Influential Scottish pig industry figure dies, aged 90

A leading Mearns farmer, John Argo, one of the largest pig farmers in Scotland, has died at the age of 90.

Mr Argo farmed at Harvieston, Catterline, near Stonehaven, and the adjoining farm of Bridgestone, as well as at Ellismoss, Kinellar, near Aberdeen, where he built up a herd of 1800 sows and followers, which is now run by his son, David. The pig enterprise accounts for more than 80% of the farming business covering a total of 960 acres.

For a number of years, he also managed the farm of Newton at Cambuslang, near Glassgow, for the family of his brother, Minto, who died at the early age of 42.

The Ellismoss pedigree herds of Landrace and Large White pigs were renowned and hit the headlines in the 1970s when a boar, Field Marshall, chalked up the highest score on record for performance and was subsequently sold for £12,000 for export to Italy, which was a phenomenal price at the time.

The herds were phased out in the 1980s when hybrids took over and the Pig Improvement Co (PIC) became the main source of genetics although today most replacement females come from their own nucleus herd.

For a period in the late 1980s, the enterprise was shipping 300 30kg weaner gilts (maiden sows) a week to Spain.

Mr Argo was a highly influential figure in the pig industry but shunned the limelight and preferred to work behind the scenes. However, he was a former convener of NFU Scotland’s pigs committee and with his brother-in-law, the late Douglas Cargill, and other North-east pig producers, was instrumental in setting up the pig marketing co-operative, Grampian (now Scottish) Pig Producers, when Lawson of Dyce closed their pig slaughter line at their Dyce processing plant in 1979.

He was a director from the outset and served on the board for 20 years until 1999. He gave a great deal of his time travelling to explore new markets and establishing a sound working relationship with pig processors, David A Hall Ltd of Broxburn, which was a vital market for North-east pigs in those early days and proved the saviour of the pig industry in the North-east of Scotland.

He was also a founder member of the daffodil and potato marketing co-operative, Grampian Growers, and an early pioneer of the growing of diversified crops such as daffodils, strawberries, carrots and vining peas and, much earlier, rhubarb for a Montrose jam factory.

His main interests centred round his farming activities but he was a keen shot and also enjoyed fishing.

Mr Argo was a devoted family man and is survived by his wife, Betty, son, David, daughters, Joan, Sheila and Kate, 11 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren, as well as his sister, Margaret (Mrs Cargill).

His funeral will take place at the Old Church, Kinneff, on Saturday (December 9) at 11.00am.


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Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.