Hexham & Northern Marts held their annual prize show and sale of Blackface Rams and offered for sale a slightly reduced entry of 274 head comprising 255 shearlings and 19 ram lambs.
Prior to the sale the prize show was conducted and once again sponsored by long-standing supporters of this important event The NFU Mutual, Hexham and the company are grateful to Cath Reed and Catherine Bowman for their continued generosity.
Presiding over the first classes of Hexham type shearlings was noted Roman Wall based breeder Jamie Murray, Sewingshields. Faced with a strong entry of seventeen upstanding rams in the individual class he worked swiftly and diligently as one would expect of an authority on the breed assessing the finer points of those put before him before drawing the initial entry down to a very refined nine exhibits all from recognised and established flocks.
With one further inspection his order was set and the shearlings were placed as follows;
1st & The Bellingham Trophy – 53 – Messrs Walton, Toft House
2nd – 200 – Messrs Hunter, The Steel
3rd – 151 – Wanwood Partners, Wanwood Hill
4th – 224 – Messrs Murray, Stell Green (West Deanraw)
5th – 126 – Messrs Robson, Townshields
A great entry of eight groups of three were penned before Mr Murray and as strong and numerous a class seen for a great many years. The rosettes were awarded as follows;
1st & The Willie Armstrong Shield – 178, 179, 180 – Messrs Morshead, Harsondale
2nd – 199, 200, 201 – Messrs Hunter, The Steel
3rd – 54, 55, 56 – Messrs Walton, Toft House.
A small but quality entry of lambs were put before a young and enthusiastic breeder and judge In Mr Harry Monks, The Riding, Bellingham who displayed a keen and able eye in arriving at his prize list as follows;
1st & The The James Robson Trophy – 305 – Wanwood Partners, Wanwood Hill
2nd – 307 – Messrs Ridley, Shitlington Hall
3rd – 304 – Wanwood Partners, Wanwood Hill
4th – 308 – Messrs Ridley, Shitlington Hall
5th – 306 – Messrs Ridley, Shitlington Hall
Groups of Three;
1st – 313, 314, 315 – Messrs Murray, Sewingshields
2nd – 306, 307, 308 – Messrs Ridley, Shitlington
Making the trip down from The Borders in a dual role on the day was Mr Derek Redpath, The Yett, Kelso the Blackface Sheep Breeders Association vice-president who was first tasked with the job of judging the Scotch Type ram class which saw a very level entry of nine shearlings put forward and perhaps the best stamp of quality for some years with more than a little breeding from North of The Border now evident in the majority of consignments. Mr Redpath was encouraged by the quality within the class and made his awards as follows;
1st & The Bob Jackson Trophy – 174 – Messrs Rock, Fleehope
2nd – 47 – Dudlees Partnership, The Dudlees
3rd – 70 – Messrs Robson, Goatstones
4th – 107 – Messrs Murray, Stell Green
5th – 227 – Messrs Murray, Stell Green (West Deanraw)
Mr Redpath then had the simple yet all-important task of arriving at an Overall Champion for the day which was contested by the first prize Hexham type shearling and the first prize ram lamb.
With both animals in fine form and typical of the quality from the flocks from which they had been consigned it was the powerful and upstanding shearling from Messrs Walton, Toft house that was tapped out to scoop The Edmundbyers Trophy and The JH Reed Cup for the shepherd of The Overall Champion on the day. By the 2019 first prize shearling, the £7500 Murray bred Stell Green sire this one was strongly fancied by the judge and just pipped the ram lamb to the Championship. The lamb which stood as a deserved reserve was sired by a Carrick sheep and rounded off a nice mornings showing for the Wanwood Partners.
With the show concluded two important matters were addressed by the Association office bearers in attendance and witnessed by those that had gathered in the ring for the start of the sale.
Firstly following the official presentation back in the spring of the year the Association president Mr Sandy Smith, Alford, Aberdeenshire re-presented The handsome and imposing Connachan Salver to Mr George Famelton, formerly of Horseholme, Gilsland. Now retired the association had bestowed the award following a long and illustrious career as a renowned breeder of Blackface sheep and stalwart of the Hexham type in particular. Mr Famelton thanked Mr Smith for his kind words and the auction company, fellow breeders and friends for the many happy and successful years he has enjoyed consigning sheep for sale at Hexham Auction Mart.
