THE executive committee of the North of England Mule Sheep Association (NEMSA) has held its first in-person meeting since the start of the pandemic when it bade farewell to its secretary.

Marion Hope, who’s occupied the position for the past 14 years, has handed over to her successor, Linda Allan.

National chairman Chris Harrison paid a glowing tribute to Marion. He said: “NEMSA is in a healthy position and this is all down to Marion, who has done both breed and association proud during her tenure, including securing valuable sponsorship support.

“The North of England Mule has earned the right to be called the most popular lowland ewe in Britain and the original easy care sheep, and there is little doubt that Marion has contributed hugely to the continuing status and ever-growing reputation of the breed.” Multiple tributes were also posted on social media from NEMSA branches, auctioneers, show officials, breeders and end users, as well as friends and colleagues.

To ensure a smooth transition, Marion has been working closely with Linda, who farms with her husband and four children at Beck House Farm, Killington, in South Cumbria’s Lune Valley.

One of her first tasks was to set off on a busman’s holiday, taking in the big, annual opening Mule shearling sales at both Exeter and Thame - more often than not, an early benchmark for future trade at NEMSA sales staged at northern auction marts over the autumn months.

Also at the meeting, Chris Harrison, who farms at Coatlith Hill, near Alston in Cumbria, was unanimously re-elected to serve a third year as national chairman - his first two years in office interrupted and curtailed by the pandemic.

Shearwell Data continues to be NEMSA’s keynote sponsor, supplemented earlier this year by Eden Farm Supplies.