It’s more than twelve years since we moved here, and nearly twelve years since we took on the Soay sheep. The number of original members of the flock is diminishing and the oldest is a black sheep called Cilla. And today is her birthday – seventeen. This time next year she could vote, if she weren’t a sheep.
|The birthday breakfast today|
Ten years ago, our then-oldest sheep called Oakapple was taken ill and couldn’t stand. The vet was quite amazed – she so rarely heard such serious heart murmurs in sheep because they don’t usually live that long. Despite everything the vet could do, Oakapple died later that day, and she was a mere youngster compared to her grand-daughter, Cilla.
Not only is she our oldest ewe and oldest ever ewe, but also one of the most laid back. After our first lambing – eleven years ago – we called her Aunty Cilla, because she was the principal lamb-minder. The other ewes could go off grazing and Cilla would potter along at her own pace, with the lambs, until the big reunion and frantic scramble to match eager noses to the right udder.
|Cilla with her lambs in 2008|
|Sometimes having lambs gets on top of ewe|
Cilla has stared in one of my earlier blogs, because even an ageing and laid-back sheep can make trouble when she really puts her mind to it. At least two years running, at lambing time, the great lamb-minder has decided that some of the new crop must be hers.
|A few year ago - Are you sure this one isn't mine?|
Cilla also has the dubious honour of being the last of the Ladies Wot Lurch – a group of four older ewes who took things at their own pace and walked with a bit of a wobble. When we were down to two, we renamed them the Baggages.
|Catching a few rays|
Cilla now lives with three other ewes who are just easing into middle-age because the rough and tumble of the main flock is too much for her, and it’s the only way to be sure she gets enough food. This time last year, we didn’t think she would make it through the Summer, but now, perhaps she will be up for voting next year.