A Missing Cow

The following article appeared in the Aberdeen Evening Express of 25 March 1959:-


What was described by Lord Keith as “the remarkable story” of a pedigree Aberdeen Angus cow named “Evolvira of Banks,”which disappeared after being purchased by an Oxfordshire cattle breeding station from an Aberdeenshire farm for 105 gns. in 1954, ended in the House of Lords today with a decision in favour of the purchasers who had claimed damages for breach of contract.

By a majority the House allowed an appeal by three partners in the pedigree breeding centre, Oddington Grange, Islip, near Oxford, Henry Rupert Hood Barrs, Margaret Chalmers Hood Barrs, both of Springfield, Marlow, and Mrs Stella Bickel, of Marburg, Germany, from a decision of the Court of Session in Scotland that they were not entitled to recover damages from A.R. and A.E.C. Abercomby, farmers of Piltochie, Ellom.

Lord Keith of Avonholm said “Evolvira,” registered in the herd books as B.J.B. T28, was one of nine cows which should have been delivered to Islip in September 1954.

Four months later, according to the purchasers, it was found that the animal which had been assumed to be “Evolvira” bore the mark B.J.B. T34 which was the registered mark of another animal, “Romalisa of Banks.” This animal died suddenly the following March.

The purchasers’ case, which was denied by the sellers, was that they were sent “Romalisa” instead of “Evolvira.”

To the local people Mr Hood Barrs was somewhat of a mystery figure, probably because he did not live locally. Born on 9 September 1890, he was the Chairman and Managing Director of several engineering companies. His home, Springfield House, Marlow appears to have been quite grand, originally built for someone who made their fortune in the slave trade. In 1937  Mr Hood Barrs was selling the contents prior to demolishing the house when it was destroyed in a fire. It was then re-built. At the time of his death on 19 September 1972 he was living at Harpsden House, Henley-on-Thames. 

The Islip Pedigree Breeding Centre at that time was a show-piece for the cattle industry, in particular the Aberdeen Angus breed. The fittings in the out-buildings were of high specification, including marble. A large labour force of local men were employed, under the manager, Leslie Pickett. He lived with his family at The Grange.

Mr Hood-Barrs would attend site by prior notice and his visits would result in a major effort by the workforce to ensure that everywhere was pristine. This included repainting the white stones that were on either side of the drive. He would arrive in a large Ford van, covered in murals of Aberdeen Angus cattle.

Nigel Lambert