Obituaries: Jim Lawrie, dairy farmer who pioneered new breeding techniques

Jim Lawrie, dairy farmer Born: 20 April 1930 in Bearsden, East Dunbartonshire. Died: 11 September 2021 in Kinross, Perth & Kinross, aged 91

Jim Lawrie with three generations of his family
Jim Lawrie with three generations of his family

Back in the 1950s, the Glasgow Dairy Show was held annually in the Kelvin Halls. Stock were judged over several days and temporary accommodation was provided for the stockmen in wooden dormitories. On one occasion, all was quiet along the rows of beds as the men dreamed of their cattle being awarded championship tickets.

Suddenly there was bedlam as two sheep which had been surreptitiously introduced into the sleeping quarters bounded from bed to bed, waking up the slumbering stockmen.

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When the sheep were caught and peace was regained in the sleeping quarters, the culprits behind the prank were identified as a group of young farmers. One member of that group was Jim Lawrie.

In later life, he was to build up his dairy cattle herd at Cuthill Towers into one of the best in the country, but he never lost his sense of mischief and fun.

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He was born and brought up on the family farm at Bearsden and like many children of dairy farmers in those days, he helped out on the milk round before heading off to school.

Thus, from his early days, he was involved in dairy cattle and in Jim’s case, Scotland’s own breed, Ayrshires.

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He became an active member of Loch Lomond Young Farmers Club and as such not only was involved in stock judging but also enjoying the social side of being a young farmer.

Back in the days of petrol rationing, he claimed one of the reasons he had been popular was his ability to source fuel for the farm’s livestock float through a slightly dubious source. This rather unusual form of transport became a very popular taxi service to young farmers’ meetings and events.

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It was at one of those dances in the Grand Hall in Kilmarnock that Jim met Jessie Templeton. They married in June 1955 and settled down to farm at Cuthill Towers, just outside Milnathort.

This life included the setting up of the Cuthill Towers Ayrshire herd.

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Jim was an outstanding stockman with an incredible ability to identify cow families that would improve his herd. One of his early purchases went on to give him his first Highland Show champion in 1963. Gradually he built up the reputation of Cuthill Towers cattle as one of the top herds in the country.

In the mid-Seventies, whilst across in Canada, he identified the potential in the cattle he saw there and through his early adoption of artificial insemination and embryo transplants, he was the first to bring top Canadian Ayrshire genetics to the UK.

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Many of the cattle family lines he brought in all these years ago are still in the Cuthill Towers herd book; a poignant note was sounded at his funeral with one of his favourites cows having a heifer calf on the day.

Jim liked nothing better than giving guided tours around the herd at Cuthill Towers, with parties coming from all round the world to see some of the best dairy cattle in the country.

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He was a great ambassador for Young Farmers, acting as a host and trainer for many successful stock judging teams. One highlight from this support came in 1968 when he trained the Fife and Kinross winning team at the Highland Show. This was the last team to win the competition before it moved to its current format, a fact recognised when it was celebrated by The Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs on the 50th anniversary at the Highland Show 2018.

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Jim also encouraged younger children to become involved in exhibiting livestock and he loved seeing them parade their calves at Kinross show. Through his encouragement and enthusiasm there would often be a full ring of youthful exhibitors in the Young Handlers’ classes. The show was so encouraged by Jim's enthusiasm that they started young handlers’ classes, a feature now at almost all agricultural shows.

This passion for Ayrshire cattle culminated in him being appointed one of the Cattle Society’s honorary presidents in 2018.

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Some 30 years earlier he had served as president of the Society and, using skills and knowledge picked up over many years, he also was in great demand as a judge in the UK and Ireland

He did not neglect the social aspects of his role as president as he helped organise Ayrshire cattle society conferences and, along with Jessie, he enjoyed holidays travelling the world on Ayrshire Cattle Society tours.

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He managed all of this despite suffering from a back problem first diagnosed by doctors in the spring of 1964. That year, he spent a lengthy period in hospital before being discharged in a wheelchair. Through sheer grit and determination, he managed to walk again and led a very full and active working life, even managing to play a mean game of golf. Up until his last few days, he also used his mobility scooter as transport to the farm in order to oversee what was going on

At home, his enthusiasm for life saw him become involved in a whole range of organisations, including, along with Jessie, Milnathort Bridge Club. This card playing extended to having friends around where the visit was not complete without playing a game of bridge or some other less salubrious card game.

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Jessie died last year but Jim is survived by their two sons, Arthur and George, and two daughters, Jen and Irene, their spouses, 11 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

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