How I met my first Border Collie

.I grew up in the country living in the Three Fishes pub in Gt. Mitton with a black Labrador and two cats, I used to visit Mr. Laycocks farm next door, this is probably were my interest in farming comes from. Later we moved near to Whalley.

At age of 13 I had a pony and kept it at the Laycocks farm. I knew I wanted to be a farmer this is when I met Lassie a tri-coloured border collie owned by Mr Allan Laycock.

Lassie was my first collie, I had to train her but I did not have much idea of what to do, Allan ran two other dogs Nell and Ruby, Lassie was a bit of a reject. Allan had large mule flock and fattened barley beef herd.

After finishing school at 15 I was working part time milking at weekends on an old fashioned farm with no pipeline for this I received 36½ pence per hour, I eventually left and did not bother to collect my last months wages as I thought they were so “hard up”.

At the age of 16 I got a trial bike and used it to get to work since I was fed up with peddling to to work. So I went full time on a large dairy farm they also had sheep, one day while scything thistles the son of the farm arrived with a dog he had purchased from a local sale, he pulled out the written instructions, sent the dog off into a large woody misshaped field, followed by a bundle of commands, neither were seen again until milking time.

As time went on and I moved again to a third dairy farm, working for the Chapman family who ran an Ayrshire herd for Lord Clitheroe. Deborah (Deb) one of his daughters became my best friend and still is.

I then went onto Agricultural collage to do a national diploma in Agriculture. After this I went back to milking and change the trial bike for a Bedford van it was an ex British Telecom finished in yellow.

Deb and Lassie

Deb and Lassie

When I was 17 I bought my first litter of border collies from a local dairy farmer, it was an unwanted litter of his, I eventually sold them on. With this money I rented buildings to run my own livestock rearing business and to keep me company a couple of Jack Russells from Deb's brother. I bought another litter of Collies and sold on the females the three boys I called all three of them “Adleigh” after a friends good farm dog that loved eating potatoes.

The three Adleighs
The three Adleighs

I moved to Waddington village and rented building off a farmer, this is were I reared my three dogs. Recall was easy all I had to say was Adleigh “that ull do” (and all three came, since they all had the same name) I then sold all of them ( then a local farmer asked me to train his dog and he would give me 50% of what ever I sold it for )

For my 18th my father bough me my first love in vehicles a M registered hard top Land rover I named him “Tommy” after a few years I got “Tommy 2nd”

After a stint at being an agricultural contractor I was missing the animals so I went back to calf rearing and worked closely with Bill Miller a well know local trialist, also a calf dealer, blue face Leisters breeder, and also ran Swaledales for mule breeding; it was seeing Bill run his dogs that I realised the potential of a well trained Border Collie Bill gave me a dog of my own and on her first running attempt she went off down the hill side to a neighbours flock of pedigree Suffolk and cornered them, I ran flat out to recapture my dog and fell into a brook, red faced and panting and blubbering I shouted “I am bloody wet now” my friend Deb was on hand to roll about laughing at me. I blurted out “that ull do”, by this time Bill Miller had disappeared back into the house. I retrieved the dog and checked If the sheep were fine and rushed back hoping that the neighbour who owned the sheep was not around.


I kept good friends with Bill Miller over the years and was with him the night before he passed away, I knew his first wife and then Margaret his second wife she was kind enough to give me his dog training book collection some of them very rare which I still treasure dearly. The Winston Cap picture she gave to Robin Dean.


I met my husband Simon “to be” just one week before he left for six months trip to Australia, he was a farmers son and was off to try his hand farming over there. When he came home we soon married and lived at the family farm on Waddington Fell called "Hodgson Moor" 180 acres of (very wet and rushes moor land ) 1200ft at the top of the fell. My father in law gave me a Border Collie called "Ged" he was an unregistered dog and he spent most of his time playing football with Simon younger brother at the home farm. I still had a Jack Russell called Lemie also a Rhodesian ridge back called Yasmin and a horse called Sovereign an Irish draught thoroughbred. My husbands family were very horsey, hunting and training race horses. To add to the flock we had two children Haward and Jade and the usual rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, hens, runner ducks and a 10 hand Leopard Appaloosa Pony who on occasion was ridden into the farm house and then later a Lancashire Heeler joined us called Jovie (she stayed on to live with John Silverwood after we left for Canada).

