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The Priestley Family

The Priestley Family and the involvement with Longshaw as told by my Father Thurwell, eldest Son of the founder...

The roots of the family trace back to the mid-1760s when Samuel Priestley occupied Overstones Farm, records reveal that by 1890 Samuel descendant of the aforementioned Samuel died leaving a widow with nine children, three girls, six boys. 

John the eldest married on a farm at Stannington. Harry would farm at Mitchell Fields, George never married. Ernest was born 1870, Peter married and farmed Callow Bank Farm, Septimus married and lived at White Edge Lodge. Of the three girls Sarah married Jack White and kept the Grouse Inn and farm, Ann married Arthur Hickinson a quarryman and lived at Higger Lodge, Polly married and resided at Sharrow Bottom Hathersage Booths. 


Ernest, Peter and Septimus were employed as shepherds on The Duke Rutland Longshaw Estate along with several gamekeepers on the extensive moorland estate where they would frequently meet at the Fox House Inn. 


It was on one of these meetings that the keepers invited the shepherds to join in a pigeon shoot. Ernest declined to say he had never handled a gun and didn’t intend doing, but he had heard of a sheep dog trial that had taken place at Bala in Wales and that he would give a fat weather sheep as a prize for the competition. This would take place in the Nell croft opposite Fox House in March and was won by Jack White, before being abandoned in a snowstorm, this was in 1895 and was the birth of the trials that run to this day. 

Part of the shepherd's duties was to go to The Yorkshire Dales to buy replacement sheep to replace those sold off the estate. These were driven back stopping off overnight at various locations en route. One of these was at Ludendum Foot near Sowerby Bridge, where Ernest met Elizabeth Hannah King, whom he would marry in 1897. Jim Thornly, another shepherd from Edale, recalled seeing them chatting before leaving to walk to home. Their first child, my Father, was born on 6th November 1898. 


The first official trails were held on the first Thursday in September 1898. The family have continuously been involved through Ernest, Thurwell, Ron, Mark, Neil and Jack age three. Peter’s family have also been engaged through Peter 2, Brian and Anthony, who also has a son Angus who will no doubt follow on. 


Ernest had a daughter Edith and two other sons John who married and went to work on a farm in Kent and Ashton who following in the family tradition winning many prizes with his dogs culminating in being International Champion. Thurwell married Gladys Ellacolt in 1926 and set up home at Overstones, where I arrived on the scene in August 1927. 

The following year Granddad (Ernest) won the English National Trial, and Dad (Thurwell) and Uncle Ashton both qualified and ran at Aire that year, a family affair. 


Willis White, the Great Grandson of Jack and Sarah, is the longest serving living member of the Association followed by myself. Ollerenshaws, Farnsworths, Elliots were all competitors and members. 

Local dignitaries have always been invited to be President giving them an opportunity to entertain their friends and guests to “A Day on the Moors”, the title on the programmes since the first. 


Chairman has always been elected to stand for a three-year term the two most recent being Anthony Priestley and Mark Priestley who hands over this year. 


During the whole existence of the association there have been seven Secretaries all men until we acquired Sheila whose Mother was Muriel Ollerenshaw from North Lees Hall and has served admirably for 17 years. 

The whole spectacle of Sheep Dog Trials has spread over the whole of the UK and was serialized on television over 25 years and featured many of the popular characters of the day as "One Man and his Dog". 


These are the foundations Longshaw Trials were built on and the reason it has lasted to the present day with only minor alterations. 

Ron Priestley 

9th July 2009 


With my apologies to the many people who have been involved whose names I cannot remember. 

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