RHASS announces 2020 Sir. William Young Award winner

Kelso father and son team Jimmy and Willie Thomson, have been awarded this year’s prestigious Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) Sir. William Young Award.

The award recognises outstanding contribution to livestock breeding and commemorates the service to Scottish agriculture by the late Sir William Young.

Jimmy and Willie Thomson

Based at Hownam Grange, a 1,650ac hill farm on the Roxburghe Estate which the family has tenanted since 1941, father Jimmy and son Willie have been at the top of North Country Cheviot breed for many years now.

Willie lives at Hownam Grange with wife and farming partner, Laura, and their three children, while Jimmy runs another tenanted farm at Kelsocleugh in Yetholm in partnership with his wife, Peggy.

Hownam Grange runs two flocks of pure North Country Cheviots, comprising of 450 NCC ewes inbye, and a flock of 800 NCC hill type ewes hefted on the hill ground. They also have a herd of 80 Blue Grey suckler cows, which are bulled with an Aberdeen Angus bull and the calves sold as stores or as breeding heifers.[/coloredK_box]

They have shown Cheviots as far back as the 1950s, but only started at the Royal Highland Show after Jimmy judged at the 150th Highland Show. While they also have shown Galloway cattle, Scotch Halfbred sheep and commercial sheep, it is their North Country Cheviots they are renowned for.

Flocks from both farms have picked up championship rosettes up and down the UK. Jimmy and Willie’s sustained attention to the finer points of both the Park and Hill types of the North Country Cheviot breed has seen them take not only the overall Champion at the Royal Highland Show on numerous occasions, but also the Interbreed championship four times, the reserve three times, and the Queen’s Cup in 2010.

Last year, the pair had one ewe lamb sell for £4,500 – a new breed record for a female – and topped both days of the September tup sales at Lockerbie with Hownam Grange tups selling at £6,000 each.

Jimmy is also a past chairman of NSA Scotland and honorary president of North Country Cheviot (NCC) Society, while Willie is the current past president of the NCC Society.

Their contribution to the North Country Cheviot breed has also recently been noted by the Scottish Farmer, which identified them as one of two families considered to be the very best of stockman in Scotland and shortlisted three of their sheep in the magazine’s Champions of the Decade competition.

Willie commented on their win: “The award is as big as it can get in our opinion.

To be recognised and win such a prestigious award for breeding livestock is a real honour, especially since it is our passion and something which we get a good deal of pleasure from.

“There have been some amazing livestock producers who have won the award in the past and to be in that company is overwhelming.”

Adding his congratulations, Bill Gray, RHASS chairman said: “It was a pleasure to visit the farms and be shown around by Jimmy and Willie who were naturally delighted to receive this prestigious award.

Their success at the Royal Highland Show over the years has been impressive and to win the Sir William Young Award for breeding excellence is a fitting tribute.

“On behalf of RHASS, I would like to add my congratulations to Jimmy and Willie and their families – it is very much a team effort.”