It was in August 1966 that I arrived in the outskirts of Aberdeen at Craibstone Agricultural college along with fellow Shetlanders Michael Blance and Peter Farmer. Looking through my diary a journal we had to keep and record all our visits and lectures, in my entry “First Impressions of Craibstone”; stated I was amazed to see such a modernised College I expected a dormitory of about 15 boys but the living quarters were quite good, I shared a room with Peter Farmer. The sports facilities weren’t good; however there was a very good tuck shop”! I think that opening entries sums up where my priorities lay! The time table of work consisted of general practice farm work the only animals missing were sheep! There were also agricultural related visits which were supposed to cover all aspects of farming however still no sheep! Class work was in the afternoon and lectures were held at night has again covered farming in general, there were two lectures involving sheep,” Management of a Ewe Flock” and a talk and demonstration by the British Wool Marketing Board this was when I was first told that along with the Isle of Man we in Shetland were excluded from the wool marketing board! I gave that little thought at that time although I would have imagined Shetland wool producers would like to be treated similar to the U.K. mainland wool producers and received government subsidy on their wool clip.
On asking the lecturer and expert on “Management of a Ewe Flock” on his impression of Shetland sheep his reply was “of no commercial value, a bag of bones although good mothers”. No mention of the fine wool perhaps because we were not part of the Wool Marketing Board and he had no experience of the Shetland wool clip!
The course consisted of systematic lectures and tutorial classes as well as practical instruction in seasonal farm operations. Agriculture including Crop and Animal Husbandry, Farm Machinery, Surveying and Building Construction, Farm Management, Organisation, Accounting and Animal Health. In the summer of 1967 the dreaded day arrived, the start of our final exams on the fore mentioned subjects for me “two weeks I would never ever want to repeat, perhaps if I had spent less time socialising, playing football, and supporting Aberdeen F.C. I would have fared much better in my studies!) However, I was most surprised to receive a pass mark and, looking back, this was also more rewarding considering my humble island background which could not even boast a tractor.
My two years up I journeyed back home on the north boat the, St Clair, in the summer of 1967 unsure what opportunities await me, wondering like many young people who left the Isles I too would return back down south to seek employment as there were few jobs available back home.