Obituary: Sandy Braid, pioneering farmer who was the first in Scotland to grow crops of broccoli

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Born: 11 February, 1936, in Kinross. Died: 1 March, 2012, in Kinross, aged 76.

AS CURLING matches go, it was a tense and close affair and, as his team’s skip, Sandy Braid had just delivered the last stone when he slipped and fell on the ice. He did not recover from that fall and that was his final fling at a life that he had filled with zest and enthusiasm.

It is not given to anyone to decide how they depart, but the nicety for Sandy was he was playing in a match that was part of the Kinross Seniors competition, which he had helped to organise.

The Royal Caledonian Curling Club had quite recently awarded him a medal following his 50 years as a member of Orwell, but curling was only a small – albeit very sociable part – of a life that was full of laughter and good fun.

Sandy was born and brought up on the family farm at Channel of Pittendriech outside Milnathort and as a boy he daily cycled down to Mawcarse station, where he caught the train to Dollar Academy.

There he was a good student and demonstrated a gift for figures, which would stand him in good stead in his later life as a farmer. The lure of the land saw him leave school at the earliest opportunity and his further education was confined to attending evening classes at Elmwood College in Cupar.

Unknowingly, his early return to the farm would prove to be very helpful as his father died when Sandy was only 25 and he had to take over the running of the 230 acre tenanted farm. That responsibility was increased later the same year when his brother Jimmy was killed in an accident on the farm.

He had taken on a farm where the traditional crops were potatoes, oats and barley with a small flock of pedigree Suffolk sheep. However, by the time he handed over the responsibility for farming to the next generation, the business had more than doubled in size with the purchase of a neighbouring farm. The cropping had also dramatically changed because Sandy was a pioneer.

The transformation in his life came with travel. From his young farmers’ club of Bell Baxter he became a Young Farmers’ Ambassador and as such he visited Canada, the United States, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia.

He also travelled extensively throughout the United Kingdom and it was said if you were in a foreign part and wanted to make contact with someone all you had to say was you knew Sandy. Friends made on these trips remained friends for the rest of his life.

These trips did not just bring friendships they also brought new ideas and new ways of growing crops. He was the first in Scotland to grow crops of broccoli and despite Kinross-shire having a reputation as a rainy part of the country, he was the first in the area to buy an irrigator.

He also developed markets for the crop, helped a great deal with the slogan “Braid’s broccoli builds braw bodies”, which when seen on the front of a T-shirt worn by his female employees was reputed to help sales. He was also among the first to see the potential in selling direct to the public. This was initially done from one of the farm sheds with his mother in charge, but he was also very proud to see the more recent major development of Loch Leven’s Larder by his family.

Soon he was selling broccoli to markets throughout the UK from the packhouse on the farm and he augmented these sales by personally taking trays of produce through to some of the top restaurants in Edinburgh, where he often got a meal in exchange.

He was also known to get up at 2am to take a load of produce through to Glasgow market and then on his return do a day’s work along with the farm staff.

However, Sandy did not throw all his enthusiasm and energy into farming. Apart from his prowess on the ice, he was a well known Lord’s Officer, presiding at many a court where young curlers are made. And as a member of the The Royal Caledonian Curling Club Grand Match committee he had helped organise the last bonspiel on the Lake of Mentieth.

In summer, he was to be seen on the local Milnathort golf course where he played with enthusiasm and where he was proud to have been a club captain. As a young man he had also played rugby with the Howe of Fife, where his claim to fame was he had been hooker with noted Scottish internationalist Dave Rollo as one of his props.

His contribution to the local community was also seen in Orwell Church, where he was an elder and he was a founder member of Kinross Round Table

Over the past few decades, the first Saturday in August would see Sandy acting as unofficial but very effective social convener at Kinross Agricultural Show, where he also did a stint a president.

A bachelor for half a century, he met Rosemary in 1993 – with an instant family of four girls and became a proud grandfather to eight grandchildren and eight grand nieces. Retiring in 2003, he continued to live on the farm assisting the next generation.

He is survived by Rosemary, four daughters, his sister Joy and family.