Portlethen Farmer

 

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George Walker of Portlethen....

 

In the North-East of Scotland there was probably no man with such a wealth of lore regarding lords and lairds, large farmers, and "crofter-bodies," dealers, drovers and Aberdeen-Angus men of a past generation, as George J Walker, Portlethen. From his father, who was one of the great improvers of the Aberdeen-Angus breed, he had garnered an immense amount regarding a most interesting section of the past, for "Old Robert," as the Mearns and Aberdeen veterans of pre-war days still named him, was a man of strong practical sagacity, a judge of human beings, a supreme judge of "nowte," and one who could put pith in his comments. George Walker, passing away, at a ripe old age, had added vastly to the unwritten history of his race and countryside. Gifted with keen observation, he had a well-balanced, cultivated mind, and a flavouring of the pawky, just sufficient for day-by-day use, in a part of the country not much given to display of mental and moral wares in front windows. George Walker was always fit to sum up his own range of men and affairs with great accuracy in leading essentials. To his credit let it also be said that he either missed or left entirely unrecorded many small things with a twist in them or with suggestions of over-acidity in their nature. Normally he was a man who went by the main lines and footings and who always kept a healthy look-out.

Of Hugh Watson, Wm. Crombie, Alexander Bowie, Paterson, Mulben; Brown, Westertown; Hannay, Gavenwood; James Skinner, Thomas Ferguson, James Scott, Charles Grant, Hector, Fernyflatt; the Taylers of Rothiemay and Glenbarry; Farquharson, East Town; Reid, Greystone; James A Pierson of the Guynd, and many others who had taken prominent positions under the old Aberdeen-Angus banner, George Walker had recollections grave and gay, characteristic anecdotes, illuminative sayings, notes of doings, and oddments, all adding to the homely charm of the narrative. It was only at widely-spread intervals, and in the company of a very few trusty friends, that he took to certain reviews of the Aberdeen-Angus past. His best was not to be had in a throng.

The Portlethen of the past generation has not been prominently before the public. It has lived to a larger extent on the fame of old Robert Walker, who made even Wm. McCombie tremble at times when exhibiting ambition was strong on "Tillyfour." George Walker, a most tasteful, sensible and conscientious judge, was too busy as a professional man to give his own herd the close personal attention which is required when prize winning and general forward moving are regular aims. He had no pedigree fads, however, and it could be said that he kept correct models in his eye when judging. Portlethen itself is an exceedingly exposed holding - a testing spot for even the old-fashioned hairy-lugged, strong jawed doddies of other days, and something harder for thier more refined looking descendants bred outside the place. For many a day also it had one of the worst steadings in the Mearns.

George Walker had now and then as judging colleague his old and completely dissimilar friend, the late Robert Walker, Altyre. George, slightly stooping, always courteous and judicially deliberative, with dark eyes, latterly grizzly beard and moustache, and spectacles far down his nose, could not be hurried along by the immensely alive, abrupt, forcible Robert, with his flat-topped hat set at a horsey angle, clean-shaven, mobile-lipped, dominating face, natty tie, riding breeches, bunch of Cairngorms and seals, and shiny yellow leggings. As Robert commanded or thrust an insinuating arm in the crook of his friend's, and pursed his lips into a half-impatient and wholly strong willed Yea or Nay, the hat being set the while at a bear-witness tilt, to emphasise a genially extraneous verdict of "devilish near the best ane," George smoked his favourite briar all the more intensely, set his eyes the more keenly on the niceties at issue, and generally refused to be hustled. Robert, patrolling alone, was apt to "come down" on a manoeuvring cattleman in charge of a "slack-backit beast" - "D---- it, can ye no stand still!"; or "Div ye want men to pit ye oot o' the ring?"

When he was in good health "Portlethen" could always be trusted to do very sound work as a judge, and in many respects the best was got out of him when he acted singly, as at the "Royal" of 1903 at Park Royal, where the soft clay rather suited the half-tender feet of the great bull Maramere, which then defeated Darlington, one of the most tasteful males of the breed seen in the South for many years. The late Thomas Smith, of the results at the Edinburgh Centenary Show of the Highland Society in 1884. At that Show "Powrie" exhibited a remarkable group of Mays for the family prize. Those Mays traced back through the Easter Tulloch Mayflowers to old Portlethen stock. Smith's cattle stood out by themselves. One of the judges, a staunch Angus man, promptly made up his mind in favour of the Mays, then filled his pipe and waited for the other two, "Portlethen" hesitated and ultimately sided with the third colleague in preferring a more massive group of less uniformity, but on a calm review next day he confessed that the "odd man" had been right.

Let such things be remembered to the credit of one who strove to be just. All in all, George Walker thoroughly deserved the friendship and trust of untold numbers, and the respect of those who differed from him.

Life-Portraits and Fancies
by James Cameron
1928


George J Walker
of Portlethen