Footed it back to Wick, and there terminated my walk, having measured, step by step, full seven hundred miles since I left London, counting in the divergences from a straight line which I had made. In the evening I addressed a large and intelligent audience which had been convened at short notice, and I never stood up before one with such peculiar satisfaction as in that North-star town of Scotland. I had travelled nearly the whole distance incog., without hearing my own name on a pair of human lips for weeks. To lay aside this embargo and to speak to such a large congregation, face to face, was like coming back again into the great communions of humanity after a long and private fellowship with the secluded quietudes of Nature.
At four p.m. the next day, I took the Thurso coach and passed over in the night the whole distance that had occupied me a week in travelling by staff. Stopped a night in Inverness, another at Elgin, and spent the Sabbath with my friend, Anthony Cruickshank, at Sittyton, about fifteen miles north of Aberdeen.
ANTHONY CRUICKSHANK—THE GREATEST HERD OF SHORTHORNS IN THE WORLD— RETURN TO LONDON AND TERMINATION OF MY TOUR.
Sittyton designates hardly a village in Aberdeenshire, but it has become a point of great interest to the agricultural world—a second Babraham. In this quiet, rural district, Anthony Cruickshank, a quiet, modest, meek-voiced member of the Society of Friends, "generally called Quakers," has made a history and a great enterprise of vast value to the world. He is one of those four- handed but one-minded men who, with a pair to each, build up simultaneously two great businesses so symmetrically that you would think they gave their whole intellect, will and genius to one. Anthony Cruickshank, the Quaker of Sittyton, has made but little more noise in the world than Nature makes in building up some of her great and beautiful structures. His footsteps were so light and gentle that few knew that he was running at all, until they saw him lead the racers by a head at the end of the course. The world is wide, and dews of every temperature fall upon its meadow and pasture lands. Vast regions are fresh and green all the year round, yielding food for cattle seemingly in the best conditions created for their growth and perfection. The highest nobility and gentry of this and other countries are giving to the living statuary of these animals that science, taste and genius which the most enthusiastic artists are giving to the still but speaking statuary of the canvas. The competition in this cultivation of animal life is wide and eager, and spreading fast over Christendom; emperors, kings, princes, dukes and belted barons are on the lists. Antipodean agriculturists meet in the great international concours of cattle, horses, sheep and swine. Never was royal blood or the inheritance of a crown threaded through divergent veins to its source with more care and pride than the lineage of these four-footed "princes" and "princesses," "dukes" and "duchesses," and "knights" and "ladies" of the stable and pasture. No peerage ever kept a more jealous heraldry than the herd-book of this great quadruped noblesse. The world, by consent, has crowned the Shorthorn Durham as the best blood that ever a horned animal carried in its veins. Princely connoisseurs and amateurs, and all the dilettanti as well as practical agriculturists of Christendom, are giving more thought to the perfection and perpetuation of this blood than to any other name and breed. Still—and this distinction is crowned with double merit by the fact—Anthony Cruickshank, draper of Aberdeen, has worked his way, gradually and noiselessly, to the very head and front of the Shorthorn knighthood of the world. While pursuing the occupation to which he was bred with as much assiduity and success as if it had every thought and activity which a man should give to a business, he built up, at a considerable distance from his warehouse, an enterprise of an entirely different nature, to a magnitude which no other man has ever equalled. He now owns the largest herd of Shorthorns in the world, breeding and feeding them to the highest perfection in the cold and naturally unfertile county of Aberdeen, which no man of less patience and perseverance would select as the ground on which to enter the lists against such an array of competitors in Great Britain and other countries. I regret that my Notes have already expanded to such a volume as to preclude a more extended account of his operations in this great field of usefulness. A few simple facts will suffice to give the reader an approximate idea of what he has done in this department.
About the year 1825, young Cruickshank was put to a Friends' school in Cumberland. He was a farmer's son, and seems to have conceived a great fancy for cattle from childhood. A gentleman resided not far from the school, who was an owner and amateur of Shorthorns, and Anthony would frequently spend his half-holidays with him, inspecting and admiring his herd, and asking him questions about their qualities and his way of treating them. From this school he was sent as an apprentice to a trading establishment in Edinburgh, and at the end of his term set up business for himself as a draper in Aberdeen. All through this period he carried with him his first interest in cattle-culture, but was unable to make a beginning in it until 1837, when he purchased a single Shorthorn cow in the county of Durham, and soon afterward two other animals of the same blood. These constituted the nucleus of his herd at Sittyton. One by one he added other animals of the same stock, purchased in different parts of England, Ireland and Scotland. With these accessions by purchase, and from natural increase, his herd grew rapidly and prospered finely, so that he was obliged to add field to field and farm to farm to produce feed for such a number of mouths. In a few years he reached his present maximum which he does not wish to exceed. That is, his herd now averages annually three hundred head of this noble and beautiful race of animals, or the largest number of them owned by any one man in the world. In 1841, he announced his first sale of young bulls, and every year since that date has put up at public auction the male progeny of the herd. These sales usually take place in the first week of October, and are attended by from 300 to 500 persons from all parts of the kingdom. After carefully inspecting the various lots, they adjourn to a substantial luncheon at twelve o'clock, and at one p.m. they repair to the sale ring and the bidding begins in good earnest, and the auctioneer's hammer falls quick and often, averaging about a minute and a half to each lot. Thus the forty lots of young bulls from six to ten months old are passed away, averaging from 33 to 44 guineas each. Besides these, from fifty to sixty young bulls, cows and heifers are disposed of by private sale during the season, ranging from 50 to 150 guineas, going to buyers from all parts of the world.
It is Mr. Cruickshank's well-matured opinion, resulting from long experience and observation, that there is no breed of cattle so easily maintained in good condition as the Shorthorns. His are fed on pasture grass from the 1st of May to the middle of October, lying in the open field night and day. In the winter they are fed entirely on oat-straw and turnips. Not a handful of hay or of meal is given them. The calves are allowed to suck their dams at pleasure. He is convinced that with this simple system of feeding, together with the bracing air of Aberdeenshire, he has obtained a tribe of animals of hardy and robust constitutions, of early maturity, well calculated to improve the general stock of the country.
It was to me a delight to see this, the greatest herd of Shorthorns in the world, numbering animals of apparently the highest perfection to which they could attain under human treatment. What a court and coterie of "princes," "dukes," "knights" and "ladies" those stables contained—creatures that would not have dishonored higher names by wearing them! I was pleased to find that Republics and their less pretentious titles were not excluded from the goodly fellowship of this short-horned aristocracy. There was one grand and noble bull called "President Lincoln," not only, I fancy, out of respect to "Honest Old Abe," but also in reference to the disposition and capacities of the animal. Truly, if let loose in some of our New England fields, he would prove himself a tremendous "railsplitter."
After spending a quiet Sabbath with this old friend and host at his farm-house at Sittyton, I took the train for Edinburgh and had a week of the liveliest enjoyment in that city, attending the meetings of the Social Science Congress. There I saw and heard for the first time the venerable Lord Brougham, also men and women of less reputation, but of equal heart and will to serve their kind and country. I had intended to make a separate chapter on these meetings and another on the re-unions of the British Association at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, but the space to which this volume must be limited precludes any notice of these most interesting and important gatherings. Stopping at different points on the way, I reached London about the middle of October, having occupied just four months in my northern tour; bringing back a heartful of sunny memories of what I had seen and enjoyed.