ONE of the Borders farming community’s most “weel-kent faces”, Jack Clark, has brought his auctioneer’s hammer down on countless livestock sales across the region.
But next year will see him call time, not on another round of fierce bidding for a prize-winning tup or champion bull, but on a career that stretches back almost half a century.
Jack will step down from his role as Swan’s managing director in April, after reaching the age of 65, and take up a position as a non-executive director of parent company, John Swan & Sons.
In anticipation of Jack’s impending retirement, John Swan & Sons is to restructure its board to reflect the changing focus towards what it says is the management and development of the company’s property assets and related activities.
However, it is only the board that is being restructured to help maximise shareholder interests, with John Swan Ltd – the auctioneering subsidiary division – still committed to long-term continuity in the livestock auctioneering sector.
Jack’s successor at John Swan Ltd will be current finance director Steven Wilson, a 20-year company veteran.
Mr Wilson will assume full responsibility for John Swan Ltd with James Allen continuing as chairman.
John Swan & Sons says its board will now focus on property matters, in addition to its “over-riding responsibility as custodians of shareholder value”.
Speaking this week, Mr Wilson paid tribute to Jack for his long service: “He has been a great ambassador for our industry and well respected throughout the business community.
“He has always been a great support to me personally and I would like to thank him for that.”
A native of Lanarkshire, Jack had family connections with auctioneering firm Lawrie & Symington and has been with Swan’s since the age of 16.
He told TheSouthern he never really wanted to do anything else for a living, and, despite the many highs and lows he has witnessed over the years – he says the foot-and-mouth epidemic of 2001 was the worst – he still says there is much to be proud of, and optimistic about, when it comes to Borders farming.
“Things may have changed over the years since I first came into the business, but the basic principle remains the same in auctioneering – to provide a service equally relevant to both buyers and sellers.
“And it has been a privilege to have been involved in this industry for this length of time and I have been very fortunate that it has been in what is, and remains, one of the best livestock regions of the UK,” he told us.
“Livestock auctions remain the only transparent price-setting structure for the agricultural producer.”
As for what the future holds for Borders farming, Jack, who has been managing director for two decades, says much will hinge on keeping the livestock population – cattle and sheep – on marginal land areas to maintain grass and rougher ground in the right condition.
“What better way is there of keeping the hills in good condition than having livestock on them?” he said.
“But there has to be a return for the owner of sheep and cattle doing that important job and much will depend on the CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] review.”
While his shift to being a non-executive director will still see him involved in the industry he has cared passionately about for almost his entire life, it will free up a bit more of his time. Asked what his plans were, Jack replied: “There’s a few things that will keep me busy – I’m still a laddie at a bad age!”