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Young People


Behind Chained Gates



About this book:

  • ISBN: 9781904524168 (paperback)

  • Published 2004

  • Special price £7.00 + postage

  • 151 pages

  • Illustrated with 20 colour photographs





About the Author:
BORN in South Shields, Moira had her first taste of country life when her parents moved to Mirfield in Yorkshire where her best friends were animals - Judy the dog, hens and the cows in a neighbouring field.
Returning to Tyneside Moira began a career in nursing, married twice, had four sons and set up a charity - Tyneside Cyrenians - to provide a nightly soup run and shelter for homeless men.
Giving up a successful business in the city, Moira bought a smallholding and so began her Good Life years. Sadly the Foot & Mouth epidemic hit the country soon afterwards and this book is the inspirational story of how Moira battled against the system and saved her sheep.

What Behind Chained Gates tells is not just the story of one woman's protest at what she saw as heavy handed and ill-informed bureaucracy, not just the fight against an unseen and deadly opponent - it also tells a very human story of an ordinary woman dealing with a lifetime of extraordinary events. It's told with a great humour, and a total absence of self regard - the same qualities that gained international attention and recognition, and Royal approval. Above all, this book is written from the heart - I hope it will be read by millions. Anne Hopper, Broadcaster.

Book re-lives foot-and-mouth fight

The story of one of Cumbria's fiercest battles to survive the foot-and-mouth crisis has been turned into a book. Nurse turned sheep breeder Moira Linaker, became known as the Rotweiller, after taking on the government to save her Ryeland flock. After she blockaded herself into her smallholding near Carlisle, the Prince of Wales agreed to take some of the threatened animals.

Now her story is retold in a book called Behind Chained Gates. For six months during the 2001 crisis, 62-year-old Ms Linaker defied government orders to cull her flock of rare sheep.

Now, the mother of four, re-lives her 'six months of hell' in a written account of her battle. Her courage touched the Royal Family, when Prince Charles agreed to take some of the animals to his Highgrove estate.

Her book tells the story of how she established her smallholding after giving up a career in nursing. It also recalls how, in March 2001, she barricaded herself and her sheep behind gates in an effort to keep government vets from slaughtering her animals.

Ms Linaker recalled: 'I appealed against the cull and would not allow government vets to test my sheep. It was a dreadful time and it all dragged on for months.'

She has now moved from her smallholding, but remains defiant. She said: 'I'll never apologise for what I did. Prince Charles was so supportive during the foot-and-mouth situation in Cumbria.

'I knew that he did not have Reyland sheep on his farm and I thought it would be an honour to re-introduce them back into the Royal family.' BBC News website, 2004

Battling Moira goes into print

The grandmother bureaucrats labelled 'the rottweiler' during her battle to save her rare sheep from the foot and mouth culls is publishing her memoir.

At the height of the epidemic, diminutive Moira Linaker barricaded herself into her cottage to protect her rare herd of ryelands from government slaughtermen.

Local and national media alike followed her campaign to discredit what she considered the 'ill informed' culling of healthy animals caught up in the contiguous-contact rule. Even Prince Charles followed her case and took time out to meet her during a trip north.

After six very lonely months, when her beloved sheep, dogs and cats were her only company, she emerged victorious - and ready to tell her tale. 'Behind Chained Gates' stands testimony to Moira's strength of character.

More than the standard 'one woman battles bureaucracy' story, it charts a very personal journey from the tragic loss of her eldest son to the hope of a new dawn.

'Just weeks before foot and mouth, my eldest son, Stephen, was killed in the Isle of Man TT races,' said Moira.

'The morning I got the news I was scheduled to go to the Royal Lancashire show with my sheep, and I had everything packed up ready to go. I thought I would still go ahead with the show - it just hadn't sunk in.

"I got a first and a second with my two main rams, and then when I came out of the ring it hit me. I didn't show the rest of my sheep. I just broke down. I don't remember the journey home.'

Her subsequent steely determination to face down officials from what was then the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) stemmed from her inability to cope with another loss. Revealing a wry sense of humour, she smiles when she says she was alter told they had nicknamed her 'the rottweiler'.

At that time, Moira was living on a one acre small-holding in Warwick Bridge, Cumbria. In November she moved to Greenhead where, at Woodhouse Farm, she now has 14 acres. She only has ten sheep but she plans to increase the flock this year.

Moira and the media coverage she generated are probably responsible for the single-handed regeneration of the Ryeland breed itself.

Classed as a rare breed before foot and mouth, it has now increased in popularity to become a minority breed. The Northern Ryeland Breeders' Group reported that it had been overwhelmed with enquiries thanks to her story.

Indeed, two of Moira's sheep are in the throes of establishing a royal dynasty of Ryelands. When she met Prince Charles during a morale boosting visit to Cumbrian farmers, she promised that if her herd survived foot and mouth, she would send him a ram and a ewe. She did, and they are now happily ensconced on his farm at Highgrove House.

The morning I interviewed Moira, the final proof of 'Behind Chained Gates' arrived from the publishers for her approval.

'I can't believe I've written a book,' she said. 'A friend suggested I do it as therapy, because I wasn't sleeping. I was smoking like a chimney and I was having these dreadful nightmares. It was a case of doing this, or going on tablets or hitting the bottle.

'It was amazing, because I sat down a nd everything just came pouring out. I don't think I could do it again. It worked though - the nightmares stopped.

'Despite what it sounds like, this is not a miserable book. It's about me and the stupid things I did when I was setting up my small-holding. I was so green. I made loads of mistakes at first. There's quite a lot of humour in it.' Hexham Courant, February 2004.


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