In a similar gesture Mr Redpath, the vice-president made a presentation of a commemorative cut glass decanter and whisky tumblers to Mr Brian Rogerson, company secretary and auctioneer from the branch and association in recognition of his many decades of service as auctioneer to the breed and its breeders particularly at this important annual sale of rams at which he had presided for over 25 years. Mr Rogerson had over several decades sold many high-priced rams and assisted in attaining some impressive flock and sale averages which included the centre record-price for a Blackface ram at Hexham Auction Mart that of £20,000 for the Toft House shearling consigned by Messrs Walton in 2011 and purchased by Robbie & Paul Coulson, High Staward. Mr Rogerson expressed his surprise at the presentation and that the event was one of his greatly anticipated highlights within the sales calendar at Hexham each year.
With a typically large crowd gathered at ringside and earlier sales of breeding females suggesting a little resistance on the year trade set off in a cautious manner with fewer commercial buyers present and breeders very much playing their cards close to their chest.
The entry of shearling rams were more mixed than ever seen previously with a large percentage of the catalogue now sired by rams procured from sales at Lanark, Stirling and Ayr resulting in more varied offerings throughout the day.
The pick of the day and the peak of the trade was undoubtedly the second sheep in the run from The Dudlees Partnership of Messrs Walton & Steven Mackay which had followed the second prize Scotch Type ram into the ring. The sale topper at £12,000 was by the 2021 purchased £8,500 Craigdarroch sire going back to the £14,000 Dyke and caught the eye of a number of top end breeders round the ring eventually selling in a three-way split between Townshields, Cowden Burn & Wanwood Hill.
This was followed later in the day by one of several that sold well for the West Deanraw pen of Andrew & Sam Murray & Sons at £7000 which had stood 5th in the Scotch type class in the morning. By a Mitchelhill sire this one was hotly fancied and climbed at a pace to the second top price of the day selling jointly to The Steel & Shitlington Hall.
A brace followed then at £4500 each; the first was horn number 200, second prize individual shearling and one of the second prize group of three from Messrs Hunter, The Steel which was by the £10,000 Livet sire and purchased by Richard Thompson for Clune & Corrybrough Estates, Inverness. The next was another from the West Deanraw pen this time sired by the £8000 Toft House selling into Dumfriesshire to breeders David & Harry Hope, Mouldyhills, Canonbie.
The £17000 Craigdarroch sire left his mark on the Toft House pen and provided their top price on the day at £4200 for another big Rede valley export that sold jointly to Carrick & The Steel.
Father & Daughter Geoff Paxton & Fiona Goodfellow are long established breeders and supporters of this sale and following a great run of ewe lambs presented and easily sold in early September they came forward again with another eye catching pen of tups. Their leader has stood sixth in a strong Scotch line up earlier in the day and travelled to £3600 to sell in a share deal between brothers Jamie Murray, Sewingshields and Andrew Murray Stell Green/West Deanraw to undoubtedly leave his mark along The Roman Wall.
It was another from West Deanraw that continued The Murray Family’s great day of trading at Hexham, this tup by the £8000 ‘home bred’ Stell Green 2022 Sale Champion used as a lamb that went on to breed this that sold at £3400 to Lewis Forster, West Nubbuck.
Willie, Faye & Ryan Walton, with their Penpeugh offering were sold late in the day but suffered not and attained one of the top flock averages within the sale. They kicked off with a big, bare, clean coloured sheep by the Frank Hall £2800 sire which cashed at a straight £3000 to Messrs Hutchinson, Chapel, Moffat and hit a double whammy with very the next into the ring by the same sire and at the same price selling to Messrs Nicholson, Briscoe, Whitby to set up the trade for the rest of their well-bred pen.
The same tariff was achieved for the first of The Carrick pen from Messrs Armstrong & Hunter which was by the £11,000 Toft House and sold to Craig Ballantyne, breeder and manager at The Lamperts in the Irthing Valley, Cumbria.
Next in the rankings and reversing the fortunes of twelve months prior was the pen leader, first prize Scotch ram and a tremendously modern tup from David & James Rock; relatively new owners of the Fleehope flock in The College Valley, North Northumberland. This big, black sheep had been sired by a Black House loan lamb and caught the eye of many breeders and commercial men alike selling eventually at £2800 in a joint purchase to Messrs Paxton, Greenleighton & Messrs Walton, Troughend.
