Obituary: James Orr, farmer, livestock trader, auction ring dealer and cattle judge

Jimmy Orr, farmer, Rumbletonlaw, Berwickshire. Born 29 May 1943, died 29 January 2017, aged 73.

There are very few people in life who have a huge influence on the lives of others, but to me and I know many others, Jimmy was one such man for all sorts of reasons. The following is mainly an extract from a touching eulogy delivered in a packed Greenlaw Church, to a lengthy round of applause, by his son Jim.

“James Orr was born at Southrig Farm, Blackridge, West Lothian as the eldest son of Henry and Annie Orr. In due course he was joined by siblings Betsy, Davy, Margaret and Harry, while meantime the family had also moved to Charlesfield in Livingston. In 1954 the family moved east again to Penston at Macmerry in East Lothian, where his brothers Clelland and Duncan were born.

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It was as a young lad at Penston that Jimmy’s love for farming, and especially livestock was formed. Jimmy was a born and talented trader, and as a young lad he would skip the school and get a lift in on a float to the livestock markets in Edinburgh where he honed his skills in the auction rings – a talent which was to serve him well for the rest of his life. The young Jimmy had other talents though, and apart from learning the accordion was a keen footballer and a very talented rugby player.

In 1960 Jimmy was to meet Marguerite Dudgeon – or Maggie as he would fondly call her for the next 56 years – and they married in 1962 and started married life together in a cottage at Penston. Son Brian was born in 1964, and was joined by son Ronnie in 1966; the same year that the family firm acquired the farm of Hillhead at Carberry where Jimmy and Marguerite were to set up home for the next 27 years. The family was completed with the arrival of Jim in 1967 and Carol in 1970.

In 1991 Jimmy set up his own company and acquired the farm of Rumbletonlaw in his own right, to where the family moved in 1993. The early years were tough, and it is testament to the man that the farm is now hugely improved and virtually unrecognisable from what he bought almost 25 years ago.

Jimmy’s life was touched by tragedy on more than one occasion. His great friend Jackie Gordon was killed in a crash on the circuit at Knockhill in the 1980s, but nothing hurt or affected him more than the loss of his eldest son Brian in 2003. Jimmy was very low afterthat, but being the man he was it was business as usual although he dealt with the pain in his own way.

Sadly Jimmy didn’t keep good health latterly, but despite that Maggie and he enjoyed some wonderful holidays to some far-off destinations, and nothing gave them more pleasure than the company of their sex grandchildren, of whom he was incredibly proud.”

Jim told the story at the church of his fond memories of the family summer holidays in Scotland. Every year without fail the car would be loaded up and would head west to Dalmally, Oban and Fort William. Not however for the scenery, but rather for the markets. Buying and selling cattle was Jimmy’s passion and summer holidays certainly didn’t change that. There was however a surprise for the family one year. They were about to go overseas and take in a cruise at the same time! Overseas of course was a trip to Islay where Jimmy was to judge cattle, and the cruise was a trip on the cattle boat back to Oban. And that sums Jimmy up – he was a busy man but never too busy to involve his family to whom he was so devoted.

Jimmy was an able farmer, an astute businessman and a great judge of livestock, but above all as Jim described him he was “the master of the auction ring”. As anybody that did business with Jimmy will testify, he was well known for calling a spade a spade, and certainly did not suffer fools gladly, but you always knew exactly where you stood with him.

To that end, Jimmy was a “Marmite” character – you loved him – or maybe you didn’t love him. But whichever camp you fell into (and I suspect most of us drifted regularly from camp to camp), you always knew exactly where you stood and he should be respected for that.

It was a privilege to have known Jimmy Orr. I and many others have lost a great friend, and in my own case, a counsellor and mentor who influenced my life enormously. His family have lost much more