Prior to the widespread adoption of the tractor, the Clydesdale Horse was the power plant in farming. For generations, these magnificent animals were used in a variety of applications, from working the soil to hauling all manner of goods. Many of the farmers in the Carse of Stirling were enthusiastic breeders of the Clydesdale and more than a few were highly respected within the industry.
It was the skills of one such breeder that produced a world famous animal - The Clydesdale stallion known as The Baron o' Buchlyvie.
Born on the 16th May, 1900, the Baron o' Buchlyvie was bred by William McKeich of Woodend Farm, Buchlyvie. McKeich was a well-known and respected breeder of heavy horses with the finest Clydesdale blood in his stock.
At Doune Show in 1901, Clydesdale breeder James Kilpatrick saw a yearling being exhibited by William McKeich. It didn’t impress too many people at the show but Kilpatrick saw its potential. He tried to buy it there and then but McKeich, also an astute horse trader, refused Kilpatrick’s offer. An improved offer a few weeks later was also turned down.
As the animal grew, he began to win prizes at agricultural shows and, after his win at Aberdeen in 1902, Kilpatrick approached McKeich once again and attemped to buy him.
This time he was successful.
This horse was, of course, the Baron o' Buchlyvie and he changed ownership for £700. At that time, this sum was well in excess of the normal price for a horse of that age. The Baron was well on his way to becoming the most famous Clydesdale of his time and one of the greatest breeding stallions.
Two Ayrshire men, James Kilpatrick from Craigie Mains, Symington and James Dunlop of Dunure Mains, Dunure were destined to become involved with the Baron.
James Kilpatrick was born in Dumfries-shire and moved to Symington to be raised by his grandfather and uncle. Craigie Mains was primarily known for breeding Ayrshire cattle, but on the death of his grandfather in the 1880’s, his uncle decided to start a Clydesdale stud.
James quickly learned about the breeding, grooming and showing of these horses. Soon his animals were winning the top prizes at shows around the country.
On the death of his uncle, James, (then 31), took over the running of the stud. Time and again the Craigie Mains entries took first prize at these highly competitive shows and the stud became the biggest prize-winner in the history of the Clydesdale Society. The horses from Craigie Mains were in demand not only in Scotland but also throughout the world.
William Dunlop of Dunure Mains had been involved with Clydesdales since his boyhood. In 1897 he bought two good mature stallions and a fine brood mare with which he established Dunure Mains as a stud. From then on he devoted himself to buying, selling and exhibiting horses. He travelled the length and breadth of Britain in his quest for outstanding stock.
He was recognised as an excellent judge of Clydesdales and within ten years his horses were winning the breed’s major honours.
Despite his admiration for the Baron, Kilpatrick sold a half share of the horse to William Dunlop of Dunure Mains, Dunure. Although rivals in the show ring the men were friendly and each respected the knowledge and expertise of the other. The details of the transaction were kept secret and as a consequence, everyone believed that Kilpatrick was still the sole owner of the Baron.
To this day, the reason for the split ownership is unknown.
One theory relates to an earlier event where a stallion from Kilpatrick was sold to Dunlop. Unfortunately, the animal died shortly after purchase and as a way of upholding the good name of the Craigie Mains Stud, Dunlop was offered a half share of the Baron as compensation.
An alternative theory suggests that Kilpatrick had overstretched himself when he paid such a high price for the Baron. The sale of the half share to Dunlop may have been an attempt to recover £350 from the original figure of £700. Perhaps this was intended as a short term arrangement and Dunlop could be compensated at a later time as the horse would recoup much of its investment through stud fees.
These theories are considered to be the two front-runners to explain the joint-ownership, but both are based on mere speculation. The deal was conducted in secret, and the circumstances surrounding it have never been revealed.
The Baron was kept at Symington and developed into a fine three-year-old. In 1903 the horse won the top prize at Ayr, Kilmarnock and Glasgow shows. It had filled out into the stallion that Kilpatrick had envisaged two years previously and now stood at stud at Craigie Mains. As a sire he had his finest hour at Inverness where his sons took the first four places in the show while a two-year-old filly by him also won in her class.
During this early period, half the stud fees were transferred into Dunlop's bank account and the venture appeared to be a highly successful affair for both men. However, this arrangement was not destined to last.