Ged and I finishing off shearing
Ged and I finishing off shearing

Selling Ewes at the last sale of Clitheroe auction
Lifetime friends Andrew & Jim Collange
also Lemmie the Jack Russell

Milking was done at the lower farm and the flock size was nearly 500 ewes mixed hill types and mules. When Ged was 12 months old I took him along to the Agricultural Training Board dog handling course at Michael Corthwait farm in Bolton by Bowland where Mark France ran the ATB courses,

it was here that Harold Walker introduced himself, he was the man in the Tony Liey book “Sheepdogs at work” he was a long time Sheppard and dog runner, he saw great potential in Ged and a natural initiative and empathy towards training the dog in me.

Just for interest

My training skills developed helped by Ged who had great qualities, natural lining dog with plenty of controlled push a dog who learnt after only being shown once and never a quitter and put up with my lack of knowledge in sheep handling, he was with me for 13 years. And as they say “each year a dog is dead he gets better” it is the time, knowledge and experience you gain later that you begin to appreciate what working qualities some of your previous dogs had.

A local farmer asked me to train a dog called Pip, which later I bought off him, unregistered wide out runner, I bred Pip and Ged then later Pip with Bill Millers Roy. I went on to buy my first registered bitch Mona by P. Turnbulls' Nap, and Bute by Nap too and then Trim by Hilston Snap. I also bought and 8 month old grandson of Bwlch Taff called Shep. Later I met Glyn Jones I became a good friend of theirs. 


Shep I trained and trialled him and eventually sold him fully seasoned to a guy in Scotland, my first fat cheque, but also it was bitter sweet I felt guilty as he had done me no wrong and I sold him.... I call it dirty money.


Me gathering with Shep

Harold Walker encouraged me to start Marley Sheepdog Training Centre. I later became a registered instructor for the Agricultural Training Board, training groups and continuing to train privately I was surprised that I always had a three month waiting list. I kept note of every dog and its potential so if the owner every rang back I could discuss the methods used for their particular dog and the certain characteristics that showed up in some of the breed lines.


I became friends with Gerald and Hazel Lewis when they bought my bitch Maid by Bill Millers Roy and after he trialled her in this country she went to Texas.

Two more that I had trained for other UK clients also were sold to the U.S and a Marley Pat female.

Winford Japp Pam Kent Gerald Lewis
Winford Japp Pam Kent Gerald Lewis
Viv Billingham at Moffit 1996
Viv Billingham at Moffit 1996

My son Haward took up his own dog and with guidance although I may have been a bit hard on him. He bought trained and sold three dogs. He brought back a 12 month old bitch out of Mona by R Feilding “Mac” she was called Marley Kate he trialled her and used for gathering work.

I was most happiest when gathering unfortunately no one ever sees your best runs, but I will always appreciate the loyalty and heart the dogs gave me unconditionally executing commands at great distance in rough terrain hail wind and snow many times out of my sight. On some gathers I would stand up on a Land Rover roof encouraging my whistle to carry over the wind to indicate to the dog whatever you gather up push forward as I would sometimes be travelling parallel, and out of the gully they would come dog in charge. My belief in training is to never take away the dogs own ability to us its own initiative, and to see how over the months and years the dogs got to know the gathers was amazing I could still get lost on some gathers and Mr. Westall would scratch out a map on a rock to jog my memory for when we went our separate ways on the moor.


