End of an era as Dorset Herdsmen's Society closes

Dorset Echo: FAREWELL: Herdsmen at Dorset County Show FAREWELL: Herdsmen at Dorset County Show

A SOCIETY that brought together herdsmen and shepherds in Dorset is closing down after half a century.

The Dorset Herdsmen’s Society is laying down its tools after being unable to attract new members in recent years.

Herdsman are a familiar sight at Dorset County Show over the years as they led their stock through the parade rings.

Ron Burt, who was a founding member of the group, said summer walks, talks, lunches and visits were all part of the group’s activities, as well as countywide and national competitive rallies.

The group was started by Fred Thorne in 1964 as a branch of the national society and is similar to Young Farmers’ Clubs with group members taking part in various activities throughout the year.

Mr Burt said: “We had more than 100 members at one time, from all over Dorset, and always used to hold our meetings in the Oak Room at the Antelope Inn in Dorchester.

“We would do quite well at the rallies, and we actually had a really good tug-of-war team.”

He added: “People from all over the country would come to give talks to the group.

“I remember being told by one of the speakers that it takes a well-trained man to milk cows but a monkey can drive a tractor.”

Members also visited farms and industry sites all over the country, including the National Institute for Research in Dairying in Reading.

Mr Burt said: “It was just something that was fun, and you got to meet a lot of people.

“We’ve kept it going as long as we could.”

The national Herdsmen’s Club was shut down in 2003 but the Dorset branch continued as a Friends society.

Joan Haine, who was a member for nearly 40 years, said: “The industry has changed such a lot.

“The dairy herds are much bigger and milk three times a day, so people just don’t have the time to go out and socialise in the evenings.

“I’m not even sure if there are any shepherds left in Dorset.”

Mrs Haine added: “We remember David Lewis, the former Echo farming reporter, who used to give us such good write-ups in the early days of the club.”

The group will hold a farewell lunch on Wednesday, October 1.

Past members who would like to go along are asked to contact Aimee Burt on 01305 871588.

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