A third generation Yard Manager is to retire from United Auctions this month after a remarkable 50 years’ serving agricultural communities from Stirling to Lairg and across the islands.

John Stirton, a son of Stirling, has been a well-known face in the market yards of Scotland’s leading livestock auctioneers for half a century in his vital role ensuring the Company’s live auction sales run smoothly.

Since he was just 15, John would go straight from school to the old market in Stirling’s town centre to help his father Willie Stirton who was the Company’s Yard Manager and who himself had taken over the Manager role from his own father Jack Stirton – John’s grandfather.

John started working full-time in the yard when he left school at 16. After quickly working up the ranks, he became Yard Manager taking over from his father at age 27, a role he’s been fulfilling for an incredible 30 years.

He was also one of the last generation of yardmen to drove cattle and sheep from farms to market along the roads and across fields.

John Stirton said: “The Manager role was bred into me and the three-generation role will never happen in this way again. I was learning it from day one and it was all I knew. Over the years, I’ve worked in all three of the Company’s markets in Stirling. At five years old I was helping my father walk the sheep from the farm up to the market which was in the centre of the town. From 1966, I would walk stock from farms into the then new market at Kildean across the fields at Hill o’ Drip where the Stirling Agricultural Centre now sits.

“Folk may not realise the unseen work it takes to get and keep the market running well and to a high standard of cleanliness; to get the stock accommodated beforehand and removed afterwards and all the logistics in between. My team works long hours to prepare for all the different sales across the eight centres, especially at this busy back end of the year with very quick turnarounds for daily sales.

“I’ve enjoyed my career and met a huge amount of lovely people, including customers and hauliers in all parts of the county. I’ve got to know farming families over four generations and have worked from Thurso in the north of Scotland to Earl’s Court in London at Smithfield. The job has changed a lot since I became Manager especially with health and safety biosecurity regulations. Getting the young guys into the team and training them up to become good at their job has given me satisfaction. I’ve enjoyed going to the islands especially and have plenty of fond memories of good fun at different sales over the years. I’m looking forward to more relaxing days in my retirement.”

George Purves, Managing Director of United Auctions, said: “John has been a stalwart of the Company in a career that has spanned an incredible half century. The Board of Directors cannot express highly enough our gratitude for the work and unwavering dedication that John has given to United Auctions. As we bid farewell to John whose presence and unparalleled ability will be greatly missed, we wish John nothing but success and happiness in his well-deserved retirement.”

A presentation to mark John’s contribution to United Auctions will take place at Stirling Agricultural Centre on Wednesday 29th November at 2pm for colleagues and customers. Anyone wishing to contribute to the presentation can do so at the Agricultural Centre’s front counter.

John Stirton’s last day at United Auctions as Yard Manager will be 30th November 2023.




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