North of England Mule sheep breeder Neil Marston, who runs the Highberries Bluefaced Leicester flock at Millstone Moor, Cockermouth, was crowned champion for the second year running in the NEMSA show classes at this year’s Royal Highland Show.

Neil, who farms in partnership with his parents, Raymond and Francis Marston, once more secured the highly coveted title with his first prize ewe lamb, which, like his 2018 RHS ewe lamb victor, is by the home-bred BFL ram, G1Highberries Highlander, so named after also becoming male champion as a ram lamb at the RHS.

Long-standing NEMSA member and loyal supporter Neil, who was securing a memorable hat-trick of RHS Mule titles – he also won it in 2012 – has a real passion for sheep breeding. He first started with North of England Mules in the 1990s, establishing his BFL pedigree flock in the late 90s and moving to Millstone Moor in 2008, when he really started concentrating on breeding Mules. He currently runs 1700 ewes, predominantly Swaledale, and 40 Leicesters.

Neil’s latest title winner at the RHS, one of Scotland’s most iconic events, again staged at The Royal Highland Centre from June 20-23, retained the J Lee & Son Perpetual Challenge Cup, presented by Peter Lee, of Morley Hill, Whitfield, Hexham.

Peter is a dyed-in-the-wool NEMSA stalwart who has masterminded the Association’s increasingly successful presence at the RHS over the past seven years, during which time the coveted trophy has been presented to the Mule champion.

He has served on NEMSA’s Lazonby branch Council and over the past 30 years has travelled the length and breadth of the country promoting the North of England Mule. He is a true champion of the breed. In 2014, Peter also received the TI Allinson Memorial Award for lifetime achievement presented by the NSA Northern Region.

This year’s RHS did, in fact, prove the best to date for NEMSA, attracting a record 69 entries, including seven new faces, in the four show classes, comprising 35 ewe lambs, 19 hoggs and lambs, seven geld hoggs and five ewes and lambs.

Standing reserve champion with a ewe and pair of lambs at foot was Phillip Elliott, of Mungrisdale, between Keswick and Penrith. He had a great show, also finishing the first and third in the geld Mule hogg show class, and runner-up in the Mule hogg with single lamb class.

So too did up and coming show woman Julie Brough, of Langrigg, Wigton. She won the Mule hogg with lamb show class and also finished runner-up in both the geld Mule hogg and shearling/ewe with pair of lambs show classes.

Back with the ewe lambs, Messrs Waugh, of Kilnstown Farms Ltd in Bewcastle, took second spot, with R D Archer & Sons, of Carry House, Wark, finishing third. Completing the prize winners with third place in the Mule hogg with single lamb class was John Ackerley, of Milton Mains, Brampton.

Show judge was another well-known North of England Mule breeder and great friend of NEMSA, Dick Ellis, who farms with his family at Addingham Moorside, near Skipton. “Warm congratulations must go to all exhibitors for a fantastic show,” said NEMSA’s chairman Kevin Wilson.