Many people will recognise one or both of the people pictured above. Gavin Jack (in the blue shirt) was Agriculture Officer on Tristan from 1972 until 1976. Alasdair Wyllie (in the fawn shirt) was Agriculture Adviser on the island from 2016 until 2019. Between them, these two specialists have over 100 years of farming experience, gained in a wide range of environments and with all sorts of farming enterprises.
Gavin’s time on the island was his first professional employment after qualifying in agriculture at Edinburgh. He is fondly remembered by many people on Tristan, although sadly many people who worked in his team are no longer with us. Alasdair’s time on the island may well be his last professional job, since at the age of 73 he is now considering partial retirement.
The two met recently at the house that Alasdair and his wife Bee are building in Callander, in Perthshire, Scotland. Strangely enough, Gavin originally comes from Blackford, in Perthshire, just about twelve miles away from Callander, although he now lives in Australia. As may be imagined, the hours they had together were spent in some intense discussions on how things were on the island in Gavin’s time, and how they are today. Although there have been many changes in the last 40 years, these have largely been on things like electricity, television, internet and telephone. Agriculture still faces very similar challenges today to those that Gavin faced in his time there. The one area of hope is to do with the cattle now that the quota for cattle ownership has been greatly reduced – if this is accompanied by good grassland management the production from the island’s herd will be greatly improved. Sadly, there is still great progress to be made in the island production of fruit and vegetables.
Alasdair remains in touch with a number of islanders, and is continuing to help where he can. Now it is Gavin’s turn! Gavin is due to return to Tristan early in 2020, in general to help continue the work done by Alasdair and specifically to help with the planned sheep breeding programme. It is likely to be an extraordinary visit for all concerned after a gap of 44 years!
I hope very much to be able to report on Gavin’s experience on Tristan this time round, with some details of how the sheep breeding programme went as well as the overall state of agriculture now.