Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Induction Speech into the ABCA Hall of Fame

Giving Alasdair’s induction speech into the ABCA Hall of Fame was a great honor and privilege. Several people asked me to share it and although I haven't blogged in ages, I thought it would be the easiest way to publish.

While Alasdair is far and away the most accomplished handler on the continent, I wanted to focus on his contribution of service, especially to the working Border Collie.

We have been richly blessed with amazing and wonderful dogs in our lives. Honoring the breed is extremely important to him.

Thank you to all those on the HOF committee especially the chairman, Mike Hanley, who could not be with us last week.

"When Alasdair asked me to do his induction speech I was quite nervous. I’ve never given a speech of this nature and I wanted to do a good job.

I thought, who do I know that is an exceptionally eloquent orator; a master of word play and story telling. One who can wax lyrical on any given topic. Not really mixing in those circles I thought, who has something to say about everything and is a good BS-er.
Of course, Mike Neary came to mind.

So I called my friend Mike to get some advice as he has done this a few times. 
Mike was very helpful and gave me these recommendations: 
1.take a deep breath  
2. read from notes! so you don't forget anything. 
3. and above all, he said, take your time….
as long as it is no more than 8 minutes. 
I’ve got a full agenda and a date with Dairy Queen so  I don't want to listen to you natter on about him all night!.....

Handlers and breeders inducted into the Hall of fame have a record of outstanding contributions to the working Border Collie. These contributions are both national and regional and there is a clear record of:
• Significant accomplishments as a breeder.
• Significant achievements as a handler. 
• Service that has helped breeders, handlers, the working Border Collie the ABCA ‘and other more intangible service’ .

Regarding the ABCA’s final criteria of induction , I cannot think of a better example of  ‘other more intangible service’ than Alasdair's contribution of single handedly raising the standard of sheepdog trials in the United States. 

This is not my opinion but rather the most consistent sentiment shared from every top competitor I have spoken with about Alasdair’s impact.
I was not running dogs when Alasdair came across so I spoke with many who were.
To quote One top handler, “He completely changed the face of sheepdog trials. We never would have the quality of work seen today at the National finals or any trial without Alasdair MacRae.”

Another said, 
“He not only raised the standard of handling, he raised the standard of conduct with his humility and respect for the sport. There is not a more deserving inductee I can think of.”

When Alasdair walked to post with Nan and Ben in 1995, our sport was forever altered. 
He brought finesse, precision, method, exactness, consistency, mental fortitude and a level of excellence never before seen at North American sheepdog trials.

His performance elevated the expectation and he created a higher standard across the entire country and throughout Canada. 

To compete with him, every handler had to improve, in every facet of work. 
And they did. 

He inspired us to do better, to be better and then he shared his knowledge with us. 
Directly, by providing clinics, lessons, training DVD’s and on-line training. 
And indirectly, leading by example every time he competes- his technical expertise as well as conducting himself with professionalism and integrity.
As every one of us walks to the post today our handling and training has been impacted for the better by Alasdair’s  significant contributions.

Many years ago, at the request of the then president Mike Canaday, Alasdair authored the first draft of the the ‘USBCHA Guidelines for Judging’. He did not make this public knowledge as he wanted everyone to be pulling in the same direction.
 He based the style on the Texas and Alberta rules that were already in existence , altering and expanding them to comprehensively cover this extraordinary sport with it’s differing viewpoints and inherent  gray area’s.
While there were changes made to the final draft by the directors that he disagreed with, he actively  encourages every judge and handler to abide by them or impact change by going thru the correct channels.

In 2002, he intervened when the Bluegrass committee said that they couldn't take over the Nashville National finals on short notice. The public park outside of Nashville that was supposed to hold the event wouldn't comply with the conditions set by the USBCHA committee.They told  then president Mike Canaday that they’d have to cancel the National. 
At the President’s  request Alasdair drove from Virginia to Nashville to meet with the local committee chair and representatives from the public park., He initiated a compromise that allowed TN to host and that October the 2002 National was a success.

He Headed up the committee to come up with a formula for the handlers  to qualify for the world trial. For the 2nd World trial he negotiated with the ISDS and other participating country’s  to increase number of participant slots from 12 to 30 for the US.

Many of us in this room use a  fiberglass stick when training our dogs. What you may not know is that in 1995 Alasdair recognized the advantages of the light fiberglass stick as a training aid after borrowing one from a novice handler at a clinic.  He then carried an inventory of them around the country and supplied retailers like Border Collies in Action with them until most kennels had at least one and their continued use has been of benefit to many.

He put on a trial and raised over $3000 with the help of the sheepdog community for the Bluegrass organizer, Rusty Kreider, to help with the medical bills for his son Cooper.  
He championed the 30 day trial policy when selling dogs to ensure they are happy in their new homes. His promotion of this policy has made it is commonplace, resulting in better partnerships for the handlers and most important, better homes for the dogs.
He has been an ambassador to the sport, promoting it every time he has been asked to do an interview, sign an autograph or pose for photos. He has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Time magazine, participated in programs for Animal planet, National Geographic, Discovery, Paul Harvey News, countless local TV newscasts and most recently was featured on CBS 60 Minute Sports.
He pioneered sheepdog training on the internet, Giving access to anyone with a computer or smart phone almost instant help with an ever-growing list of courses. They are a compliment to private video consults that he also pioneered and has been doing for many years. He invented a series of over 30 exercise’s with cones to simplify aspects of training so that when the lessons or clinics are over training can be practiced and achieved. 

