Ness Sheepdog Trial

Last week saw the annual Hebridean Sheepdog Circuit. 7 trials in eight days.  Watternish in Skye, Berneray (Harris/N Uist), Scarista (Harris), Shawbost (Lewis), Ness (centre of the universe), Staffin and Dunvegan (both Skye).  Watternish is first, on the Saturday, nothing on the Sunday, then work their way round the rest of the circuit Mon-Saturday.  The Ness trial is held on the Thursday, on Lionel Machair, opposite Lionel School.  Here is Google Earth/Streetview of the location.

I had the day off work (my cousin was getting married the next day) so it was my first chance in a few years to go down and relax at a trial. I think 48 dogs ran on the day, down from the 60-odd that were supposed to attend.  Numbers have been down slightly in last 2 years, despite many handlers booking their places months in advance.  I’m not sure if it’s to do with the expense of visiting the islands, or because people book up so far in advance and then realise they can’t make it due to other commitments closer to the trials.

We’re well organised in Ness, with a special are reserved for our VIP guests….As you may know, my puppy is called Bud – here is his mother, who ran on the day.  Her owner is Dolaidh Macleod from Point.  Most Lewis folk will recognise him as the guy that used to read the meters for the Hydro.  He’s recently retired and started trialing again

Here are some 4-week old pups belonging to Stuart Grant from Ullapool.  They did the whole of the Heb Circuit with him and the rest of his dogs!      Alasdair ‘Beag’ MacDonald running.  He is from Cross, the next village to mine.  I always knew he was an expert when it came to sheep, but since I started on Farpaisean Chon-Chaorach, handlers from all over the country have spoken to me about him, saying he could have been amongst the best in the UK, had he stayed on the mainland and regularly competed in trials.Dolaidh and Roddy ‘Norrie’ studying the scores.John ‘Inch’ from Cross, talking things over with Murdo ‘Bloxy’ Murray from Back.  Bloxy used to play football for Back and his son Kevin is one of the best footballers I’ve ever played against.  Murdo himself is now a well respected trialist and regularly travels to trials on the mainland.  I think he’s the only Gaelic speaker that competes at the Scottish National.  He won the local aspect of the trial, with his dog Jim.Visitors come from far and wide for the Heb Circuit, with many of them making it their summer holidays.  Obviously it’s harder on some than on others!  Here are Alfie Kyme (left) and Steve Duckworth, both sound asleep!  Alfie won last year’s English National and himself and Steve have been regular visitors to the islands over the past few years.Plenty other familiar faces around too.  Standing on the right here is Stuart Grant (owner of the pups that were shown earlier) and seated is Jim Cropper, one of the best handlers around and finished second in Ness.

Winner was James McGee from Ireland, pictured here on the left.  Winning the Ness trial should rank as one of James’ highest honours – although I’m not sure it will compare to winning the 2011 World Trial!  He won that with Becca but retired her straight after so he won Ness with his 2 year old dog, Sid.  James also went on to be crowned ‘Lord of the Isles’, awarded to the top scoring handler across all seven trials.  Also pictured is John Palmer, another regular in the England team, who has visited the islands before, winning the Shawbost trial in 2009.Image


  1. I didnt’ get down this year, and was really sorry I missed it. Watching these guys and their dogs is amazing. I’m constantly awestruck by them….

    Now, if only they could come and spend a few days with our mutt … see if they could knock any sense into him!!

  2. This is a great feature on an excellent part of the Circuit. Very well put together!

    Paul (my husband) and I had our first experience of the Circuit this year with just the one competing dog – Bella – who benefited a lot from the variety of the trials, we also brought along Nessa (in training) for the ride.
    We already knew some of the competitors from England as Paul has competed against/with quite a lot of them; and most of the ones who were new to us are now also friends. All the people we met – locals and competitors – were very friendly and welcoming. We were very impressed by the ‘Lunches’ laid on by the local Ladies, how civilised!!
    So, together with the beautiful, stunning scenery and the great atmosphere, we’ll definitely be back next year!! Oh, and the fantastic weather helped a bit too plus the lack of midges!!

    All in all: an event not to be missed.

  3. Pingback: A look back at 2012 « Air an Lot

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