Obituary: Brian Cadzow

Brian Cadzow, farmer and sheep-breeder: born Winchburgh, West Lothian 18 July 1919; married 1942 Barbara Paine (two sons, one daughter); died Winchburgh 6 July 1994.

CZECHOSLOVAKIA, Holland, Hungary, Iraq, Lebanon, Portugal and Spain were some of the countries where Brian Cadzow, of Glendevon Farm, West Lothian, part-owned herds of sheep in the late 1960s, and early 1970s. On one farm alone, north of Bratislava, a Cadzow project had over 20,000 sheep. In happier days, before the production of mutton had yielded to the more profitable poppy, and the lucrative drugs trade, Cadzow was immersed in a project with Lebanese agricultural ministers and institutes in a huge sheep operation in the Bekaa valley.

Part of Cadzow's astonishing success was that he had a great gift for contacting the real decision-makers. In Holland, he dealt with the bankers of Amsterdam, and their large-scale agricultural clients; in Hungary, with Communist bureaucrats; and, in Iraq, in 1973-74, with a young strongman by the name of Saddam Hussein, 'Vice-President, or something' as Cadzow described him at the time, 'but clearly the guy whose 'yes' or 'no' counts'.

Cadzow gave a graphic description of how his farmer and Ministry of Agriculture contacts told him that he had to get up at 4am to go to Takrit. 'Who the hell is this bloke in Takrit that wants to see me?' he asked. 'My friends looked glum, and pleaded with me to go, saying that the entire project depended on my going to Takrit.' Petulantly and reluctantly Cadzow agreed.

Cadzow was not at all prepared for what then happened. He and his Iraqi contacts were rigorously searched. 'My friends, whom I had seen in Europe as dignified, self-confident senior officials and specialists in farming, were simply shit-scared as we were ushered into Saddam Hussein's presence. They really were cringing with apprehension.' There were too many pistols around even for Cadzow's liking, as a keen Territorial Army officer.

However, Cadzow recorded that Saddam was at that time extremely well-briefed about the major sheep project under discussion, and asked searching and relevant questions. The result was the establishment of a successful and viable joint venture in the Mosul area in which Cadzow continued to be involved until internal company problems with his main backers, Imperial Foods Division, of Imperial Tobacco, led to the withdrawal of financial support.

Cadzow was born into one of the famous farming clans and cousinhoods of Scotland. Agriculture was in his blood. After Dalhousie and Glenalmond, he went to Edinburgh University, then, as now, a world leader in Animal Genetics. Crucially, Cadzow formed lifelong friendships with members of the group who, post-war, were to surround the late Professor CH Waddington; Cadzow's particular guru was Hugh Donald, later Professor at the Scottish College of Agriculture.

With the expertise of such friends and his own vital practical know-how, Cadzow bought a number of breeds to mix with his Scottish Blackface: Finnish Landrace, for their numerous litters of lambs; Westphalian Milk Sheep, carrying large amounts of suckling milk; Ile de France, famous for lean meat; Dorset Horn, capable of breeding all the year round; and Oldenburgs with their enormous frames looking almost like small ponies. Cadzow skilfully mixed them all, with an eye to particular markets, in Britain, the EEC, or the Middle East.

One of his spectacular successes was the mating of the Blackface Rams with the Fat-Tailed Awassi, the indigenous sheep of many Arab countries. With help from Finnish Landrace and Dorset Horn, this achieved three lambings in two years on a regular basis. Such efficient sheep husbandry was of significant importance for the protein supply of countries with burgeoning populations.

Cadzow's particular friend in government was a fellow sheep farmer, Harold Macmillan's last Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Noble (later Lord Glenkinglas and Minister of State for Trade). Noble would say to me, 'I don't mind how much you come to me about Brian Cadzow. He is an original. And his schemes have the potential of enormous benefit for Britain and his host countries.' Noble was a shrewd judge.

From my intimate knowledge of the situation as Cadzow's MP, to whom he turned legitimately for any possible help, I know that it was simply tragic that bitter internal rivalries inside Imperial Tobacco, which had nothing to do with Cadzow, curtailed his operations, and in 1975 nipped in the bud other worthwhile schemes in Libya, Dubai and Egypt. When Imperial axed Cadzow's projects, every one of them was within budget.

Cadzow, a keen naturalist, developed and enlarged ponds on his farm in Scotland. A pair of hatching swans, had they not received their allocated food by 10am in the morning, would proceed to the French windows of the farmhouse, and pound their beaks against the glass panes as a reminder. Cadzow, only half in jest, would proclaim that swans were the guardian of the human soul.

Having undergone a hip operation Cadzow organised the retrieval of his bone, and got the local blacksmith to encase it in metal as a door-knocker. He had an impish, rumbustious, charming humour.

Cadzow died as he would have wished - busy, mending the water-pump of his beloved Glendevon Farm to which he had brought fame in the outer world.

(Photograph omitted)

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