The Livestock Auctioneers' Association Limited (LAA)

Popular choice as John Thomson Snr recognised with Lifetime Achievement award

15th November 2018

One of the most recognised names and faces within the livestock auctioneering sector, Mr John A. Thomson Snr has been presented with the Mart’s the Heart Auctioneer Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of a career that began more than 70 years ago.

Well known both north and south of the border for his dedication, enthusiasm and unstinting support for the livestock auctioneering system, Mr Thomson followed the family path to take his position at the rostrum.

Tracing his family roots of livestock salesmen back at least five generations, the live sales ring is nothing new to the Thomson family, but in many ways John Thomson Snr has been a pioneer in the sector since his first sale in 1946.

Now a respected author, having just completed his third book on the history of livestock marts, Mr Thomson’s auctioneering career began after he was demobbed from the armed forces in 1946. Not one to hang around, he was selling pigs at Dumfries livestock mart by the following week, this being the very same mart his grandfather had bought back in 1886.

It was his grandfather, also John, who was the first of several generations to become addicted to livestock auctioneering. Recuperating from ill-health during his work with the Maryport Hermatite Iron and Coal Company, Mr Thomson’s grandfather filled his time helping Mr McLean at his mart in Annan, during the 1870s.

By 1880, Mr Thomson’s grandfather had become a partner in the mart, and on Mr McLean’s retirement in 1886, he took over the business and operated out of larger premises in Whitesands, Dumfries. Some 60 years later, this would be the scene of John A. Thomson’s first sale.

By the turn of the century, Mr Thomson’s father Matthew was the principal auctioneer and driving force. Mr Thomson joined his father in 1946, and by 1953 he was promoted to manage the business of Thomson, Roddick and Laurie. For the next 50 years, Mr Thomson was to continue auctioneering for four or five days every week.

Mr Thomson’s sons, John and Stuart, joined him in partnership, and by the turn of the next century in 2000, they joined with Longtown mart and Mr Thomson finally decided this was the time to retire.

It was in his retirement that Mr Thomson began writing his books, firstly the acclaimed Rings of Memories, charting the history of the livestock marts of Scotland from 1880, and then Farmers Went to Market, an auctioneering history of livestock marts in the northern counties of England. He has just completed his third book on the history of marts in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cheshire, which Mr Thomson enthusiastically explains, “You can order now from Longtown mart!”

During his retirement, he has never been too far from the sales ring, and when Longtown fell into financial difficulties in 2014, he stepped in with his sons and took over the management, re-financing it as C&D Marts Ltd. Today it is a flourishing business, with some £80 million of stock going through the sales ring last year alone. Mr Thomson can be seen most Tuesday’s at the store sheep sales at Longtown.

Commenting on the importance of the mart system, Mr Thomson explains, “Auction marts continue to attract buyers to the towns that host them, act as a social gathering place and support the local farmers. The supermarkets should play their part in supporting their local communities by sending their buyers to the mart, buying stock from local farmers, for local households to buy in their stores.”

Away from the sales ring, Mr Thomson continues to manage his own farm, and at the recent Stirling Bull Sales his Beef Shorthorn won the championship and made top price of 12,000 gns.

Chris Dodds, executive secretary of the Livestock Auctioneers Association adds, “From Mr Thomson Snr’s books, you can appreciate his great passion for the industry, but as you will see with the progressive approach demonstrated at Longtown, he remains a great proponent of the competitive advantage the live sales ring brings.

“This is a richly deserved accolade, and the LAA is delighted to honour Mr Thomson with this award.”