hexham races to Hunt Auctions in Lauder Public Hall.

Three years ago Michael was diagnosed with chronic lymphatic leukaemia, but as with everything he did, faced the situation head on and beat the disease.

Michael was one of life’s optimists, an inspiration to many and a charming entertainer. He is survived by his wife Jane, children Graham and Charlotte, parents Robin and Sheila and brother, Gordon.