Tup number 199 was the first of the offering from The Steel and another of the second prize group and another by the £11000 Stuart Robson bred Toft House sire that travelled well in the ring to settle at the same £2800 this time selling to the renowned Tyne valley family farming commercial enterprise of Messrs Walton, Greyside.
A trio of rams sold at £2600, the first being early in the day number 41 from Frank Hall, Yatesfield by an Allanfauld sheep and another that sold to Craig Ballantyne, The Lamperts. The second was the fifth prize ram from Messrs Robson, Townshields which was got by the £5000 Wanwood and purchased by The Ridleys of Shitlington Hall. The third at this mark was another from the fancied Penpeugh pen which was the third from the Waltons sired by their Frank Hall sheep that sold to Micheal Gibson, Thornton Tower, Newbrough.
Again three sold at £2400 – the first from Toft house was another of their 3rd prize group of three again by the Craigdarroch which was taken home by the Robsons of Townshields, the second was from the Stell Green pen by the Mitchelhill which had stood 4th in the Scotch Type class bought by Jake Elder, Pottsdurtrees and the third at this figure was another from Penpeugh by their Harry Morshead purchase that sold well to the Airey Brothers, Brownchesters.
Trio’s were prevalent within the prices on the day and at £2200 was the peak of The Wanwood Hill trade this year for The Waltons 3rd prize sheep by a Glenrath which sold to The Steel. Andrew Murray and Family continued their trade of the day with a pair at this figure which followed each other into the ring, both by the Mitchelhill stock sire. The first sold to Harsondale and the next sold to Penpeugh and both purchases are likely to feature in the sale catalogue in two years time.
Finally a quartet of tups to conclude the shearling round-up were traded at a straight £2000 on a day when breeders were selective and the best of commercial rams were purchased with ease. Steven Mackay’s first into the ring and second prize scotch type had also been sired the same way as his sale leader – the £8500 Craigdarroch and with a strong crowd of breeders at the ringside this one was one of several that went North of the Border to breeder Alan Smith, Wester Crosswood Hill, West Lothian. Following shortly after was the Toft House Champion and first prize shearling by the £7500 Stell Green which was another that sold to The Paxton Family, Greenleighton. Then came another from The Steel’s choice prize winning three by the Toft House sire that went to The Robsons of The Hole and the last of this glittering four was another from the leading average pen from West Deanraw and the 4th prize ram by The £8000 Stell Green that was taken home by Dennis and Stuart Charlton along past the late lamented Sycamore Gap to reside just North of The Roman Wall at Whiteside.
Ram lamb trade was, as of recent years, very selective and with both breeders and commercial men able to select and purchase shearlings with ease any ‘last minute’ bonuses were lacking. Unsurprisingly the trade peaked at £700 for the Reserve Overall Champion, First prize lamb and Carrick sired lamb from Wanwood hill which went back with judge Harry Monks to be put to Work at The Riding Farm, Bellingham for owners Messrs Goodfellow.
Leading Flock Averages;
On a testing year and with a mixed show of rams presented for sale it was encouraging that a number of vendors that had perhaps suffered twelve months earlier saw a return to form with sharp rises in the averages rankings for tups that more often benefitted from influence from outside the branch and/or region highlighting the ever-evolving style and substance of the rams offered for sale at the premiere Blackface ram sale in The North of England.
Flock Averages (from top average)
West Deanraw; sold 7, top £7000, average £3157
Dudlees, 5; £12000, £3134
Penpeugh; 5, £4500, £2260
The Steel; 5, £4500, £2170
Carrick; 5, £3000, £1980
Toft House; 7, £4200, £1792
Mouldyhills; 1, £1600, £1600
Stell Green; 4, £2400, £1525
Fleehope; 4, £2800, £1437
Greenleighton; 5, £3600, £1084
Close A Burn; 4, £1800, £1042
Harsondale; 6, £1800, £1016
Once again the auctioneers are indebted to the flockmasters and shepherds from across the region as well as purchasers, judges, sponsors and by-standers that combine to make this special show and sale one of the definitive highlights within the sales calendar – occasionally copied, never matched!