He has participated on the ABCA HOF committee, national finals committee and judged our National twice even though he had dogs that were competitive. In fact, 2 of the dogs went on to win 4 National titles. 

He has hosted trials, donated to local sheepdog clubs and sponsored awards. He has donated demonstrations and financially to local shelters and Border Collie rescues.

He has never shied away from doing what he believes is fundamentally in the best interest of the Border Collie and is very outspoken against the use of the electric training collar. He has loudly advocated for genetic testing and responsible breeding practices.

Theses are just a few examples of his esteemed list of service.

Alasdair’s breeding foundation goes back to his Scottish National Champion Auld Mirk. Auld Mirk is the grandfather of his International Supreme Champion Nan.

He bred Nan to his US National Champion Ben and had a very talented litter that included 3 time National Champion Bill, Meeker and Bluegrass Champion Sweep, and Nick, the father of my National Champion, Alba Cap.

Alasdair is currently running Alba Sweep, 2 time Bluegrass Champion, who is a grandson of Sweep and great grandson of Nan. My Max’s great grandfather was Nan’s litter brother and Alasdair raised and trained my Bear’s grandmother, who also went back to Auld Mirk.These are lines we still actively breed today. Alasdair’s promising Nursery dog, Tweed is also a grandson of Sweep .

While our own line suits Alasdair very well he is always looking for good dogs outside of our kind and has imported many that have had a positive impact on breeding, including 
Nell, the mother of my Cap and grandmother of Alba Sweep 
Vergil Holland’s Hemp
Alasdair’s  2009 National Champion Nap, 
last year’s National Champion Gail 
and my Jim. 

While Gail and Jim have just started breeding several of Nap’s progeny have done very well. In fact, in 2010 Alasdair won the nursery national with Nap’s son Coll.

He has also imported good dogs for other people. One that quickly comes to mind is the prolific breeder, Eileen Stinemans Don.
With too many successful offspring to list Don is the father of 2013 National Champion Don, and Vergil Holland’s reserve national champion Brooke. Alasdair also imported the mother of Vergil’s Brooke as well as, the mother of Beverly Lamberts Nan. These are just a few of the more recent examples of his breeding contribution. 

He is also highly regarded for his incredible ability to match handlers with dogs, even for his fiercest competitors. 
The list is extensive and far too long to cite in full. 
A few notable teams include: 
Beverly Lambert and Hall of Fame champion, Pippa
Beverly Lambert and Bill 
Tommy Wilson and Dot 
Candy Kennedy and Moss 
Melinda Hanley and Meg 
Mike Cannaday and Ben
and countless others.

Alasdair is far and away the most accomplished handler on the continent. 

His brilliant career began in 1984 when he won Scottish National & Scottish National Shepherds Champion with Auld Mirk.

In 1990, he was Reserve Supreme International Champion with Bute, as well as International Shepherds Champion. 

In 1992, he was Reserve Supreme International Champion with Corrie.
In 1993, he was Supreme International Champion with Nan and 4th in the Supreme with Elwy Glen.

In 1994, Nan was injured for most of the season but came back for the Supreme and captured 5th.

A record of 5 placing in the top 5 in 5 years competing at the International.
In 1994, he won the BBC ‘One Man And His Dog’  sheepdog trials television series with Nan.
He scored 108 out of a possible 110 points and holds the record for fewest points deducted, in the history of the program, which spans over nearly 50 years.

In the U.S., his list of Saturday trial wins is far too long to review. I stopped counting once I was over 60 different trial wins, and like the Bluegrass, most he has won multiple times.

He won Meeker 3 out of 6 attempts. 

The Bluegrass Classic 11 times out of 17 attempts with 7 different dogs.

He has as won the National Nursery Finals on 3 occasions.

He has won the National an awe inspiring and amazing 12 times out of 17 attempts with 6 different dogs.

In his book Collin Gordon wrote:

“over the years I have attended many trials but every now then something really special happens that remains forever in my mind. Nothing has been more memorable than a run I watched in 1996 in Lexington, KY. Many good handlers and dogs competed and then came a run I will never forget. Alasdair MacRae was running Nan and the understanding of the sheep, the patience and handling produced moments of absolute perfection.”

I have been fortunate to watch many of those perfect moments.

I remember  a day that was filled with them when he was running Star several years ago…..

The legendary handler and Supreme Champion Raymond Macpherson came over to speak to us. Raymond was a fellow highlander but had not seen Alasdair in a long time.

Scots, as some of you may know, are generally not very effusive but Alasdair had just had a particularly brilliant run and I’ll never forget what Raymond said:

“Ah Boy, you’ve still got it. Next to JM Wilson, you are the greatest handler I’ve ever seen.”

It is my honor and privilege to introduce my mentor and best friend, Alasdair MacRae."


  1. A well deserved recognition and wonderful tribute! This award was well past due. Alasdair inspires us all.

  2. Patricia, this is a beautiful and thoughtful recognition of an amazing shepherd and handler! When I entered in to training my BC's for sheep in 1996, I wanted to learn from the best. It didn't take long to figure out who that person was/is - Alasdair, of course. So, I just called him. The very next spring I enjoyed learning from him at a clinic held on the farm of the lady I went to for training at that time. (I believe my initial contact with Alasdair was the catalyst for her to hold the clinic, in fact.) Through the years, I lost my opportunity to work sheep, but have recently been able to return to it, and I have always considered Alasdair the one to emulate. I know I will never get to his level, (who really can?), but it is nice to know that I know the man that is truly the very best! Congratulations and well deserved, Alasdair!