Shepherding What a Wonderful Healthy Life

By Roddy McDermott - OBCC newsletter 2007 

I normally do three lambings every year and really enjoy doing them, two of them indoor and the last one outside. I have finished doing the first two down in the south of England and was looking forward to doing the third and last one outside in huge hill parks and having my dogs, three of them, all day. 

Unfortunately, all my enjoyment at being outdoors again was short-lived as I came upon a ewe having difficulty lambing. I had no sooner caught her and rolled her onto her side to assist her, when the cold north wind that was blowing rose considerably and on came the snow and just as I took my thick waterproof jacket and thermal shirt off! 

Usually such a lambing would only take 10 to 15 minutes, but the lamb on this occasion was reluctant to leave the warmth of the womb for the Arctic conditions outside. Consequently, it took me at least half an hour. By the time I had lambed the ewe, fed the lamb and made sure both mother and her rather large son were both fine, I was soaked to the skin, covered in snow, and frozen to the marrow. All of a sudden, I remembered what an old lady had said to me when I was still at school.  

"What are you going to work at when you leave school sonny?” 

Without hesitation, I replied, "I want to be a shepherd." 

"Oh" she crooned. "What a wonderful healthy life you're going to live." 

Why these words suddenly came into my head at such an inappropriate time, I just don't know. Now I was brought up being taught, and believing that what my elder said was right, that is, up until that moment. Was I feeling wonderful? No. Healthy? Absolutely not. 

By the time I got home, I was trembling with the cold and feeling decidedly sorry for myself but what great healing powers a hot bath and a drink of Scotch whiskey have. So, by afternoon, I set off to go around the ewes again, thinking things can only get better. Alas, I couldn't have been more 

Late afternoon, I was walking along beside the river which flowed along at the bottom of my lambing ground, when I heard a lamb bleating continuously. A little further on, I found the wee lamb standing beside a gorse bush, hungry and cold, with its mother running back and forth about 80 yards away, with obviously no idea about how to go about feeding its offspring. 

There was nothing else for it, I would have to catch the ewe and give its lamb some much-needed nourishment. Unfortunately, the ewe had other ideas; she took one look at Mirk my young dog, as he headed towards her, and took off straight for the river and did not stop until she was halfway across, standing on a small strip of sand, barely big enough for her. As much as I tried, Mirk just would not venture into the water at all to go and get her back. 

So, there I was, with a very hungry noisy young lamb, it's mother in the middle of the river, and Mirk simply not interested in getting his feet wet. There was nothing for it, I would have to take to the river myself. For the first time that day, I got a lucky break, for as I approached the ewe, she took off once again into the water, but the current carried her down to where I was standing in two feet of water and managed to catch and hold on to her and drag her back to highland. I put her into a pen for the night with her young lamb. For the second time that day, I was wet to the skin and feeling very, very cold. 

"Shepherding, what a wonderful healthy". Och aye, indeed!! 

I went on to win 35 trials with Mirk, including the Scottish British brace titles.

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