A true champion of the equestrian world

Lindean farrier Jim Jeffrey, who had a natural affinity with horses that served him well throughout his career.
Lindean farrier Jim Jeffrey, who had a natural affinity with horses that served him well throughout his career.

The Borders equestrian world has lost a true champion following the death of Lindean farrier Jim Jeffrey. He was 76.

Born at Fans Farm, Earlston, where his father Thomas was the blacksmith, three years later the family moved to Lindean, where Jim was to stay for the rest of his life.

After attending Lindean Primary School and Selkirk High School, Jim took up an apprenticeship with local painters Heatlie & Scott, but soon realised his vocation lay at Lindean Smiddy, and left the firm to forge a new career alongside his father.

In 1960 he took justifiable pride in gaining his AFCL qualification, making him as an Associate of the Farriers Company of London (or as it is now known the Association of the Worshipful Company of Farriers).

A talented rider from an early age, Jim’s natural affinity with horses served him well in his profession as a farrier, and he began to build up an excellent reputation among stables and livery yards throughout the Borders.

His attention to detail and exacting standards saw him fashion individually-crafted shoes for all types of horses, many of which featured specially constructed ‘step heels’ to offer extra support for the horse and take pressure off injured tendons.

During this time, Jim was also making a name for himself as an accomplished show-jumper.

He competed at the Royal Highland Show and just missed out on qualification for the Horse of the Year Show by two-tenths of a second – to an up-and- coming rider by the name of Harvey Smith.

Horses even played a part in the most significant moment of Jim’s life – his first meeting with his soul-mate Pat. This came about when Jim was working as a blacksmith at the Ladhope Stables in Galashiels, whose horses Pat used to ride out.

The couple were married in 1965, with their son Bruce being born six years later.

Pat and Jim became familiar and popular jump-judges on the agricultural show circuit, with Jim renowned for designing and building fair, but testing, show-jumping courses.

The Berwickshire County Show was one of their favourite events, and in 2004 Jim was presented with an engraved bowl by the show committee to commemorate his 40 years of loyal service in the Duns show-jumping ring.

One local permit holder particularly indebted to Jim’s farriery skills, is Helen Hamilton, who trained the much-loved racehorse Peaty Sandy at Wheathope Farm near Innerleithen in the 1980s.

Jim was responsible for shoeing all the horses in Helen’s yard, and took particular pleasure when Peaty – whose fan club included the Queen Mother – had his finest hour when winning the Coral Welsh National in December, 1981, wearing four of Jim’s shoes.

“Jim was an artist,” Miss Hamilton recollected this week. “He would make special shoes for each horse, and was always very particular about getting them to fit just right.

“At Lowood he would make use our own forge and anvil, and was especially good at dealing with young horses. I counted him as a good friend, and he was always a welcome visitor.”

Away from the equestrian world, Jim was a skilful carpet bowls player, and his enthusiasm for the sport never wavered.

His longest-serving pairs partner was Tom McColm, and during one memorable season the partnership won every single pairs tournament held in the Ettrick and Yarrow valleys.

The pinnacle of Jim’s carpet bowling career came in 1991, when he, son Bruce, John Hogarth of Denholm and Tom Lawrie of Dumfries won the Scottish Rinks title at Loreburn Hall, Dumfries.

Four years later, Jim again won the Scottish Rinks title, the line-up this time featuring himself, Bruce, John Hogarth and Ancrum’s Neil Sandilands.

In 2009, at Castle Douglas, Jim and John Hogarth found themselves in the Scottish Pairs final in direct opposition to Bruce and Ian Hall of Canonbie.

“I hope you’re going to give your son a chance!” said Bruce to his father, as play was about to start. “You must be joking!” replied Jim, with a twinkle in his eye.

In the event, Bruce and Ian won the match 5-3, so family honour was saved.

David Orchiston, secretary of the Scottish Carpet Bowling Association, described Jim as “a very popular man, a good friend, bowling partner, staunch opponent, worthy winner, and a gracious sport in defeat.”

Jim was predeceased by his wife Pat in 2001, and is survived by son Bruce and his partner Shelagh, to whom deepest condolences are extended.

There’s a saying that: “A true horseman does not look at the horse with his eyes, he looks at his horse with his heart.”

No-one had a bigger heart than Jim Jeffrey, and for that we should all be grateful.