Alex Massie

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Once more across the transatlantic divide, my friends... I'm not sure televised sheepdog trials would ever be likely to become a hit in the United States. This, then, is another difference between the old and new worlds.

So it is sad to record the end of an era: Phil Drabble, the long-time presenter of One Man And His Dog has died. As always, we turn to The Daily Telegraph's obituary to lament - and yet be entertained by - the passing of another (albeit minor) British institution:

Phil Drabble, who died on Sunday aged 93, came to fame presenting BBC2's sheepdog trials programme One Man and His Dog, a series based upon the guaranteed stupidity of sheep.

If ever a voice were built for sheepdog trials it was Drabble's, once described as "soft as country rain, as right for the world of five-bar gates and grass-chewing as John Arlott's was for cricket". The programme, which Drabble presented for 17 years from 1975, became a surprise hit, attracting peak-time audiences of six million and making Drabble, with his tweeds and flat cap, a cult hero.

The sound of him exclaiming during a particularly slow sheep drive, "Oh noo, they're startin' ter graze. That'll be points off fer sure" was balm for the stressed-out urban soul.

It's worth pointing out, then, that in the show's most popular years  more than one in ten Britons spent part of their week watching Border Collies rounding-up sheep. What a country!

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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