Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Between the wars... a prize find.

"Theirs is a land of hope and glory
Mine is the green field and the factory floor
Theirs are the skies all dark with bombers
And mine is the peace we knew
Between the wars

Billy Bragg (from "Between the wars")

We stayed at Carcant, a sheep farm and hill estate in the Moorfoot Hills near Heriot in the Scottish Borders, a couple of weekends ago. There, we came upon this wonderful old collection above the door of an old barn, now a workshop and tool store for the residents. At first, I thought these were prize certificates for their sheep dog trial prowess (as they are indeed champion sheep dog triallers!) but closer inspection revealed these to be a set of prize certificates from the Selkirk and Galashiels Agricultural Society from the 1920s. I couldn't help but imagine the old farmer and his wife, maybe their children, returning home with another collection of certificates from another successful showing of their cattle or sheep at the local show and proudly pinning them above the door. Maybe glances at these through the year inspired them in their early morning animal feeding and mucking out chores with competitive thoughts of the coming show season.

It was a wonderful wee corner of nostalgic memorabilia for a Scottish agricultural way of life that is long, long gone although, fortunately, the agricultural shows remain, as does the culture of sheep dog trialling (but that's something for another time). And, another somewhat poignant thought that it raised was that I now now longer have any near relatives left who were alive when this set of small personal triumphs was being accumulated. It marks a time, at least 85 years ago, that is now some two or nearly three generations old and its survival in a working barn is all the more remarkable for that. I felt privileged to be able to observe it and record it.

Carcant's wonder wall...
A close up of some certificates, ranging between 1920 and 1926.
Here's what this unexpected find made me think of, one of my favourite songs by Billy Bragg:


  1. Fabulous find and thanks for bringing it to our attention. Time is awe inspiring and can hit home hard with things like this. It's why I love history so much.

    And as for Billy Bragg - one of my all time favourite artists, so thanks for the clip too!!!

  2. Great post big bro, hard earned bits of paper by people who worked and lived a hard life but i imagine had a love and passion for there work and life...


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