‘Queen of the Milky Way’ a big hit with young farmers

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THE Ayrshire Cattle Herd Book Society’s sound film ‘Queen of the Milky Way’ had been circulated to a number of Young Farmers’ Clubs during the past winter and had been well received everywhere.”

These words were written by Mr James A Glenn, FCA, back in 1948 in his role as Secretary of the Irish Ayrshire Cattle Society which was, at the time, administered from an office in Scottish Provident Buildings near Belfast’s City Hall.

The romantic comedy film ‘Spring in Park Lane’ (featuring Ms Anna Neagle) was a big film out that same year. Despite having a marvellous leading character, this 1948-released ‘picture’ paled into insignificance when considered alongside the ‘Queen of the Milky Way’ which dealt with ‘the rearing of the Ayrshire cow and the processes of milk production’.

The Irish Ayrshire Cattle Society (affiliated to the Ayrshire Cattle Herd Book Society – est 1877) had been inaugurated following a meeting held in the old Balmoral Showground during May 1938, at a time when clouds of war were gathering. In September the following year war was declared.

Although the work of the Irish Ayrshire Cattle Society flagged during the first few years of war, by 1944 some people were of a mind to re-engage with and revive what had been started. An autumn show and sale of pure-bred Ayrshire Cattle (TT) took place that year which was in our breed history, a very significant event.

Returning to the words of Mr James A Glenn, who was a Chartered Accountant by profession, he recorded how ‘Irishmen had not been slow to seek guidance from their Scottish friends and many had made visits to numerous farms across the Channel where they had been received with a proverbial hospitality’.

Not only did the Scottish breeders give good advice to our growing numbers of ‘Ayrshire men and woman’ back in the 1940s, they took practical measures to fan the flames of the freshly-revived Irish Ayrshire Cattle Society.

On one occasion a group of top breeders showed great generosity by providing gift calves which were auctioned and the proceeds used to generate funds for their fellow breeders on the Emerald Isle.

The ‘Memories from the Farmyard’ team have a list of these herd-owners all from the top prefixes in Scotland. In the weeks and months to follow, we hope to profile several of these breeders and their herds on this page.

This week, however, we are going to begin with one of the people who donated a calf for the Irish Society … Mr AW Montgomerie (1873-1955) of Lessnessock fame!

For the Montgomerie family, pedigree cattle breeding was a family affair dating back to the 1870s. Mr Adam Wilson Montgomerie was joined by his sons, Mr RW Montgomerie, Mr JW Montgomerie and Mr AW Montgomerie (Jnr) operating from three farms, Dunure Mains, Dunduff and Lessnessock.

Over the years Messrs AW Montgomerie Ltd exported all over the world including America, Canada, New Zealand, China, Italy, Brazil, Ceylon, Finland and Kenya. They also make a big impact on the Ayrshire cattle scene in the breed’s homeland and on the Emerald Isle!

In the mid to late 1940s Mr Johnston Connor of Lineside, Upper Woodburn, Carrickfergus, registered calves sired by Lessnessock Scots Guard and Major Hugh E Montgomery of Rosemount, Greyabbey, did likewise with progeny of the bull Lessnessock Blyth Spirit.

When Mr Robert King of Laymore, Ballymena, County Antrim, was founding his successful Laymore Herd, he tapped into the Lessnessock strain and very shortly after the end of the Second World War registered a daughter of Lessnessock Chorister under the name Laymore Marchioness.

Mr Samuel McCrone of the noted Ballynure-based ‘Lismenary’ herd used a newspaper advert in the 1940s to sell a son of the breeding bull ‘Lessnessock Butter Stamp’ and Mr P McCusker of Lurgan topped the class for yearling bull with a stylish ‘Lessnessock Cowboy’ at Portadown Show in 1948!

A little later that same year on Thursday, November 4, 1948, the 15th annual draft sale of Messrs AW Montgomerie & Sons, Ltd took place at Lessnessock, Ochiltree, during stormy conditions. One bull made 3000 guineas on the day and included in the list of purchasers was Northern Ireland breeder Mr William L Young of Fenaghy, Cullybackey who purchased for a more ‘humble figure’ a young bull called Lessnessock Spunky Guy.

Of course, we have just brushed the surface on how cattle from the world famous Lessnessock Herd helped the Ayrshire breed cause on the Emerald Isle during the 1940s and helped our farmers develop a type of beautifully wedge-shaped red and white cows that would become … ‘Queens of the Milky Way’!

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