Shepherdess Viv launches first DVD on collies

Author and shepherdess Viv Billingham Parks with her sheep dogs at the statue of The Ettrick Shepherd, James Hogg.
Author and shepherdess Viv Billingham Parks with her sheep dogs at the statue of The Ettrick Shepherd, James Hogg.

Retired shepherdess and author Viv Billingham Parkes has launched a dvd celebrating collies.

The first of a trilogy, it centres on Viv’s current litter of Border collie pups from birth to seven months and includes footage of her shepherding pony Arabella, sheep and the Yarrow and Tweed Valleys.

She said: “I am making the DVDs because of my concern regarding the Border collie. They are very important ambassadors for Britain all over the world and I feel it’s vital that people in other countries understand them and their history, and that they respect them and don’t train them severely. Also, I want to promote the Borders as the nearest place to heaven I have ever lived. It’s such a beautiful area.

“I’ve watched a lot of videos on YouTube and I haven’t been happy with what I’m seeing. These dogs are so precious but they are greatly misunderstood in some countries.

“My sheepdogs kept the roof over my head and the food on the table throughout my working life as a shepherdess.

“I owe it to them to portray a simple way of schooling and share the knowledge I’ve learned over the years.

“Everything is bred into the collie, it’s just a case of giving it plenty of freedom so everything comes out – it really works, you get a very relaxed hill and trial dog if you do it this way.”

Viv has had the same line of collies for more than 40 years, carefully introducing new blood, and is bringing on four pups from the current litter.

She said:“I’ve always bred dogs that could work the hill. They’ve got to have a strong personality to work out of sight for long periods of time.”

Determined to be a shepherdess from the age of four, the Black Bob, the Dandy , and Wonder Dog fan left home aged 15, working in Yorkshire and Wales before spending 13 years in County Durham where Ernest Crisp and his wife treated her like a daughter. She shepherded in the Cheviot hills, near Yetholm, and, with her late then husband and son, both Geoff, moved to Tweedhopefoot, Tweedsmuir, where she also staged demonstrations. She then moved to Moffat, before moving to the Yarrow Valley by St Mary’s Loch, nearly 14 years ago.

Successes over the years have included appearances on TV’s One Man and his Dog with collie Garry, who she had in the 1980s. She has been in the Scottish team and won, and been placed “in a few trials over the years”, such as Tweedhope Fae winning the Scottish Nursery in 2009, and she’s judged and given clinics in Europe and America.

Viv is also putting the finishing touches to an adult fairytale, to go online later this year, and she has been helped with both projects by Newton Stewart photographer Fiona Limbrick.

Frae The Cradle (£18) is available from Viv at v.billingham793@btinternet.com