Jim Cropper: The Dog Man as told to Edward Hart with contributions from Shirley Cropper, Tony Iley, Alf Kyme & Thomas Longton.
Foreword from Gus Dermody
In the mid 1960's I became involved in a whole new ball game - Sheepdog Trials. I was acting as "time keeper" at Macclesfield Sheep Dog Trials. It was midday, the sheep were awkward and, because there was no running order, there were no volunteers.
An old car came on to the field-out piled a young man with his family and dogs and immediately booked in two single and one brace runs. The young man was Jim Cropper. I had never met him before, only read about his trial results, so I was intrigued to see him compete. With minutes to spare, his three competitive runs were over and although he didn't win, he ended up in the prize list. As quickly as he came he was gone - off to another trial - and since I have watched his progress with admiration for the practical way he shepherds sheep.
It doesn't matter whether it be a Nursery or World Trial, Jim puts everything into it. Many people are astounded how he can have a dog fully trained and competing in Nursery Trials at only 12 months.
You'll always see him positioned so he can see the field and, even when talking in a group of people, he will be glancing across at the running, not wanting to miss anything.
It doesn't matter whether it is a hill trial on rough ground or an extensive flat pasture, both he and his dogs are capable of taking the top prizes.
Quite often at a National or International trial the announcer asks if people in the Granstand will keep quiet whilst the competitors run their dogs. I've never heard this request when Jim walks to the post. It's a sign of a great handler when the whole granstand falls so quiet that you could hear a pin drop.
Many top handlers reach their dizzy heights with one or two dogs in their lifetime but the mark of a really great sheepdog man is to get there with several: Croppers Fleet; Croppers Cap; Croppers Sid and so on. With Bonnie and Clyde, Cap I and Cap II, Dan and Alf - all different yet all tremendous work and competition dogs.
A good "sheep man" in the Derbyshire Dales thought he could "read" sheep better than most, but I remember his telling me of watching a sheep dog trial whilst standing with Jim Cropper, who was virtually commenting on each run. Jim's ability to forecast what each ewe was likely to do was way way ahead of his. The "sheep man" classed it as an unfair advantage! Jim certainly studies sheep and knows just where to put the pressure on or off.
His ability to impart his knowledge to others is tremednous. I certainly had cause to thank him only nine months ago with a certain aspect of training. I'd asked other top people to no avail Two minutes in Jim's training filed had the problem solved- he made it look so easy.
Jim's wife Shirley, has come a great distance in a short time - from Nursery Trials to the International in a few years with the same dog. This is living proof of Jim's ability and teaching skills.
I don't suppose many know of his artistic side. His stone carvings were the main prize in the 2004 "One Man and His Dog" series, and Jim, his brother, Stanley, and their father are all competent artists
A lot of water has gone under the bridge since I first saw Jim. I never dreamt we would end up together commentating on the BBC "One Man and His Dog" programme, but he is a great asset and often puts forward a fresh view on what is being shown.
This is the book I have been wanting to read- its been a long time coming- and I'm sure that readers will find it both informative and entertaining. It will probably end up as one of the main sheep dog books to stand the test of time.