John Westall

We bought 100 acres at Hodgson moor. Simon worked out driving heavy plant equipment. I continued to train dogs and established our 250 registered Swaledale sheep, some suckles and cows; while still doing contract gatherings, shepherding and selling dog food for Guilp and Page.


Occupationally I would be wrapping fleece for local shearers, it was at this time I actually met Mr. Richard Westall as he sent me a dog to train called Zak I called him “Zak Attack”. On finding out how big his farm operation was I felt I had no business telling how to run a dog, later while working for Richard I could see that some advice was needed vast acreage on very rough terrain, running over 2500 Lonk and Lonk cross ewes. It was here I expanded my experience it is not work for the feint hearted dog or worker. Grandpa Westall a man with a tough job to do, needed a hard dog of great stamina and since no horse or quads could be used you where dropped off and had to walk. Grandpa Westall complimented my dogs and I think my stamina, as on some occasion you wished to be sacked but truthfully they looked after me, this was the toughest farms I gathered for.


At Richard Westall gathering with Marley Jill

At Richard Westall gathering with Marley Jill

"Stragging" up with Marley Jill, stamina essential as we did two gathers a day depending on which gather; some took 4 + hours, one took 6 hours, for three-four weeks (4 times a year) then "stragging" up for another one-two weeks, these were the canniest ewes. For larger gathers we both ran a brace of dog's with grandpa Westall pushing and heading off the lead groups from the road side.

I got a visit from a Guy from the USA and then later sold him one of my dogs and then visiting him we decided to move, we looked at Southern Ireland, Pennsylvania and then Canada.

In Ireland we met straight taking Norman Deacon who was also a horse jumper trainer, he took our family to be very much his family. We had three dogs by his Bran both he and his wonderful wife Lizzy who were both disappointed in our choice to settle in Canada. We loved the evenings with them drinking Whiskey and dog chats. Pennsylvania was fantastic and George Lake and his family has bought many dogs from us for his large cow and calf operation. George even wrote a poem for his German class about two of my Marley dogs. They made us part of their family but we still felt most at home in Ontario. Immigration was processed and we moved from the UK in 2001 with seven dogs and one in pup to Beechwood Bob.

Norman Deacon Bran in Co. Wicklow
Norman Deacon Bran in Co. Wicklow

After buying a 100 acres ex-dairy farm we stocked up, Simon found a job at Lavis construction, the kids settled into the new schools.

I ran a few training sessions and did some 4h groups (young farmers) and lectured for the local sheep district but stopped in 2006, sine we only had a few sheep but they gave 3.8 lambs to market. 2007 we sold our cattle and started running more sheep, now I am taking on dogs once again, we breed a few select litters and now in 2008 we have two pups GGG-Grand daughters to Hawards Marley Kate.

Kate put to sleep after she had worked sheep and in Hawards arms, he had been planning this dreaded day for some time, since the cancer was aggressive. She held up sheep in a corner while she was needled by the vet, to let her go with respect and dignity and leave us all with an affectionate memory.

Haward joined the Canadian Border Collie Association with prefix of Heardwick, I continue under Marley we have six dogs and two original Kerry out of N Deacons Bran and Jill by D. Brady Craig.


Haward and Marley Kate "2nd young handlers at Trawden open dogs trial". I was judged best kept dog.

J Vincent Fox with Roy

I have gathered for a couple of sheep farmers in Ontario one gave me Caribou meat for the help. Recently I was on the local news and my photo was on the front of the Ontario Farmer. My dog Kerry was used in some filming in Moose Jaw Saskatchewan by a Toronto company. Kerry had a son who made a master champion fly ball, not my cup of tea but well done to the owner. I brought over a print of Marley Corrie (Mona to T Bronrigg Tweed) owned by Pam Kent who was painted for this limited print in the UK with her companion Roy by Bill Miller's Roy.


Print of picture by Peter Shelburn

The Fetch a short poem by a good friend of mine written by George C Lake P.A. 2008

Catherine Laxton