Borders farmers help TV show celebrate 40th anniversary

From left, Kelso farmers John and James Jeffrey with  Landwards Euan McIlwraith.
From left, Kelso farmers John and James Jeffrey with Landwards Euan McIlwraith.

Two Borders farmers are taking part in a national television programme’s 40th anniversary celebrations this week.

Muck, Sweat and Steers: 40 Years of Landward is being broadcast on BBC2 Scotland tomorrow at 9pm to mark the rural affairs programme completing its fourth decade on the small screen.

Veteran Landward presenter Euan McIlwraith commemorates that milestone by delving into the show’s archive and journeying across Scotland in his vintage Land Rover to discover how the countryside has changed over the last 40 years since it first aired on BBC Scotland in 1976.

Among those he is shown meeting on his travels is agricultural pioneer James Jeffrey, the father of former international rugby union star John Jeffrey, nicknamed the White Shark.

James, now 89, of Kersnowe farm, near Kelso, was one of the first Scottish farmers to import French Charolais cattle.

The large breed, weighing up to 1,100 kg, dwarfed native cattle of that time when introduced in Britain in the late 1950s and early 1960s, creating a stir among farmers and ultimately revolutionising beef farming this side of the English Channel.

John, 57, capped 40 times for Scotland between 1984 and 1991 and also by the British and Irish Lions in 1989, followed his father into the family business, and together they explain to Euan how much size mattered in beef farming.

Euan also visits Ettrick to talks to Donald Barrie, a local farmer’s son featured on the show as a young child in 1976 as part of a story about the sheep farming industry was giving way to forestry.

Euan said: “On Landward, we tend to rattle around the countryside investigating the latest crisis or finding out about the newest innovations.

“ It was fascinating to take time to reflect on the big changes that have happened in the countryside over the last 40 years. I also got the chance to revisit previous interviewees.”