In time, Dunlop approached Kilpatrick and conveyed his desire to be the sole owner of the Baron and would he consider selling his half of the horse? Initially Kilpatrick refused, but eventually, to the surprise of those people close to him, agreed to sell. Like the first agreement about the horse, the details were discussed in secret. After this first meeting, the Baron was delivered to Dunlop at Dunure Mains where he stood as a stud stallion.
A fortnight later, on Ayr's market day, the two men met in the Tam o' Shanter Inn to finalise the plans for the horse's ownership. James Kilpatrick confirmed he would sell his half-share of the horse for £2,000 (a figure he maintained had been agreed at their previous meeting). Dunlop complained that this was not the case and insisted that £2,000 was the full value of the horse and therefore, he should pay Kilpatrick £1,000. Neither side would budge from this difference of opinion and the deal was called off.
Both men parted company as the continued joint owners of the stallion.
In 1904 Kilpatrick was paid £250 by Dunlop, a sum he took to be his half-share of the Baron’s stud fees for the season. Dunlop however, saw things differently and vaguely attributed the money to an ‘unrelated matter’. He then laid claim to the sole ownership of the horse and as such was not required to pay Kilpatrick any further.
For the following three years, Kilpatrick received no money from Dunlop. Any record of a lump sum being made to Kilpatrick could not substantiate the sole ownership statement by Dunlop and eventually, Kilpatrick informed Dunlop that legal proceedings were being instituted to sort out the true ownership of the horse once and for all. When the trial started, the case became famous in both legal and agricultural history.
In Edinburgh at the Court of Session, Lord Skerrington found in favour of James Kilpatrick and stated that half the stud fees dating from 1904 were to be paid to him. In his Lordship’s eyes William Dunlop owned only half the stallion.
Dunlop immediately appealed to the Inner House of the Court of Session. Lord Skerrington’s original decision was reversed and the Court ruled in favour of Dunlop.
Kilpatrick was not finished in his quest for justice and took his case to the House of Lords. He was vindicated in that Lord Skerrington’s original decision was reinstated. The Lord Chancellor in his judgement stated: "I am seldom called upon to decide a case in which I had felt so strongly that on one side or the other there had been abominable wickedness." As well as the outstanding stud fees the Lord Chancellor awarded costs of well over £2,000 against Dunlop. This final judgement suited neither man, as the Baron was still deemed to be jointly owned.
After lengthy discussions with their lawyers, it was agreed that the horse would be offered for sale by public auction. Both men would be entitled to bid and if successful, own the horse outright. The sale would take place on 14th December 1911 at the Ayr Cattle Market.
On the day of the sale, the ongoing publicity ensured the market had crowds far beyond expectations. Long before the time of the auction, the ring was filled with hundreds of farmers, horse breeders and buyers, as well as ordinary members of the public. An even greater number of people were outside the ring, which prompted auctioneer James Craig to suggest if the sale was held in the open more people could take part.
Dunlop strongly objected to this, insisting that the sale would go ahead as arranged.
The next hold-up was when it was realised that a special train carrying potential buyers, reporters and members of the public was running slightly late. At exactly one o’clock, the Baron was brought into the ring to the admiration and applause of the crowd.
Mr Craig delayed the sale for a further ten minutes to accommodate the late arrivals - and then, in an atmosphere of tense excitement, the auction started at ten minutes past one.
"I am sorry the entertainment will likely be short, but I am quite sure it will be very interesting", said Mr Craig in asking for an opening bid.
Alexander Rennie of Paisley offered a maiden bid of £3,000. Dunlop raised this by £100 and the bidding soon reached £4,000. At this stage Kilpatrick entered the bidding.
Both Rennie and Dunlop retired, and an unknown bidder in the gallery and Kilpatrick forced the bids up. When £5,000 was reached there was a round of cheering from the crowd. This was repeated when Kilpatrick put in a bid of £6,000. With the price still rising in £100 bids it was Kilpatrick who called £7,000.
The fight for ownership continued until the figure of £8,700 was bid by the stranger in the gallery.
Kilpatrick seemed reluctant to go any further. Twice the auctioneer asked him before he bid another £100. The stranger quickly responded with another £100 bid and Kilpatrick followed with a bid that took the figure to £9,000.
A further spurt of bidding saw the stranger in the gallery make a bid that took the price to £9,500...
The auctioneer asked for any further bids... none were forthcoming.
With a sharp clap of his gavel, the Baron was sold to the bidder in the gallery. The sale had lasted for twenty minutes and now, the question on everyone’s lips was, "Who is the new owner?"
