Obituaries: Ella Graham Macgregor, successful horse breeder who owned Pinkerton Stud

Ella Macgregor with White Domino at Pinkerton Stud

Ella Graham Macgregor was born on 31 August, 1933 at Wester Meikle Pinkerton.

She was the child of George Macgregor, who died in 1964 and Ella Graham, who died in 1936. Ella had two siblings: Ina (daughter of George by a previous marriage) and Tom.

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She was educated at St George’s School in Edinburgh where she was a boarder – her main interests there were science and sport.

On leaving school she helped her father on the farm and became very interested in horses.

She became a keen one-day eventer and then an instructor at the Pony Club.

George Macgregor farmed Wester Meikle Pinkerton. It was his ambition to be a landowner but he did not achieve it. However, the opportunity to do so came to his family after his death.

Tom, Ina and Ella were able to buy Wester Meikle Pinkerton, Easter Meikle Pinkerton and the Brunt from APCM Ltd, which had bought them with Broxmouth and other property from Roxburghe estates.

The family continued to live at Wester Meikle Pinkerton. Easter Meikle Pinkerton was tenanted by John Falgate and the Brunt by Jackie Smeal.

Tom MacGregor sold Wester Meikle Pinkerton to John Lawrie [Farms] Ltd.

In 1970, Tom, Ina and Ella McGregor as, G&T MacGregor Ltd, arranged to buy Broxmouth from Sir John Kennedy and moved there.

They lived there until 1975, when they sold Broxmouth, and Ina and Ella moved to Easter Meikle Pinkerton, where Ella set up the Pinkerton Stud in 1976.

Shortly afterwards Tom died. Ina and Ella developed the Brunt but sold it later.

She had a lifelong love of, and interest in horses. She started to train point-to-pointers at Wester Meikle Pinkerton.

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Over the years she owned a number of successful racehorses. Locally, the stud is a low-key establishment and deliberately so, but Ella’s reputation as a breeder is known internationally.

No stallions stood at Pinkerton. Her de ella well-bred mares traveled south to well-bred stallions.

Her seas and their foals were sought after at sales at Newmarket and Doncaster.

A number of important horses have been bred at Pinkerton; including Rattle Along and Shining Manoeuvres, which was a winner of 17 races. Bustellina was a real star of the stud.

One of Ella’s triumphs was to sell a yearling, Salford, to Sheikh Mohammed, an owner and breeder of international renown.

She followed this triumph with many other winners. One of Bustellina’s colts, Best One, won many races in Hong Kong.

White Domino, dam of Pinkerton Pal and Bridge Pal, was also dam of Macrobin, which won, first time out, at Newmarket and was second in the Steward’s Cup at Goodwood and won six more races.

She was also dam of Kayem, which Mark Todd took to the 1996 Olympics at Atlanta. He was also fourth, in the European Open with Kayem.

Ella’s Pal was sold in Los Angeles and won two races.

She continued to breed winners and followed her horses’ progress with great interest.

Her secret was that she was genuinely interested in her work and lived for her horses.

Ella decided to move forward in her stud, when she decided to send her mare, Bridge Pal, to Sandringham to have her covered by the Queen’s stallion Royal Applause in 2014.

The result of the stand was Macgregor’s Pal born on 14 February 1915, a beautiful friendly horse who now spends some of his time at Pinkerton – as does his sister Rosella.

McGregor’s Ace is the son of Bridge Pal.

She was persuaded to buy, AKD Cooley Lockdown, in February 2018 to allow Wills Oakden to progress his career.

She also bought AKM Cooley’s full brother, Macgregor’s Cooley on which Oakden also had a novice win.

Oakden and Ella’s horses have had a number of successes at Alnwick and elsewhere.

Ella’s other lifelong passion was playing bridge, and she became an excellent tutor.

She was interested in pictures and antiques all her life and built up an interesting and eclectic collection.

She was a keen gardener and created a fine garden in the steading at Easter Meikle Pinkerton.

The garden was also home to some rare birds which was another of Ella’s interests.

She had a wide circle of friends from all walks of life; Many going back many years.

She died peacefully at Pinkerton as she would have wished to do.

Her funeral service was conducted by The Rev Canon PL Allen on 21st June in Dunbar Parish Church and she was interred in the garden at Easter Meikle Pinkerton. We remember her from her with affection.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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