Remem bering Clayboddie, one of the most popular agricultural scribes

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For over 150 years, the Borders farming community has turned to The Southern for the best in coverage of all local agricultural matters.

This year’s successful relaunch of The Southern saw that boosted even further with the number of pages devoted to farming increased.

As well as reports by staff journalists and contributors, there is always still a place for a well-written weekly columnist feature.

For many years now The Southern’s regular farming columnist has been Halidon, who faithfully pens our ‘Landlines’ column – turn to p73.

One of the most famous encumbents, still remembered with great affection, was Walter Barrie, perhaps better known by readers of The Southern as ‘Hendry J. Clayboddie’.

The Clayboddie column was one of the most popular features of the newspaper during the early 20th century.

And it was not only local farmers and their families who eagerly anticipated his weekly column, but many much further afield as well. Born at Whitehillbrae in Allan Water in 1852, Walter moved with his family to Liddesdale as a young boy.

Growing up, he worked hard both at school and on the family farm until moving to Perth as a young man to work for a solicitors’ firm.

But he had to cut short his legal career after his father fell ill and so he returned to the Borders to take over the farm at Sundhope, later buying it in 1928.

On returning to Yarrow, Walter campaigned tirelessly for better conditions for the agriculture industry in Selkirkshire and encouraged others to work more closely together to that end.

One of the founding fathers of the Yarrow and Ettrick Pastoral Society in 1906 and serving as secretary until the Great War, he helped set up the Yarrow and Ettrick Show.

He was appointed first secretary of the Selkirkshire branch of the National Farmers’ Union and was honoured by the organisation in January 1926 when he and his wife were presented with portraits painted by Selkirk artist William Johnstone.

As well as being known as The Southern’s farming correspondent, Walter was equally renowned as a great local character with a wonderful sense of humour.

dry wit

He often included in his writings many local words and expressions, and he could find the funny side of even the dullest of happenings.

This dry wit allied to an incomparable knowledge of agricultural issues in the region won Walter high praise and local farmers would gather to await the arrival of the paper each week, just to hear what ‘Clayboddie’ had to say. During one speaking engagement in Selkirk’s Victoria Halls, he reflected on the increasing local popularity of the motor car.

“The first motor belonged to the late Mr Steel,” he said. “It was in the form of a dogcart – sat back to back.

“Mr Steel kindly took some members of the road board up to Tibbie’s in it on a tour of inspection.

“When we were coming back, it mounted the hog back of the old brig at Dryhope. The driver gave her just rather too much petrol and she went off with a bouff, when Mr Bartie and Muir of Dryhope, who were sitting behind, slippit off onto the road.

“When she got rid of their weight, she gaed spinning off at a great rate and we were nearly at The Gordon before we missed them.

“It wasna’ long till Mr Steel got a new car.”

Although Walter was best known for work in the agricultural community, as well as his writing, he was also actively and passionately involved in local government, education, parish life and even as a sportsman.

He travelled everywhere by bicycle or horse and rode the Selkirk marches for many years.

More than all this , however, he was, first and foremost, a family man whose priority was always his wife and nine children.

In 1937, Walter died at his farm at Sundhope. Paying tribute in an obituary, The Southern described him as “a leal Borderer”, “doughty champion of agric”ulture” and a “patriot with a gifted pen”.

Shortly before his death, Walter remarked: “I have had ups and downs, misfortunes and losses, but on the whole I have taken a lot of pleasure out of life.

“I have found how much can be done at odd times, which many folks fritter away, and I am sure I have taken more pleasure out of life than lots of folks that were not half so busy.”

And his passing advice to the young men of the day has stuck with generations of Borders farmers since.

“Plough deep, muck weel, work hard, stick in late and airly, and never miss a chance.”