With the passing at the age of 94 of Sandy Stewart of Gunhill, Inverurie, the north-east has lost a stalwart of the beef industry and a well-loved and respected member of the farming community.
In his heyday, he was a well-known figure at marts throughout the north and north-east, particularly Inverness, Dingwall and Thurso, where he was a regular buyer of store cattle for many Aberdeenshire farmers as well as for his own farm.
Until recent times, he attended the weekly mart at Thainstone where he enjoyed meeting up with farming friends of his own generation in a group affectionately known as the House of Lords, who meet each week for lunch.
In 2006, he fulfilled a life-long ambition with 20 farming friends to visit Argentina, attending the famous Palermo Show and undertaking an arduous two-week tour visiting Aberdeen Angus herds in Buenos Aires province.
He went to Argentina determined to prove his belief that Argentinian beef was inferior to Scotch beef but came home readily conceding that the beef he enjoyed in the country was actually “quite good.”
Sandy was born at Causewayfold, Wartle, in 1927, the second of nine siblings, and moved to Gunhill in 1929.
He attended Daviot school, leaving at the age of 14 to start working on the farm, ploughing with horses and feeding cattle.
Although too young to be involved in the Second World War, he was a member of the Air Training Corps and went on trips and camps to RAF Lossiemouth and recalled the excitement of being in the bomb aimer’s capsule in a Lancaster on training runs.
At the age of 17, he was sent to Yorkshire to gain a wider experience of farming with the Watt family who were of Scottish descent and farmed near Driffield next to an RAF base.
Witness to war
An abiding memory was the bravery of pilots “nursing shot-up bombers safely home” from raids on the continent.
He also enjoyed socialising with Italian prisoners-of-war who congregated on a Saturday night for a meal consisting of “whatever had been caught, shot or stolen” during the week.
Back home to help his father, Sandy soon started going north to buy calves which were shipped in the early days by train to Inverurie to supply farmers.
He went on to spend a large part of his life, continuing until well past retirement age, sourcing store cattle for farmers from marts in the north.
Sandy was held in very high esteem due to his fair and honest conduct in these dealings and made great friends with others in the same business at the time, the late Alex Grant of Middlefield, Forres, and the late Gordon Wishart of Saphock, Oldmeldrum, being particular friends.
Later, following the building of a new abattoir in Inverurie by the FMC-owned Inverurie Scotch Meat, he enjoyed sourcing finished cattle for ISM at Insch and Inverurie marts and also direct from farms.
At home, he was a progressive farmer keeping up with machinery trends and expanding the farming business at Gunhill.
Young farmers played a big part in his youth as a member of the Inverurie club where he became chairman and excelled in speechmaking, stockjudging and sheep shearing.
In 1951, with lifelong friends, the late George Ritch of East Fingask, Inverurie, and the late George Shepherd, of Corsehill, Bucksburn, he was a member of the Inverurie team which won the stockjudging competition at the Scottish National Fatstock Show in Edinburgh.
The following year he won the best individual award in the young farmers’ national stockjudging competition.
Also in 1951, he was one of four young farmers from Scotland selected for a six-month international exchange visit to the USA.
One of the others was Kathleen (Kate) Scott from the Borders whom he went on to marry a year later. The group travelled on a cargo ship to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Sandy used to joke that it was at the blunt end of the ship that Kathleen captured him.
Sandy and Kathleen went on to travel every year to a different European country as part of the International Farm Youth Exchange scheme for former exchangees which they greatly enjoyed.
Away from farming, he was a founder member of Daviot and Oldmeldrum Curling Club, which had an outdoor rink beside Moonie Castle.
A lifelong passion was shooting. An excellent shot, he was for many years shoot captain at Straloch Estate, Newmachar.
In addition he was also a founder member of Garioch Rugby Club, running the bar, aptly named Sandy’s bar, for many years, latterly becoming honorary president.
Sandy, who was also an elder at Daviot Kirk for 30 years and latterly treasurer, is survived by his wife, three sons, Alex, Tom and Jim and their families. Grandchildren, Penny, Sasha and Amy, were his pride and joy.