The farmers of Scotland wondered, in the grip of winter and the foot and mouth epidemic of 2001, if they were the last generation on the land... a lament for the last farmer, whenever and wherever he (or she) may be.
The snow which came at the end of February 2001 to the Scottish Borders was not welcome in the way our snow at Christmas had been - then, I wrote 'Lullaby for a Sleeping Landscape'. This snow was sudden, heavy, wind-blasted and clinging; it brought down trees, and it brought down most of the power lines in the entire region. Many were without power for a week and food had to be airlifted to isoated farms and villages. Simultaneously, an epidemic of foot and mouth disease swept the country; great trenches were dug and cows, sheep and pigs burned by the thousands. The farm sheepdogs and the hunting horses had to be destroyed too, wherever the disease was found. Farmers who would have been able to help clear the roads of snow were quarantined on their land, and not allowed to move. The countryside was barred to visitors. Some farmers saw this as the final blow - the end of their farming lives. One Irish farmer, aged 29, looked more like 49 as he spoke on TV about having to 'get a job' and never return to farming. This instrumental is my reaction to the whole scene - the darkness of towns without light or heat, empty roads, telephones and mobiles all dead, only news on the radio about the growing problems. I called it 'The Last Farmer' because that is the saddest part of it all - the idea that a period of a month, maybe, in winter, could end a way of life for so many people. I do not think it will, but unless we change many of our ways there will be a bleak time to come.