RHASS announce Sir William Young Award Winner 2020

August 7, 2020

Father and son team Jimmy and Willie Thomson from Hownam Grange, Kelso have been awarded this year’s prestigious Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) Sir William Young Award for their exceptional contribution to the world of sheep breeding.

The award recognises outstanding contribution to livestock breeding and commemorates the service to Scottish agriculture by the late Sir William Young.

Based at HownamGrange, a 1650-acre hill farm on the Roxburghe Estate which the family has tenanted since 1941, father Jimmy and son Willie have been at the top of North Country Cheviot breed for many years now. Willie lives at HownamGrange with wife and farming partner Laura and their three children, while Jimmy runs another tenanted farm at Kelsocleughin Yetholmin partnership with wife Peggy. 

HownamGrange runs two flocks of pure North Country Cheviots, comprising of 450 NCC ewes inbye, and a flock of 800 NCC hill type ewes hefted on the hill ground. They also have a herd of 80 Blue Grey suckler cows, which are bulled with an Aberdeen Angus bull and the calves sold as stores or as breeding heifers.

They have shown Cheviots as far back as the 1950’s, but only started at the Royal Highland Show after Jimmy judged at the 150th Highland Show. While they also have shown Galloway cattle, Scotch Halfbredsheep and commercial sheep, it is their North Country Cheviots they are renowned for.

Flocks from both farms have picked up championship rosettes up and down the UK. Jimmy and Willie’s sustained attention to the finer points of both the Park and Hill types of the North Country Cheviot breed has seen them take not only the overall Champion at the Royal Highland Show on numerous occasions, but also the Interbreed championship four times, the reserve three times, and the Queen’s Cup in 2010. 

Alongside this, they have also sponsored the sheep interbreed pairs competition at the Show for three years and been awarded the John Miller Trophy, Fife and Kinross Gold Cup.

2019 was a fantastic year for the pair, with one ewe lamb selling for £4500, a new breed record for a female, and during the September tupsales at Lockerbie both sale days were topped with HownamGrange tupsselling at £6000 each.

Their breeding knowledge is reflected in the number of prestigious positions held by the pair, with Jimmy a past chair of NSA Scotland and Honorary President of NCC Society, while Willie is the current Past President of the NCC Society.

Their contribution to the North Country Cheviot breed has also recently been noted by the Scottish Farmer, which identified them as one of two families considered to be the very best of stockman in Scotland and shortlisted three of their sheep in the magazine’s Champions of the Decade competition.  

Although facing the challenge of a sale season impacted by Covid-19 restrictions, in the long term their plans are to create a future-proofed business structure for the next generation, should they wish to continue the family’s successful farming legacy.

Willie commented on their win: 

The award is as big as it can get in our opinion. To be recognised and win such a prestigious award for breeding livestock is a real honour, especially since it is our passion and something which we get a good deal of pleasure from. There have been some amazing livestock producers who have won the award in the past and to be in that company is overwhelming.”


Adding his congratulations, Bill Gray, RHASS Chairman said: “It was a pleasure to visit the farms and be shown around by Jimmy and Willie who were naturally delighted to receive this prestigious award. Their success at the Royal Highland Show over the years has been impressive and to win the Sir William Young Award for breeding excellence is a fitting tribute. On behalf of RHASS, I would like to add my congratulations to Jimmy and Willie and their families – it is very much a team effort.”

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