In the early 1900’s £1 had the same buying power as £72 in 2014. Obtained from www.measuringwealth.com
When the Baron was purchased in 1902 for £700, this sum would be equivalent to just over £50,000 today.
During the initial disagreement over the value of the Baron, £2,000 at the time is equivalent to £144,000 today. This is a large sum and of course, £1,000 was half of this value - hence the failure to agree on one or the other.
When he matured, the Baron paid his way from stud fees. At the height of his career, he earned £60 each time he was put to a mare, and a further £60 should the union prove fruitful. £60 equates to approximately £4,300 today.
He averaged around two hundred and fifty offspring a year, from an estimated four hundred coverings.
As only a part of the year was possible for this activity, the Baron appears to have been vigorous, fruitful and the source of a very significant income to the joint owners
When he was sold at Ayr in 1911, the final bid was reported as £9,500 and this is equivalent to approximately £680,000 in today’s money.
Dunlop returned half of this value to Kilpatrick - but he also had to pay the renumeration of £2,000 (and half the stud fees for 6 years as well). This would have equated to £6,750 plus the amount due for the stud fees (unknown) and would easily have exceeded £500,000 today.
As the throng subsided, Mr Craig announced that the horse had been bought for Mr Dunlop of Dunure Mains. It transpired that when Dunlop dropped out, the mysterious stranger had been bidding for him. No-one could prove otherwise but it was strongly suspected that on the occasions when Kilpatrick stopped bidding he also had someone bidding on his behalf - if not to secure the horse but at least to raise the value of his half-share.
The price of £9,500 was by far the highest that had ever been paid for a Clydesdale stallion. The previous highest was £3,000 paid in a private sale by a Sir John Gilmour.
It was, in a way, an extremely costly victory for Dunlop. He had retained the ownership of the Baron but owed Kilpatrick £4,750 for his half-share of the sale. In addition, there was the costs of £2,000 awarded by the Lord Chancellor plus half the stud fees for the previous six years. Kilpatrick, with his good name still intact, had much more reason to be satisfied over the episode than Dunlop.
For the Baron, the pawn in the whole affair, his career as the leading Clydesdale stallion was to continue for another two and a half years.
In 1914, tradgedy struck when the Baron received a kick from a mare that broke his nearside foreleg.
Then (as now) Veterinary Science had no effective treatment for this type of injury and sadly, the poor Baron had to be put to sleep.
He was laid to rest in the rose garden at Dunure Mains.
At a time when Clydesdales were so common, the Baron was legendary.
He represented the peak of perfection in the breed and was known and held in high regard by the countless masses who worked every day with these gentle giants.
Such was the admiration and love for the Baron that grown men were seen openly weeping at the mere mention of his passing.
Long after his death, this much-loved animal continued to attract attention, and four years later, his remains were exhumed and the skeleton was put on display at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow.
The exhibit is still there to this day.
James Kilpatrick continued to run Craigie Mains until his death in 1956 at the age of 91. During his long career with Clydesdales he won many of the highest awards in the show rings and has the distinction of winning the prestigious Cawdor Cup outright three times. His peers also honoured him on many occasions for his work with the breed.
William Dunlop disposed of his horses between 1917 and 1920 and retired from farming. He bought and ran a restaurant in Glasgow but this venture lasted only a short time. Dunlop however, did retain an interest in Clydesdales and, because of his extensive knowledge of the breed, was a popular judge at shows throughout the country. He moved south to Rugby where he lived until his death in 1937.
So, what happened to the relationship between the two men? Did they take their disagreement to their graves?
On one of Dunlop’s visits north to judge at a Show, some old mutual friends of both Dunlop and Kilpatrick contrived to bring both men together again. It was the considerable efforts of a Mr. Butler, of Dickens & Butler, who brought Dunlop to meet Kilpatrick. Twenty-two years had passed since both men last spoke to each other.
Quite a celebration was made of the reconciliation by all concerned and as a result, Dunlop and Kilpatrick remained good friends until Dunlop’s death some twelve years later.
The Clydesdale breed, once used throughout the world and numbered in the millions was in danger of extinction by the 1960s. It was placed on the Rare breed's Survival Trust's list of Protected Animals.
Thankfully, owing to the fine work of specialist studs throughout the country, the future seems secure for these noble giants.