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Borders Union Agricultural Society Bicentenary

HRH Countess of Wessex receives a posey from Lottie Wilson.

The BUAS Bicentenary Luncheon: HRH Countess of Wessex receives a posy from Lottie Wilson, granddaughter of BUAS member Ron Wilson.

A Celebration of Agricultural and Rural Life


2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the Borders Agriculture Society (now the Borders Union Agricultural Society). In fact the formation of the society can be pinned down to the 22nd January 1813, when a small group of local landowners met in the Cross Keys Hotel in Kelso to discuss how they might further the agricultural cause and promote a more scientific approach to farming.


At this time, the dawn of the 19th Century, farming was undergoing a dramatic transformation, the agricultural revolution that commenced in the mid-1700s was gaining momentum, scientific knowledge acquired during the Enlightenment era was now being widely adopted; the old runrig systems of subsistence farming were abandoned, larger swathes of land protected by hedgerows were brought into production and higher yielding crops like barley were planted.


Farmers were required to feed a growing and increasingly urban population; between 1750 and 1780, the population of Glasgow alone had almost doubled. Societies like the BUAS played a critical role in responding to these pressures, disseminating knowledge and driving innovation at grass roots.


The first President of the BAS was James, the 5th Duke of Roxburghe, and under his stewardship members were charged 1 guinea, monies then used to fund prizes “for the best stock of different kinds, for discoveries in agriculture, with regard to tillage, or the management of Grass Lands, and for new and improved implements of Husbandry.”


The society established proper livestock markets and in 1836 held the first Ram Sale in Kelso, a landmark event that continues, annually to this day and remains one of the world’s most significant events of its kind.


The BUAS will mark the bicentenary with a year long programme of events and the celebrations got underway this week on the 22nd of January with a lunch, attended by Guest of Honour, the Countess of Wessex, BUAS Bicentenary Patron.


Archie and Karen Hume attended the event and later said:

“There was a real spirit of community at the event, a pride in our rural economy and the vibrancy of local farming.  We’re looking forward to being part of the celebrations in 2013, the BUAS has contributed hugely to Borders life over the past 200 years and continue to play an important role in the local economy.”


Fordyce Maxwell spoke at the lunch and noted the experience for The Scotsman under the heading ‘The first rule of public speaking – never be antagonistic in the wrong setting.’


Plans for the celebrations include:


  • Curling Bonspiel on Friday 15th February
  • The Championship Dog Show on 15th & 16th June
  • The Border Union Show on 26th & 27th July plus Working Plots / Tweed Basin / Wool / Food
  • The Cydectin Kelso Ram Sales on Friday 13th September
  • An “End of Year Ball” on Saturday 18th January 2014
  • A Commemorative Book
  • Bursaries and Awards: a Nuffield Scholar every second year with two smaller bursaries in the alternate years for young management talent –gamekeeper, ghillie, top chef student, shepherd, etc.
  • Links with Young Farmers and Schools in raising awareness of rural crafts, local agriculture and opportunities in the local communities.
  • Bicentenary Tie, Bicentenary Scarf, Bicentenary Rug, Bicentenary Cairn, Bicentenary Time Capsule.
  • Bicentenary Limited Edition Whisky (200 bottles) – 20 bottles of 21 Year Old Speyside Malt (one per Decade)


Obviously the 2013 BUAS Show in July promises to be especially splendid. In a coup for the organizers, internationally acclaimed chefs from the Roux dynasty have been brought together thanks to the efforts of locally born chef, Glen Watson. Led by Watson, now a Consultant Chef to Albert Roux, star chefs including, Albert Roux (La Gavroche), Andrew Fairlie (Gleneagles), Tom Kitchin (The Kitchin) and Derek Johnstone – Winner of Professional Masterchef in 2008 (Greywalls), will appear at the show; the culinary highlight being a Borders Banquet prepared with Border Chefs and their students on the Friday evening.


There is a special BUAS Bicentenary Fund to promote legacy work with schools and young people, with the aim of promoting future talent in agriculture and rural life.


As part of this planning the BUAS will invite, with the support of the Royal Highland Education Trust and Scottish Borders Education Department, all P5 (ten year old) children for an education day to be held on 21st May 2013. The theme of the day is ‘Farm to Fork, Field to Plate, and Soil to Supper.’


The BUAS is also funding, in association with the Border Chef School, a bursary worth £6,000 to train in Roux restaurant.


For further information on the BUAS Bicentenary celebrations please contact: