It was the day of the annual Tup Sale at Oban Livestock Market, just out of Oban on the road to Kilmartin. In days gone by before Tescos, before William Lows, Oban Market was at Lochavullin and there were so many tups for sale in the one day that there were 2 rings on the go at any one time both selling single tups pot by lot. Ironically yesterday the site of the old mart, the Tescos car park, was waist deep in water, due to biblical amounts of rain over the previous few days!
Our journey started unexpectedly when the back axle of the truck went, a few miles out of Salen. Luckily we had left enough time and were able to limp, very slowly, to just the other side of Salen where we knew we could leave it, and arrange for the insurance recovery to pick it up and take it to Tobermory. We were able to contact J who was also on his way to the ferry and he kindly gave us a lift.
It was the first sunny day we had had and such a relief from the heavy rain of the last few days. Farmer's new rain gauge (a Christmas present) showed that between 2pm on Monday and 1pm on Tuesday we had 60mm of rain! Yuck!
The car deck was full of livestock trailers. The cafeteria was busy with farmers having breakfast and catching up on the news. I arranged breakdown recovery - and phoned to explain to the recovery driver what the story was.
Every year we need to buy new tups in order to ensure that the tups are not breeding with their daughters. So there is a steady flow on and off the farm of new and old tups. In the past we have bought from Lanark, from Fort William, from Dingwall and privately from other farms on Mull. This is the first time we have been to the tup sale in Oban.
It was initially disappointing to see there were only about 50 Blackface tups in the catalogue. The atmosphere at a tup sale is quite different from a ewe or lamb sale. For a start the numbers of sheep is far smaller at a tup sale. The number of buyers at a tup sale is obviously much higher as individual farmers and crofters all need new tups. So whilst there may not be a huge number of sheep in the pens it is lively and sociable. You end up seeing other island and Argyll farmers you may only see once a year.
Farmer managed to bid on 2 Blackface tups and was pleased with the prices. On to the Cheviots and he was hoping to get 3 or 4. He had an idea of which farms he wanted to get them from, and all you can then do is hope the prices don't go over our budget. Armed with a note of the lot numbers he was interested in Farmer started to bid. By the end of it he thought he had bought 4 Cheviots and happily went off to pay for them. In the office he was told he had only bought 3. He paid for them and once our tups were loaded into our neighbours trailer we headed down to the ferry.
Just as we arrived at the pier J whose tup we thought we had bought got a call from the mart saying that V Carrington hadn't taken his tup - or paid for it! For some reason it transpires that V Carrington is Farmer! So there we were, in the middle of the queue to load on the ferry, being told we had one more tup... In the end they told him they would deliver it to Mull tomorrow in a lorry that was coming over to collect calves. Phew! Though collecting it without the truck would be interesting!! We would just have to worry about that later.
All that sorted, it was wonderfully sunny and we sat in the warm late afternoon sun having a coffee from the wonderful Food from Argyll Cafe on the pier.
Our neighbour kindly delivered us and our new tups to the door, just in time for a stunning sunset. Later on we went to supper in Toechtamhor and were treated to a fantastic aurora. It was interesting standing outside with everyone sharing the colours they were seeing. I realised that my eyes really don't pick up the colours very well compared to some people. Perhaps that is why I love using the camera so much. I could see the green but not the pinks and reds or blues that others could see.