Aberdeen-Angus History – the North East Aberdeen-Angus Club

Aberdeen-Angus History – the North East Aberdeen-Angus Club


A new history of the North-east’s iconic breed of beef cattle, the Aberdeen-Angus, has been published by the North East Aberdeen-Angus Club.

The 100-page, 40,000 word book was launched on Thursday (June 30) during a visit to Tillyfour, Alford, one of the great ancestral homes of the breed, by 250 delegates from 27 countries attending the four-yearly World Aberdeen-Angus Forum which has been taking place in Scotland over the past 10 days for the first time since 1977.

All delegates were presented with a copy of the book, signed by the author, well-known agricultural journalist, Eddie Gillanders, who is the current president of the North-east club and has a long association with the breed having been both secretary of the club and editor of the annual Aberdeen-Angus Review for the Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society for more than 40 years.

“The Aberdeen-Angus breed is renowned the world over for the production of high quality beef and the club felt that the international gathering of breeders from all over the world at Tillyfour provided the right opportunity to publish an update on the last definitive history of the breed by Barclay and Keith published in 1958,” said Mr Gillanders.

The book recounts the story of the early development of the Aberdeen-Angus by breed pioneers, Hugh Watson (1780–1865) of Keillor, Newtyle in Angus, William McCombie (1805-1880) of Tillyfour, Alford, in Aberdeenshire, and Sir George Macpherson-Grant, Bart (1839-1907) of Ballindalloch in Banffshire and provides a detailed analysis of the roller-coaster years from the heyday of the breed in the late 1950s and 1960s when record prices were paid year-after-year for bulls for export to North and South America to the nadir of the 1970s and 1980s when the breed’s popularity slumped as a result of changing market demand, and the great recovery from the 1990s onwards which has seen the breed reach greater heights than ever before.

Club chair, Angela McGregor, Auchenhuive, Oldmeldrum, who is also senior vice-president of the society, said the Aberdeen-Angus was one of the biggest successes of the North-east’s growing quality food industry.

“William McCombie is recognised throughout the world as the pioneer who blended the native Aberdeenshire “hummlies” and Angus “doddies” in to the breed we know and value as the Aberdeen-Angus,” said Ms McGregor. “His foresight, planning, management and marketing made the breed the truly commercial top quality brand it is today.”

Breed president, Alex Sanger, Prettycur, Montrose, said the breed pioneers of the 19th century would be amazed today to see the results of their endeavours all those years ago to improve their native cattle.

“The skill of generations of breeders throughout the world has taken the Aberdeen-Angus breed to heights never imagined,” said Mr Sanger.

During the visit to Tillyfour, a visit to the farm by Queen Victoria in 1868 was re-enacted with present-day Aberdeen-Angus breeder, Charles McCombie, Auchincrieve, Rothiemay, playing the part of his antecedent, William, with mutton-chop whiskers, top hat and cloak. 

Queen Victoria (Moira Gash) and Prince Albert (Sarah Harker), along with William, were driven in to the arena by Ewan McInnes in a horse-drawn carriage and viewed a parade of Aberdeen-Angus cattle from local breeders, just as Queen Victoria would have done in 1868.

The book is available, priced £20, from Deeside Activity Park, Dess, Aboyne (Tel: 013398 83536, [email protected]) and other farm shops/restaurants on the North East Aberdeen-Angus Trail, or from Eddie Gillanders, 11 Sunnyside Gardens, Drumoak, Banchory. AB31 5EZ (Tel: 01330 811616, [email protected])