The Lost Flock by Jane Cooper
A windswept love letter to Scotland’s heritage sheep and to the Orkney farming community too.’ Cal Flyn, author of Islands of Abandonment
The Lost Flock is the story of the remarkable and rare little horned sheep, known as Orkney Boreray, and the wool-obsessed woman who moved to one of Scotland’s wildest islands to save them.
It was Jane Cooper’s passion for knitting that led her to discover the world of rare-breed sheep and their wool. Through this, Jane uncovered the ‘Orkney Borerary’ – a unique group within the UK’s rarest breed of sheep, the Boreray, and one of the few surviving examples of primitive sheep in northern Europe.
As her knowledge of this rarest of heritage breeds grew, she took the bold step to uproot her quiet suburban life in Newcastle and relocate to Orkney, embarking on a new adventure and life as farmer and shepherd.
Jane was astonished to find that she was the sole custodian of this lost flock in the world, and so she began investigating their mysterious and ancient history, tracking down the origins of the Boreray breed and its significance to Scotland’s natural heritage.
From Viking times to Highland crofts and nefarious research experiments in Edinburgh, this is a so-far untold real-life detective story. It is also the story of one woman’s relentless determination to ensure a future for her beloved sheep, and in doing so revealing their deep connection to the Scottish landscape.
An unforgettable story of a heritage breed and the importance of its existence.
Jane Cooper grew up in North Warwickshire and learned to knit when she was very young. In 2010, Jane met the late Sue Blacker of the Natural Fibre Company, who wanted to get British Wool into the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, so Woolsack (woolsack.org.uk) was born, which they ran together. In 2013 Jane and her husband Paul moved to Orkney and got their first Boreray sheep and in 2017, Jane discovered that she was the custodian of the last remnants of the ‘Lost Flock’ of Boreray sheep. To secure the long-term future of the Orkney Boreray, Jane established flocks with more (younger!) Orkney crofters and farmers, to develop products and markets and make them a profitable enterprise for everyone involved. In September 2021 Orkney Boreray mutton became Scotland’s second Slow Food International Presidium. There are now eight flocks of Boreray sheep in Orkney.