In 2015, for the first time for a 100 years, there were no sheepdog trials. There were no shepherds with time or enthusiasm to organise sheep for it.
Here We Are held an exhibition in the village hall, to celebrate the trials of the past, followed by a dance in memory of the Dog Trial Dances.
The Ardkinglas Sheepdog Trials began in 1924. They were held on the hill above the village. The main ground, for the spectators, the judge and the waiting competitors, was on what had been the ‘Stance’ (where cattle and drovers had over-nighted on the road South). The ‘beer’ tent, (not just beer!), committee and Judges tent, (with a display of the trophies to be won), were to the left. Spectators sat on wooden benches, craning their necks following dog and sheep high on the hill above.
The shepherd stood ahead of the spectators directing his dog with whistles, calls and shouts. On the ‘outrun’ the dog had to climb the steep hill to collect three sheep and then go back up for two more let out from a pen above.
As the little flock was brought gently down the hillside they had to be navigated between posts and finally into a pen, with the shepherd’s assistance. There were prizes, trophies even, for different sections of the trial, as well as over-all winner; and even for the dog with the worst luck and the shepherd with most children.
The event was an early August social occasion (see ST1-001&002) but socially differentiated. ‘Society’ were invited to a sit down lunch at Ardkinglas House and then – a little worse for wear from fine wine and cider cup- made their way to the Trials, in time for the last runners and the prize giving, (presented by someone from the Noble family, usually female).
For others there was a sale of work and tea with sandwiches and home baking, in the Village Hall provided by the WRI.
It was a busy evening in the Pub. During the 1970s it was still 10 o’clock closing, so no one would move up to the Hall until after 10. The Dog Trial dance was an important event in the annual calendar. In those days drinking wasn’t allowed in the hall, you had to go out for a swig from the half bottle. Men and women sat separately, women at the band’s end of the hall, and you waited to be invited by a man approaching from the other end. If you had refused someone for that Dance you could not accept another’s invite – even if he was your favoured beau. It was customary to walk home with the person with whom you had danced the last waltz.
On the evening of the Here We Are Sheepdog Trial exhibition held in the hall in 2015 the dance was more like a party for all ages. Jake MacKay (still a shepherd from time to time) and his band played and Stuart Liddell, the world champion piper from Inveraray, played for the dancers swirling under photos of winning shepherds and dogs of yesteryear.