Thursday 5 April 2001
The woman phoning me in the afternoon is in tears. I'm not accustomed to this; she's a bright and level-headed sort. I know this because she's my wife.
For me, it could be worse. I could be there, smelling the smoke and hearing the bangs as the slaughtermen chase the sheep. The sheep that only a few minutes ago my wife helped Drew, the young farmer, to move from the field beside granny's glebe house to the next field beside the graveyard.
It's Dumfries and Galloway, where my mother-in-law in her mid-80s lives alone, except when family visit. My father-in-law in retirement had Belted Galloways, but since he died, the glebe fields have served as grazing for Drew's sheep. Elizabeth had names for three favourites among those she has just led to the slaughter. Yes, animals get killed to be eaten. But not chased round a field in the swirling smoke of other animals being burned. The little valley that runs down to the Solway is full of the foul smoke. Across the Solway, the Lake District mountains loom over a mirroring murderousness.
Warned that her mother's road was about to be closed by army and police, Elizabeth made a dash and got there with six hours to spare. Now they are barricaded in, she and her mother; the road is closed for an indefinite period.
Sunday 8 April 2001 – Palm Sunday
Elizabeth phones. Her voice is not less haunted (I dread seeing her face) but is more focussed. I find out why: she's been to church. Not to a church building. There is no access to the three churches in the scattered parish, and the roads are closed to the three church halls. But the minister has negotiated access to the community hall. It is packed out, standing room only. Although the start is delayed, people are arriving up to the end, having zig-zagged to and fro, here, there, and everywhere, to find a way round to the community hall.
The minister opens the service by asking everyone to stand for a minute's silence. He then reads slowly through a litany of herds and flocks slaughtered, some of them famous for generations. Burly farmers are sobbing. After simple prayers, words and psalms, there's coffee, tea, and sandwiches at the back of the hall. During this, everyone signs a declaration of solidarity with the farmers, families and workers unable to make it to this gathering. Copies will be distributed when and where possible.
About 10 million cows and sheep were slaughtered in the foot and mouth epidemic of 2001
Ian Mackenzie died in 2006
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