We re-traced drovers footsteps with real life cattle along an ancient drovers route out of Knockengorroch farm to Bellsbank, where they would have stopped off on their way to market in Ayr. From this journey we have created a film, a photographic body of work, an original piece of music and a series of community events.
The relationship between Scotland’s people, their land and their cattle stretches back many hundreds of years. Cattle are indigenous to this island and were once the lifeblood and wealth of the country. In an upland landscape where growing crops on high ground and living without meat in the harsh winter months were not viable options, cattle were sacred to the people. Human and beast necessarily formed a relationship that predated the economic. In later years, and after the Act of Union in 1707, this developed into a highly lucrative trade for Scotland, which formed the backbone of the economy until the arrival of the railways in the mid 19th century and the decline of small scale crofts.
In an increasingly urbanised world, contact with the rural landscape, and understanding of how humans dwell in it, is increasingly a mystery to most of the population. The countryside is seen as something to be looked at, to be preserved in some pristine state of being.
At the same time, amongst social movements to ‘return to the land’ the relationship with these beasts, that humans have co-existed with for centuries, has been relatively un-explored. The project will look at the significance of walking with cattle, as humans have done throughout history and still do throughout the world.
Our drove, one small journey in a corner of Scotland, becomes representative of many pertinent issues facing us today.
A short film, body of photography and musical piece are on display at the Doon Valley Museum, Dalmellington, S Ayrshire until 31 January. The exhibition was due to move to the Catstrand in New Galloway on 2 February however due to severe flooding at the Catstrand this has had to be delayed. More information on where it will next show soon.
‘Faced with an ecological crisis whose roots lie in this disengagement, in the separation of human agency and social responsibility from the sphere of our direct involvement with the non-human environment, it surely behoves us to reverse this order of priority… while both humans and animals have histories of their mutual relations, only humans narrate such histories. But to construct a narrative, one must already dwell in the world and, in the dwelling, enter into relationships with its constituents, both human and non-human. I am suggesting that we rewrite the history of human-animal relations, taking this condition of active engagement, of being-in-the-world, as our starting point. We might speak of it as a history of human concern with animals, insofar as this notion conveys a caring, attentive regard, a ‘being with’. And I am suggesting that those of us who are ‘with’ animals in their day-to-day lives, most notably hunters and herdsmen, can offer us some of the best possible indications of how we might proceed.”
― Tim Ingold, The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill