Members of the Fintry Ayrshire herd the year of their arrival, 1924. GVMA #2901.

In 1924, the Okanagan Valley welcomed a new breed of cattle, thanks to Captain James Cameron Dun-Waters, the Laird of Fintry. Dun-Waters, originally from Scotland, had acquired property on the west side of Okanagan Lake and renamed it Fintry after his hometown. A few years into his dairy farming venture, Dun-Waters decided to experiment by introducing a herd of Ayrshires.

The Ayrshire dairy breed, which originated in Scotland’s County of Ayr before 1800, likely emerged from the crossbreeding of domesticated and native Scottish cattle. Known for their hardiness and strength, these animals are distinguished by their red and white markings. Although Ayrshires were already present in other parts of B.C. when Dun-Waters began to take an interest in the breed, he is largely credited with increasing their popularity.

Portrait of Mrs. Margaret Dun-Waters and Captain J.C. Dun-Waters, around 1938. GVMA #9442.

Most of the cows in the Fintry herd were selectively bred to yield more milk than the average, with some requiring milking several times a day. Each registered cow received a unique name that included the farm’s name and descriptive identifiers; Dun-Waters’ herd included Fintry Honeysuckle, Fintry Crummie, and Fintry Lucky Girl, among others. A state-of-the-art octagonal dairy barn was outfitted with milking stanchions, birthing pens, and sheltered areas for the cows.

The cows and calves were cared for by estate managers and dairy workers, with the more experienced staff also handling the estate’s bulls. Dairy bulls are notoriously aggressive, yet Fintry’s esteemed senior herd sire, Noble Betsey Wylie, was not known to have caused any accidents.

Fintry bull Noble Betsey Wylie. Undated. GVMA #2112.

In 1929, Dun-Waters donated twenty-nine cows and one bull to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver to support the launch of its dairy-operations training program. He also gifted many calves to the Interior Provincial Exhibition for the Juniors Farmer Club (a predecessor of 4-H British Columbia) and provided breeding stock to local farmers. Some of the animals were even exported to China. The Fintry operation supplied dairy products to residents of Ewing’s Landing and other neighborhoods on the west side of the lake, as well as to the North Okanagan Creamery Association (NOCA).

In the 1930s, Dun-Waters was unfortunately diagnosed with cancer. Toward the end of the decade, he chose to donate his estate to the Fairbridge Farm Schools Society. When the school closed in 1948, nine years after Dun-Waters’ passing, the remaining Ayrshires were sold to farms throughout the province. Remarkably, the octagonal dairy barn still stands in 2024.

For more information, please visit the online exhibit “The Fintry Ayrshires: Scottish Cattle in the Far West,” courtesy of the Friends of Fintry Provincial Park Society.

Gwyneth Evans, Archives Manager