Silver and gold medals for farm workers whose loyalty knows no bounds

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Enduring relationships between farm-owners and their staff were celebrated last Friday as the Border Union Agricultural Society hosted its latest long-service awards lunch, held at Kelso’s Springwood Hall.

The awards have been handed out to farm-workers at certain milestones in their careers by the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland since 1944.

Since then, there has been a total of 651 recipients, some of whom have picked up multiple awards, for notching up a total of 22,803 years’ service.

This year, 18 employees – two farm managers, three farm stewards, three tractor and stockmen, six tractormen, two shepherds and two jacks of all trades – were given awards for a total of 677 years’ service.

It was a particularly memorable event for tractor driver Alec Herkes as he has worked for the same family at Marlefield, near Kelso, for over 50 years, and even at the age of 80, he’s still helping out on the farm.

He said: “This is really a big honour for me. It’s actually 51 years this year.

“I started as a boy. My interest in tractors began when I was five years old. I kind of chased them around.

“I used to go with my father. There was three generations of my family at Mid Softlaw, and the farmer there was emigrating to Australia, and my wife Helen and I had the chance to go with them but we decided against it.”

Instead, the couple went to Marlefield and started working for Coey Goodson before her son Mark took over, and he’s now working for Coey’s grandson Alan.

He added: “I’m still working yet. My employer just lets me get on with things day to day. It’s a joy.”

His boss, Alan Goodson, told us: “It’s quite humbling really.

“I think I was just six or seven when Alec started working at Marlefield.

“It is quite something to have someone like Alec working for so long, especially when you think of the technological advances in farming over the past half-century. It’s phenomenal.”

Alan said he thinks the way farm-owners work with their employees goes some way to explaining why they stay around for so long.

He said: “It’s a funny dynamic.

“In any other industry, there are middle-men, but in farming, when you face challenges, you have to face them together or there would be conflicts.”

Alec was presented with his gold medal and certificate by the 10th Duke of Roxburghe, Guy Innes-Ker, at the end of a ceremony highlighting the many contributions – and particular idiosyncrasies – of the awards’ recipients.

There are many reasons why relationships between farm-owners and farm worker can be so successful, but enjoyment has got to be top of the list according to Alec.

He said: “You have to be dedicated, but the most important thing is to enjoy what you are doing, and I certainly have enjoyed it.”

The event was chaired by Neil Thomson, chairman of the Border Union Agricultural Society, and the recipients were introduced by outgoing secretary Ron Wilson, with the Duke of Roxburghe, president of the society, presenting medals and certificates to the long-serving employees.

Also speaking were society chaplain Rev Anna Rodwell; Nina Clancy, of Eildon Mains; Peter Douglas, of Ruletownhead; Jim Warnock, chairman of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland; and Ian Fleming, vice-chairman of the Borders society.

The Southern Reporter caught the event on Facebook Live, and you can see our videos online at www.thesouthernreporter.co.uk

Full list of award recipients

Recipient Farm Years of service

Alec Herkes Marlefield, Kelso 50

Ian Bandeen Southfield, Hawick 41

John Gallon Howtel, Mindrum 41

Alistair McAulay Spittal on Rule, Denholm 41

Andrew Shortreed Hassendean, Denholm 41

Richard Taylor Milne Graden East Mains, Coldstream 41

Trevor Brannan Mouldyhills, Canonbie 40

Gavin Byers Caverton Hillhead, Kelso 40

William Grieve Easter Softlaw, Kelso 40

Keith Learmonth Kelloe Mains, Duns 40

David Jerdan Howick Estate, Alnwick 39

Leslie Anderson West Morriston, Earlston 35

Trevor Nelson Callaly Estates, Whittingham 33

Gavin McLean Old Campus Quarry, Cockburnspath 32

Paul Cossar Chesters, Ancrum 31

Alan Ramage Bowhill, Selkirk 31

Mark Scott Bowhill, Selkirk 30

Derek Taylor Lauderhill, Lauder 30