Desperate to connect with his native Galloway, Patrick Laurie plunges into work on his family farm in the hills of southwest Scotland. Investing in the oldest and most traditional breeds of Galloway cattle, he begins to discover how cows once shaped people, places and nature in this remote and half-hidden place. This traditional breed requires different methods of care from modern farming on an industrial, totally unnatural scale.
As the cattle begin to dictate the pattern of his life, Patrick stumbles upon the passing of an ancient rural heritage. Always one of the most isolated and insular parts of the country, as the twentieth century progressed, the people of Galloway deserted the land and the moors have been transformed into commercial forest in the last thirty years. The people and the cattle have gone, and this withdrawal has shattered many centuries of tradition and custom. Much has been lost, and the new forests have driven the catastrophic decline of the much-loved curlew, a bird which features strongly in Galloway's consciousness. The links between people, cattle and wild birds become a central theme as Patrick begins to face the reality of life in a vanishing landscape.
Patrick Laurie is a freelance journalist. As well as writing and farming, he works for Soil Association Scotland on a program which supports conservation projects on farmland.
"In this tender, lyrical book, Patrick Laurie considers what it means to really belong to a place. Throughout, the mud, blood and sweat of the farm are brought vividly to life, and each sentence is charged with passion for its subject"
– Malachy Tallack
"Patrick Laurie is a wonderful writer. He has written a hymn of love to his native land"
– James Rebanks
"Patrick Laurie's neighbours looked on in amusement when he turned the clock back to follow his grandfather's way of rearing cattle. But the old ways are paying off and he is now the proud owner of a thriving rare breed herd – and seen the return of threatened wildlife to his land"
– Sunday Post
"I simply adore this book!"
– Polly Pullar
"I work at Forum Books in Corbridge and got a proof of this – it's the most incredible book I can recall reading – prose to compare with Macfarlane. Staggering, should win prizes"
– Bookseller, Forum Books
"Native is described as 'a hymn of love to his native land'. It's an apt description for a wonderful book [...] a poignant and thought-provoking read, I loved it"
– Matt Johnson, LoveReading
"Galloway, past and present, is the bedrock of this book, a granite foundation on which Laurie is to build his future [...] an unflinching account of what it takes to turn into a farmer, bearing callouses, bruises and scars [...] moving as well as inspirational. This Galloway farm might be just one stamp in an album, but if a butterfly wing can cause a hurricane, what about a rampaging bull?"
– Rosemary Goring, Herald
"A farmer with a poet's eye is a rare thing indeed, and this is a rare breed of a book: an elegy to a vanishing landscape but one not without hope, and to be greatly treasured"
– Daily Mail
"[A] beautifully written memoir, a mesmerising account of a year of back-breaking labour, personal despair and piercing moments of joy [...] unforced and utterly authentic."
– Mail on Sunday
"Brilliant and Beautiful [...] This is a book about a place you will probably have never visited: but you should read it nonetheless because what it says has a wider importance, about some of what we have got wrong in the way we respect nature and farming and what we might get right if we change our ways. it is also that most valuable of things, an escape to an open land where curlew still cry and the wind and rain cut in from the sea and city life feels a million miles away"
– Julian Glover, London Evening Standard
"Laurie writes in beautiful detail about the landscape and animals surrounding him. The book represents an ongoing battle between progress and conservation in which the farming industry is integral. A thoughtful read about a man's love of his homeland"
– Scottish Field
"A bittersweet portrait of a difficult and disappearing way of life [...] Rich with the sense of place and balanced between solastalgia and practicality"
– Shiny New Books
"Laurie has an authentic ability to balance the pains and joys of small farming. [...] [Native] works a remarkable balancing act/ the blackened fingernail, bruised by bustling cattle, presses down on a key as richly ambiguous as the curlew's cry"
– Brian Morton, Times Literary Supplement
"He's a keen observer, of nature and of the general ebb and flow of the world, and he writes with a seemingly effortless lyricism about what he sees [...] A charming evocation of the harsh realities of farming in the modern world, and the difficulties of marrying food production and conservation"
– Geographical Magazine
"For as long as anyone can remember there have been Lauries farming in Galloway. Native is Patrick Laurie's account of returning home and trying to establish a farm on a 30 acre plot. This is a memoir born out of moments of wonder and pain [...] It is not so much a lament for a lost way of being, but the loving story of trying to find it again"
– The Times, Nature Books of the Year 2020