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Scottish droving was on a huge scale.  The routes were longer, the inns fewer, larger and lonelier, the climate harsher and the drovers hardier.



The growth in English demand for Scottish beef followed the union of 1707.  All roads led down to the tryst1, meaning a fair or market.  This was held first at Crieff, but Falkirk had taken the lead by 1770.  The big sales took place there on the first Tuesday of August, September and October.



Two hundred acres of land2 were needed to hold the 150,000 cattle, sheep & horses that streamed each market-day into Falkirk from all corners of Scotland (#1).  As many as 2,000 drovers, with their dogs and ponies, would sleep in the open and meet with hundreds of buyers from all over Britain.  One observer remarked: “Certainly Great Britain, perhaps even the whole world, does not afford a parallel.”

The landlord of an inn at Walshford, near Wetherby in Yorkshire remembered, age 5, the sight and sound of Highlanders playing their bagpipes as they drove their beasts south.



The arrival of the railways in the 1840’s made it possible for dealers to buy ‘off the hill’ and move the beasts south on wheels.  By then, moreover, the cattle had been carefully bred and were not hardy enough to take the long road anyway.  By 1900 the great trysts were all but dead.



(My thanks to Ian Scott for the information in this article.)



1 Rhyming with ‘diced’ and based on trust.

2 All the land covered today by the golf course, cricket ground and football park, as well as fringe areas lost to housing and industry over the past century!

Scotland image 1
All roads lead to Falkirk...