Kirkby Stephen

I sold my first pen of mule lambs at Appleby Auction Mart when I was twelve years old. They were a pen of seven: two were brown faced, two yellow, two orange, and one was passable.

The late Bert Higgs of Leicester bought them. Unfortunately, I missed him for luck, and so got his address from the office to send him some. He sent me a letter back, saying I was the first man that had sent him luck and thanked me very much.

My father was a masham man, but he said if I was going to breed mules I should grade my tup and try again. So I got a lift to Hexham tup sale, a day I’ll never forget. I got my eye on a tup lamb that I just couldn’t leave, he was late on, but I felled him for £28. He belonged to the late Jack Shield, Chapel-House, Gillsland.

Jack thanked me for buying his tup, and said he would have liked to treat me in the pub, but as I was too young he gave me half a crown and four mint imperials. The tup got very well, and so the following year I went back to Hexham for a female.

There were a lot of females to sell that day and they were a bad trade. The majority were selling between £12 and £16, with odd ones reaching £20-£22. I eventually came across Jack, who had none to sell. However, he was very helpful, and said that there was only one sheep in the auction to buy and he had bred it.

She was a tremendous ewe, and had won first prize and champion. I bought her for the record price of 70gns. When I went out from buying her I overheard someone comment; “that young lad won’t be around much longer”. Indeed, she bred well, very much the type I liked which was the ‘Raughton’ type. In 1966, at Appleby gimmer lamb sale Northampton men George Smith and his father bought several pens of lambs.

George along with two Nigels, alias Haines and Hollick, to this day have never missed buying our lambs we are very grateful for both their custom and moreover their feedback on performance. Also that day I was very grateful to local buyer Denis Dent whom said if I sorted them properly he would buy my tops, which he did the following year, and for most of the next 40 years. Father became a mule enthusiast.

He and mother whilst on holiday in Devon called in on Newton Abbot Auction and met Robert Partridge. Robert came north, and still does, to buy mule gimmer lambs. Father also met the late Ron Tucker who liked what he was hearing about the Mule. Ron came north and visited us, we spent two days and nights visiting Mule farms and William Youngers pubs sampling tartan bitter and playing dominoes.

Ron liked what he saw and said he would buy a few wethers that back-end, he said he would try sixty or seventy. However, local hauler Alderson and Huddart said he would take 160. The late auctioneer Norman Little, bought the lambs from three farms off Alston Moor, through Lazonby Mart.

They went to Ron’s farm who then persuaded his neighbours and mates to try these Mule wethers. On the first Monday in January father sent me to Devon to see the first wethers sold. It was 369 miles, and he said I could stay for two days then get back home to work.

Ron instructed me that he would introduce me to two butchers and I would persuade them the mule was the best thing since sliced bread. I’ll never forget that day at Totnes Auction Mart. Two pens of 10 Mule wether lambs were sold, one each to local butchers who were very pleased with them, and they went on to buy several others. The only grumble the farmers that wintered them had was that they got caught up in the bramble bushes in winter.

The following year they bought gimmers and clipped them on arrival. Since then thousands of Mule gimmer lambs have gone all over Great Britain and we as breeders, whom all have similar tales to tell, are very grateful to those Great Men of Mules.

Results of the 2014 sale: There were 10,630 sold, which averaged £106.88, £1.82 upon the previous year, for an additional 1309 sold. The results of the show, with thanks to the judges Mr Paul Tucker, Mr Mike Allen and referee judge Mr Thomas Binns, were as follows: Class 1 – Confined to vendors of 200 or less & members of Kirkby Stephen NEMSA Branch: 1st and winning the William Dent perpetual trophy – Messrs Jenkinson, Whingill, 2nd Messrs I & P Brown, Oak House, 3rd GR Birkbeck, Castle Hill, 4th A & R Birkbeck, Pennine View, 5th D & JH Richardson, Croft House.

Class 2 – 10 lambs open to all vendors: 1st and Overall Champion, winning the PF&K Perpetual Trophy and the late C Jackson Trophy – K.A Brown and Sons, Asby Hall, 2nd and reserve champion pen winning the H and H Perpetual Trophy – H R Hayton & Son, Asby Grange, 3rd WM Hutchinson & Sons, Redgate, 4th J & G Shields, Lythside, 5th W & CW Dent, Greenriggs,

Winner of the Shearwell stick reader was Messrs Proctor, Villa Farm. Thank you to all vendors for such a good show and sale of lambs, and a special thanks once again to all customers, near and far, for coming to Kirkby Stephen. A thank you to Mark and Jimmy for selling them and to all H&H staff.

Also thank you to our sponsors, inspectors and all members. Finally a big thank you to our secretary Christine. As this is my final report I will leave you in the safe hands of our vice-chairman Colin Dent, and wish him well. Thank you

Geoff Taylor