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Obituary: John Hamilton, farmer and breeder of Blackface sheep

Farmer and breeder of Blackface sheep

Born June 25, 1961;

Died March 24, 2019

JOHN (Joffy) Hamilton, who has died aged 57, was a well-known Scottish farmer and breeder of Blackface sheep who built a large and successful business and held many senior positions in Scottish farming, including president of the Blackface Sheep Breeders Association and director and chief sheep steward of the Royal Highland Show.

He was born at Woolfords in Lanarkshire, the son of Matthew and Jean Hamilton, and younger brother to Christine, Mary and Matthew. His father died when he was only 13 but with great determination and enthusiasm he joined the family partnership at Woolfords after school at Merchiston and agricultural college at Edinburgh. That determination and ambition remained with him for the rest of his life as he created a large scale, successful farming business.

In 1988, with his wife Vanessa by his side, he started to farm in his own right at Cobbinshaw and Dykefoot. It was at Cobbinshaw that four sons, James, Charles, Harry and Hamish were born.

In 1998 he achieved one of his lifetime goals when he bought Aikengall, followed by Thurston Mains some 10 years later. Farming had been in his life blood since he was born and he had always nurtured a great passion and dedication to farm and breed stock to the best of his ability. He never shied away from investing in the best of livestock and working as hard as he could to improve the infrastructure and health of his farms. And it gave him great pride to receive many accolades, awards and recognition for the quality of his stock and his ability to farm.

He would often advise the boys “never let your farm know you are poor”. However, one of his great guiding mottos was to “live as if you will die tomorrow, and farm and breed stock as if you will live forever”.

It was widely known that if he had set his eye on a potential replacement ram or bull in the market place, he was hard to stop and he was always prepared to pay for the quality he was looking for. And how he enjoyed those days out, whether it was Kelso Tup sales, Lanark Blackface Sheep sales or Stirling Bull sales.

An excellent stocksman and farmer, in business he was entrepreneurial and resourceful, a perfectionist with an ambition to grow his business. He built up a large and successful empire, always planning ahead for the succession of the boys. He encouraged and installed a strict work ethic in his sons, whom he has nurtured to become successful farmers in their own right. He handed over the management of the cattle and sheep enterprises to them some years ago. He knew the business was in good and capable hands and was very proud of them.

He was always thinking and planning how to maximise the return from the land and how he could take his business to the next level. To that end, he and his great friend and mentor, Willie Mitchell travelled down to Wales in 1993 to see for themselves the very first wind turbines that had been installed in the UK. From that moment on, he was convinced windfarms would play a huge part in the rural economy of Scotland and a big part in his future business. After a lot of planning, hard work and persistence, he was successful in getting his first windfarm generating renewable electricity installed at Aikengall in 2008 with further expansion afterwards.

He was a very sociable man, who loved people and company and any excuse for a day out, party or trip away was readily embraced and seized upon. Watching rugby and shooting were the two main hobbies that afforded him these opportunities.

He was a real people person – people just seemed to lift and be the better for being in his company. He had an ability to talk to almost anyone about almost anything.

It was with great loyalty and humility that he would always be on hand to offer a sympathetic ear and advice to folk when they were in need of it, some of whom he had never even met. He would often remark how much Vanessa meant to him and how he could not have achieved half the success without her love, strength and guidance. As James also put it at Joffy’s funeral, “it has been a huge honour, a privilege and a joy to grow up with his guidance and his nurturing love and care for us. But an even bigger privilege simply to be able to call him Dad.”

Joffy Hamilton is survived by his wife Vanessa, his three sons, James, Charles and Harry, their partners Emma, Jane and Rebecca and his two grandchildren, Will and Katie. He was predeceased by his son Hamish.

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