Auctioneer Jack retires after 48 years

Jack Clark Swan's Auction Mart
Jack Clark Swan's Auction Mart

John Swan Ltd managing director Jack Clark retires on Tuesday. But you will find the St Boswells auctioneer in the ring, gavel in hand, at the company’s weekly sale on Monday.

Jack steps down after 48 years with the company, the last 20 as MD, however, he will continue as a non-executive director of parent organisation John Swan and Sons Plc.

“It’s 48 years and I wonder where it’s gone,” he said. “They say time flies when you are enjoying yourself. I have been very fortunate.”

From Lanarkshire, Jack joined Swans aged 16 in 1965, selling young pigs in the Edinburgh market. He moved to St Boswells in 1970, when he also started selling at Kelso Ram Sales (he is just eight years short of equalling his Borderer father Ian’s record of 50 years selling at the same sales). And perhaps his chosen career was in the genes, for his grandfather, a Berwickshire farmer, and his brother, Jack’s great uncle, were livestock agents even before auctions started in the mid-1800s.

The top price Jack brought his gavel down on was an Aberdeen Angus heifer at 15,000 guineas and he said he feels nerves before a sale even now.

The former amateur point-to-point jockey said: “On Monday I was selling sheep. I still got worked up before the sale started. The day you don’t get worked up, forget it.”

He explained: “It’s keeping your concentration. In years gone by it wasn’t unheard of to be selling for five or six hours. Afterwards you sleep. It dehydrates you.”

He is hopeful for the future of marts.

“The auction ring continues to set the benchmark in values. The auctioneer’s job is to hold a steady balance between the buyers and the sellers, and ensure that one doesn’t get preferential treatment over the other,” and that is what marks out a good auctioneer, he said.

Highlights of his career are “being involved in a company I have been privileged to work for and to be working in one of the best stock breeding areas in the UK”.

But a “black spot” in the last five decades was the blight of Foot and Mouth in the region in 2001.

He said: “I did the first valuation during foot and mouth in 2001. It changed the face of livestock production and it changed a lot of people’s outlook. A lot of good stock disappeared, sheep disappeared and the shepherds went with them.”

The horseman plans to spend more time with his wife Gemma and 15-year-old daughter Fallon. He has an eventer and point to pointer, so slipper and golfing are out. And he said he will be “pursuing other interests”.

Meanwhile, there will be a presentation to him at Carfraemill next Thursday. And the company is going to Kelso Races on May 26 when staff, family and close friends will celebrate Jack’s career so far.

“There’ll be a bit of craic,” he said.