November 29, 2008 at 1:17 am #62684*Nick*Member
Champion dog breeder who as a child terrorised her nannies and went gliding aged 96
Last Updated: 8:20PM GMT 28 Nov 2008
Eppie Buist, who has died aged 98, was a uniquely effervescent Highland character and one of the world’s top dog breeders; secretary of the Northern Counties Pointer & Setter Society for more than 60 years, she was said to know as much about gun dogs as the Queen, the Aga Khan and all the sheiks rolled together knew about racehorses.
Small, rosy-cheeked, athletic and endearingly uninhibited, Eppie Buist spent most of her hectic life in Ross-shire, breeding and exporting pointers across the world and attending and winning championships at home and abroad. Her famous field trial successes included Gale of Mid-Fearn, Fearn Rum and Fearn Camille, winner of the Open Trial in 1973. Fearn Rowda was dual champion in Australia in 1989. Fearn Rhythm became Field Trial champion of Spain, and a dynasty Eppie Buist established in 1936 continues to this day as one of America’s top breeding lines.
She was born Elizabeth Jean Brooke at Almondbury, York, on April 10 1910, the oldest daughter of Major Robert Weston Brooke. She claimed to have been conceived under a canoe during her parents’ Canadian honeymoon and attributed her subsequent love of nature to these early embryonic moments.
Very soon the family moved to Mid-Fearn Estate, Ross-shire, a 14,000-acre grouse moor bought in 1893 by her grandfather, John Brooke, who was raised to the baronetcy in 1919. Here little Eppie, as her younger siblings called her, showed her spirit by getting rid of the nannies and governesses she later described as “urban dictators” – one poor woman lasted only four hours. She also acquired a deep and abiding faith thanks to attending morning and evening prayers conducted each day by her beloved father.
As a small child she decided on her future life, and at the age of 21 took on her father’s kennel of 64 dogs. Assisted by a head keeper and kennel boy, she began the training, breeding, feeding and cleaning which would preoccupy her for nearly 80 years. In those early days she would obtain a dead horse at a knackery and hack it up at home before combining it with porridge, cooked in 40lb lots, to make dog food. Told by her father that she needed to make a living, she soon began hiring out dogs to estates all over Scotland. Painfully aware on the outbreak of the Second World War that these dogs could no longer be afforded, she issued instructions that 40 of them should be put down.
Earlier in 1939 Eppie Brooke had married the young naval officer Malcolm Buist, whose brother Colin had served as an equerry to Edward VIII. During the war Eppie worked her remaining dogs and looked after two demanding daughters while her husband commanded a flotilla of Brittany fishermen on minesweeper operations – he was subsequently appointed a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur by General de Gaulle.
In 1954 Malcolm Buist was discharged from the Navy following a botched ankle operation and briefly ran a coffee house in London’s Wigmore Street called the Gondola, backed by the reformed embezzler Clarence Hatry. Eppie’s longing to return to the North was encouraged by her friend Lady Auckland, who shared her interest in gundogs and soon offered Malcolm the job as factor at Cromlix in Perthshire.
The Buists happily returned to Scotland and settled at Katewell, one-time mill house for the Glenskiach Distillery. Following Malcolm’s death in 1965 Eppie Buist renewed her life’s passion, and in Katewell’s uncomfortable and impractical kitchen she would chop up sheep’s heads and boil them with tripe to feed her dogs, of which there were never fewer than four in evidence. At Christmas she would bake at least half a dozen cakes and, in a lengthy annual ritual, distribute them around the village along with gift tokens and bottles of homemade sloe gin.
By now Eppie Buist had gained a reputation as a fearless car driver, as damaged road signs on the lane to Katewell still bear witness. Stopped by the police for not wearing a seat belt, she responded: “How observant of you, constable!”, wound up the window and sped off. Later she would reverse her new automatic into a lorry outside Dornoch cathedral, where she worshipped each Sunday, and ordered that the damaged vehicle be “put down” – but not before beguiling the policeman into driving her to a lunch party at Golspie.
She gave up driving at the age of 95, but retained her taste for excitement. Aged 96 she went up in a fibreglass T2 glider and a few weeks before her death stayed up half the night to watch a 128-some reel (an eightsome reel times 16) being danced at the 70th birthday party for her dear friend Jamie Grant of Roskill.
All this while she had continuous triumphs with her pointers and setters. During one week last summer she attended no fewer than four field trials. This autumn, dogs of her breeding were placed second and fourth in the Irish trials and third in the British Championships. To the end of her life, the only armchair in the Katewell kitchen overflowed with dogs, each of whom had its own special dialect.
In old age Eppie Buist cut her own hair with kitchen scissors, wore cheap Japanese boots (a new pair purchased each year from the Sunlight catalogue) and brandished a walking stick hung round her neck with knicker elastic. Her recipe for a long life was to eat lashings of cream, keep fudge in the car and consume a jar of ginger snaps on the way to church. The news of her death at Katewell on September 24 was broken to friends and family with the words “Epp has gone to the hill”.
Eppie Buist is survived by her two daughters.November 29, 2008 at 12:18 pm #90717SuzAndTheDivaMember
Just amazing, what a like, thanks Nick – everyone should read that – properly right through is worth it :yes: :-*November 29, 2008 at 2:05 pm #90718AnonymousGuestNovember 29, 2008 at 4:23 pm #90719-Alison-Member
I read this in awe and with a little bit of a smile on my face
They really dont make them like that any more do they :-\November 29, 2008 at 6:03 pm #90720xtineMember
she sounds like an amazing lady :yes: with real fire in her belly ;DNovember 29, 2008 at 8:09 pm #90721*Lassie*Member
They don’t breed them like they use to, my G. Grandad started work at the coal face in the pits age 13, outlived two wives. Was a very good poacher when times were hard and decided he had lived too long at 95 as all his mates were in the cemetery.
He went to the working men’s club every day putting his false teeth in before he went, taking the teeth out and putting them on the side of his plate when he came home for his dinner. ;DNovember 29, 2008 at 9:27 pm #90722Diesel73Member
A woman of that caliber deserves upmost admiration :yes: .
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