Ralston in Wigtonshire
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from: Wigtownshire Free Press August 1913

Balkail Meadow, Glenluce, was the scene on Saturday of what was perhaps the most terrible accident that has ever occurred in Wigtownshire – an accident which resulted in the death of Mr W. H. Ralston, the popular factor for Mr. J.C. Cunninghame of Dunragit, and one of the best known and most influential agriculturist in the county. The circumstances under which the tragic affair took place were of a very distressing nature. Mr Ralston had been appointed one of the judges at the annual games organised by the Glenluce Sports Committee, and he was engaged in the duties devolving upon him in the centre of the field. Ten of the events on the programme had been successfully carried through, and about three o’clock the eleventh – the open hammer-throwing competition – was entered upon. A competitor made a throw, and Mr Ralston proceeded to measure the distance covered by the hammer in its flight from the mark. He was still busy with this work which the next competitor swung the heavy hammer, and sent it flying through the air. Being in a stooping attitude, Mr Ralston apparently did not abserve that this had been done, and several of those in the vicinity called to him to stand clear. Mr Ralston raised himself, evidently with the object of complying with this request, but ere the could get out of the way the 16 lb ball of the hammer struck him with crushing violence in the chest, and knocked him to the ground. The exceedingly serious nature of the accident was at once apparent, and Dr. McKie, Glenluce who was amongst the spectators, assisted by the police, endeavoured by means of artificial respiration to restore animation. This was assiduously continued for some time, but unfortunately it proved to be quite unavailing. Mr Ralston had been instantaneously killed by the terrible blow. The suddenness with which Mr Ralston was thus deprived of life in the full vigour of his manhood naturally caused the greatest consternation amongst the officials and the large crowd which surrounded the ropes, and the utmost sympathy was felt for Mr Ralston’s only son, Mr J.L.Ralston and his brother, Mr Niven Ralston, solicitor, Edinburgh, who were eye-witnesses of the distressing occurrence. The games were, of course, at once stopped, and the spectators quietly dispersed.

During the afternoon Mr Ralston’s remains were conveyed by motor car to his residence at Dunragit.

Mr Ralston was a son of the late Mr John Ralston, Milmain, and could trace his decent through a long line of farmers, who were long associated with Kirkcolm parish, no fewer than eight of deceased’s great-grandparents being buried within a few yards of each other in the old kirkyard at Kirkcolm. He was educated at Stoneykirk and Newton Stewart, and after leaving school he entered the office of the late Mr Hugh McLean, solicitor, Stranraer. His inclination, however, had always been towards the pursuit of his forefathers, and at the end of three years he left Mr M’Lean’s office and went to assist his uncle, the late Mr John McCamon, Kirranrae, on whose large holding he gained good experience in the breeding of Clydesdales and Ayrshires. Mr Mc’Camon’s success in the showyards at that time being above the average. While at Kirranrae, Mr Ralston rented grass parks, and thus gained a practical knowledge of transacting business on his own account. At that time also, he took a very deep and active interest in all questions pertaining to agriculture, and began writing to the press on agricultural subjects. This he subsequently continued to do, in a greater or less degree, till his death contributing in the form of letters or articles to the North British Agriculturist, Scottish Farmer, Scotsman, Glasgow Herald, the Free Press, and other journals.

In connection with Mr Ralston’s reputation as an authority on agriculture, it may be mentioned that he won a prize of £25 offered by the Highland and Agricultural Society in1885 for the best essay on the agriculture of Wigtownshire; in 18?0 (1890) he got the same Society’s gold medal for a report on cattle insurance in the Rhins of Galloway; and he furthermore, experimented largely in manures, feeding stuffs, and milk qualities, the results of these experiments being frequently given to the public through the press.

On the death of his father, Mr. Ralston succeeded to the tenancy of Culmore, on the estate of Balgreggan, Stoneykirk parish, and during the whole time of the occupancy the farm had the reputation of being one of the best managed holdings in the county. There he bred a few good Clydesdales, among them being Fitzlyon, the acknowledged best son of Lord Lyon and winner of the first prize as a three year old at the Highland Society’s show at Glasgow in 1883, which he was sold at a long price to go to Australia, where he had a great showyard career; Prince Patrick, by Prince of Wales, out of Eila, by McCamon (?) winner of the championship at Chicago in 1892; the two well-bred fillies Enid and Leda. The former a full sister of Prince Patrick, and the latter by Henry Irving, winner of numerous prizes in the county; and Linnet, by Prince Gallant who beat Princess Adine at Stranraer in 1892.

The public positions in which Mr Ralston served the interests of agriculture were remarkedly numerous. He acted as convenor of the Wigtownshire Dairy Association, and in that capacity assisted in starting the Dairy School for Scotland at Kilmarnock. He also assisted in forming and was the first president of Stoneykirk Farmers Club; was a past president of the Wigtownshire Horse Breeding Society, first chairman of the Galloway co-operative creamery Society, a member of Council of the Clydesdale Horse Society, a director of the Ayrshire Agricultural Association and member of both the April and October Show committee; while at Kilmarnock Cheese Show he was for many years a popular and successful exhibitor. His services, moreover, were in great request as a judge, and he acted in that capacity on various occasions at the Highland, Glasgow Stallion, Ayr Kilmarnock, Northumberland, and many other shows. In arbitrations and valuations his experience was frequently taken advantage of and he had the honour of acting as the examiner in dairying at the British Dairy Farmers Institute. At the time of his death, Mr Ralston was also one of the representatives from the Rhins District on the West of Scotland Agricultural College Governing Board, and chairman of the Rhins Dairy Association.

On Mr Ralston’s retiring from Culmore about fifteen years ago, Mr. J.C. Cunninghame, of Craigends, who recognised and appreciated the excellent business qualities which he possessed, and the prominent part he had played in the advancement of agriculture in general and dairying in particular, lost no time in appointing him factor for the Dunragit estate.