Three generations before you are a local


There is an unwritten code of honour between shepherds here. I remember my grandfather telling me about his friend buying some sheep privately from another farmer for what he thought was a fair price. Weeks later he attended some sheep sales and realized that he had got the sheep very cheap indeed, too cheap, about £ 5 less each than their market value. He felt that this was unfair to the seller because he’d trusted him. He didn’t want to be greedy, or perhaps as important, to be seen to be greedy. So he sent the farmer a cheque for the difference and apologized. But the farmer who’d sold them then politely refused to cash it, on the grounds that the original deal was an honourable one. They’d shaken hands on it. Stalemate.

The only way out was to go back the next year and buy his sheep and pay over the odds to make up for it, so he did. Neither of these men cared remotely about “maximizing profit” in the short-term in the way a modern business person in a city would; they both valued their good names and their reputations for integrity far more highly than making a quick buck. If you said you would do a thing, you’d better do it. My grandfather and father would go out of their way to do good deeds for their neighbours because goodwill counted for a lot. If anyone bought a sheep from us and had the slightest complaint about it, we took it back and repaid them or replaced it with another. And most people did the same.

Fathers’ names are interchangeable with those of the sons, and surnames with the names of the farms. The name of your farm tells other farmers here as much about you as your surname. There might be twenty farmers with the same surname, so it is immediately followed by the name of the farm for clarification. Sometimes the name of the farm kind of replaces the surname in general discourse. I met a man in a pub recently and he knew my grandfather—“ You’ll be a fair man if you are half the man he was,” he said sternly, then bought me a drink, the accrued interest on some unspoken good turn my grandfather had done for him decades earlier. Anyone new to the community or common would be watched carefully until they showed themselves to have integrity and play by the rules. They say you have to be here for three generations before you are a local (people laugh when they say that, but it carries a lot of truth).

~ James Rebanks, The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape.



  1. i love the integrity, the honor, the power of the person’s word.the good will and good deeds take it all to another level.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Now I’m singing ‘Old MacDonald’….

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I believe I will buy this book…..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Barneysday says:

    Reblogged this on Views from the Hill and commented:
    Sounds like my grandfather’s native New England farm.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great story. What is the line from “Rob Roy?” “Your honor is a gift you give to yourself.” Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Simple, yet profound, and sadly lacking more often than not these days. Takes me right back to the little Midwestern town of 3600 where I was raised. Your name was your pledge, and if you didn’t stand by your word, your mom and dad (and grandparents and aunts and uncles and….you get the picture) were sure as hell going to hear about it (which meant you were, too.) 🙂 Just added this book to my queue as well, and think it’s going in my Dad’s Christmas stocking…. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Times have sure changed.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. While times have changes it still holds true that integrity should be upheld regardless. We should all adopt a “Pay it Forward” attitude. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Deeply rooted in character and integrity… lucky sheep to have these folks as their caretakers!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wonderful piece and a good example of how both good and bad traits can be passed on from generation to generation. I read a piece on James Redbank on the passing of his Dad to cancer, “Rebanks wells up when he talks about him. “He read a proof copy of the book before he died and loved it,” says Rebanks. “He told my sister it made him look like a bloody legend.” Salt of the earth family.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Peggy Farrell says:

    “Honesty is the best policy.”

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Similar to the farm community where I grew up. High praise that my dad was often described as “honest.”

    Liked by 1 person


  1. […] two weeks ago, on December 15th, David Kanigan posted  a story  entitled Three Generations Before You Are A Local. It was about a book he was reading and the snippets seduced me.  I decided I was going to buy and […]

    Liked by 1 person

  2. […] this list and strive to obtain success in their acheivement. . . and always be thankful that David Kanigan introduced me to this […]


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