Growing up in the auction market

Watching the TV programme Antiques Roadshow, from an auction market in Elgin in the north of Scotland, reminded me of my youth, travelling to markets with my father and then later on my own business. 

As I was a buyer’s son some of the more generous farmers would curry favour with my father by saying, “Is this your boy Tom? What a strapping big lad”, while slipping half a crown into my sweaty palm. In truth, I was a podgy big lad, who was more interested in the market restaurant lunch than the ring. But as I got older, I started to take an interest in what went on in the market: the buyers and wholesalers vying with the butchers to bid on the best cattle and sheep; the larger buyers who could  take home 50-60 beasts; or the local butcher bidding for what he hoped was right for his trade.

The experienced dealers’ tactics were interesting. They would hide the fact they were bidding by batting an eye or wiggling a hooded finger, because if, for some reason, they upset one of the bigger guys, they might as well just go home.

Occasionally, there was a little light relief: for example, a beast climbing out of the ring and furiously chasing any poor bugger standing round the saleroom, or getting its revenge by spraying copious amounts of dung over the legs of the worthies crowded around the ring. What a joy to observe someone who had just outbid you get their just desserts!

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