Remembering Anne Priest

Anne Priest with first lambs
"Spring 1976. My first lambs on the island." Anne Priest and some new friends.

A wonderful friend to the Bluefaced Leicester breed and those involved with it (as well as the Border Leicester breed), Anne Barclay Priest traveled on to greener pastures in late November of 2010. She was 83 years old, and just shy of her birthday on November 23 by a couple of days. She passed on while feeding her beloved sheep out in the pastures of her New York State home. For Anne, there probably was no better way to bow out gracefully and exit stage right.

Anne Priest on the dory BETSY Nova Scotia
"Coming into the harbor." Anne and her dog Nell aboard the dory BETSY, 1999.

Anyone who ever met Anne was permanently affected by her zest, straightforwardness, and humor. She lived the kind of life many simply dream of; full of adventures and interesting experiences. It seems she chose them and went after them with determination, although she might disagree with this assessment in some ways, saying, “they chose her” instead. She was a fiercely independent woman (and fiercely opinionated), tough-as-nails, funny, light-hearted, direct, passionate, spirited, and genuine. Anne’s hospitality was near legendary!

Anne Priest shearing for the first time on Blue Island Nova Scotia
"Anne's first attempt at shearing!" Shearing party with Dr. Brian Nettleton on Blue Island, Nova Scotia, 1977.

She was an accomplished off-Broadway actress (and also a locally-performing actress right up until just a few years ago), a farmer and shepherd, shearer, spinner, knitter, weaver, traveler, dog breeder, a friend to many, a mother and grandmother, an author, and much more that I will never know. She even ran for Massachusetts State Representative in 1968. Those who have read her book will attest that she lived a fascinating and adventurous life indeed.

Editor’s Notes: K. Barndt

Anne Priest at home farm in New York State
Anne in the pasture outside her New York State home, circa 1998.

I had the fortunate opportunity to visit Anne on a number of occasions at her New York State home on Old Mountain Road. If anyone has been there, you remember it is high on a windswept “mountain” overlooking the far reaches of the southeastern New York State landscape… turning right into the driveway at the bottom of that hill, the battered old mailbox reading “Priest”, the lower pasture and pond to the left as you turn, and cursing the steep-sided, narrow driveway until you reach the more open hay fields and the gate beyond.

Anne Priest with bottle lamb at home in New York State
Bottoms up! Beer bottle baby BFL with Anne, on her farm in New York State, late spring 1999.

I only wish I had been able to visit her during the summer at her Nova Scotia home as well, to see the great beauty of her beloved point, beach and island. I bought my very first sheep from Anne in 2004. She taught me a few fundamental shepherding basics that I committed to my mind like unbreakable law that I carry with me to this day.

On one visit a while ago, I sat in her “office” and went through piles of photographs. I saw a black and white photo of a stunning young woman in Paris, France… Anne when she was young and looking to all the world just like a fashion model.

I garnered a set of photographs that I wanted to make into a display board for her book, as Anne was going around promoting the book at the time. Also there were a few photos that I wanted to archive for the BLU library, regarding Anne’s first BFL ram.

Anne Priest hearding sheep on McNutt's Island beach
Anne herding sheep on the beach at a sheep gathering on McNutt's Island, July 1990.

A number of these photographs were actually submitted to her agent and publisher; Anne wanted these to be included in her book to illustrate the many stories and experiences that are portrayed in her memoir. The publisher ended up rejecting them for the book, except for one (the photograph used on the cover of the dust jacket).

Perhaps they will help to illustrate a tiny bit of Anne’s extraordinary life. I turned the place upside down in my search for these, still buried away in an unpacked box since we moved halfway across the country, and I finally found them (after much frustration!).

seeing the property in Nova Scotia for the first time
"When I first fell in love with the place." Anne sees the point on the property she would buy for the first time, August 1971.The previous owners are in this photo (Rodney Koehler). Photo has been fully restored.

As I began to process the photos and work on restoring some of them (some are partially restored, a few needed some major work), I felt sad that these were never included in her book. You may read the words of her stories, but to see a few of the images that go with them is to better understand Anne’s piece of the world, and the telling of her stories. I am really going to miss her.

Anne Priest herding sheep on the point
"Working sheep on the point." September 1991.

If anyone has any other special photos of Anne to share, please be sure to contact me. I can add them to our BLU Library collection (Anne Priest Gallery) on the website. Please feel free to post some of your own memories about Anne here if you’d like.

Here’s a blog called the Nova Scotia Island Journal: Life on McNutt’s Island, by Anne Yarbrough, with some posts about Anne Priest.

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12 thoughts on “Remembering Anne Priest

  1. Kris, this a tremendous tribute to one greatly accomplished lady. Many adjectives come to mine in describing Anne – warm, straight-forward, good humored, full of life; and she was so much more. Anne was a stalwart friend of the Bluefaced Leicester. It was my privilege to know her, to benefit from her wise counsel, and to be her friend.

    1. Thanks, Kelly for kind words. I’m so glad to have known Anne… she reminded me SO much of my grandmother, maybe that’s why I really connected with Anne. She had the same grit, she was the same type of woman (and she “swore” too!! LOL! We had this thing where every time my Grammy swore in our presence, she’d have to give all of us kids a nickle, dime or quarter, depending on how bad the word was!). I only wish I could figure out how to get this photo album plug-in software to display all my captions for these! I’ll get it to work eventually…

  2. This is wonderful! I met Anne several years ago on a trip to Rhinebeck with Lisa Rodenfels. We hit it off immediately as she said we were Anne’s with an “e”. The best memory of that visit was when she went out to bring the sheep into the barn to feed. Lisa and I offered but were told to stay in the house she had the dogs. Out she went. The fog had moved in so we couldn’t see her other than an occasional glimpse of a crook or bright jacket. But OH COULD WE HEAR HER! The dogs were not doing what they should and she was yelling. Language that only the dogs or a semi-driver would understand. She was one of a kind and amazing. I am proud to have been one of her Annes with an “e”.

  3. I knew Anne for many years and enjoyed her company. She was a lovely bright witted lady who never failed to step up to the plate in our guild, North Country Spinners. She was a pleasure to work with and will be missed immensely by everyone at North Country Spinners. She was currently our treasurer. Having been to Nova Scotia twice I really enjoyed her book and had many a good chuckle reading it. She was a very talented woman who was admired by all.

    Mary Lou Ricci
    President, North Country Spinners 2006-2010

  4. As a weaver I have always had an obsession with BFL sheep. David Hilman, Anne’s shearer was visiting P.E.I Canada and happened to find his way to my shop…He told me about Anne and that started a long email relationship and years of her mailing me BFL fleeces….I finally made the decision to buy a ram….I still have her beautiful ram Danny and treasure his fleece and lambs…I had a magical stay at her farm in NY and a few years later I saw her in action at the Rhinebeck sheep show…

  5. We looked after Anne’s house in Nova Scotia and became good friends ,and we had her here this pass summer for lobster dinner and she will be a great miss .
    Great photo’s and she sure loved her house and Blue Island was her passion .The movie Scarlet Letter was filmed at her house in West Green Harbour Nova Scotia.

  6. What a wonderful tribute to Anne! Thank you for writing it. I lived near Anne in NY and had the pleasure of meeting her at a friend’s house last year. Anne was giving me pointers on spinning. She was a remarkable and fine lady who will be sorely missed by many.

  7. I met Anne through the theater and lived with her on her farm in NY for about a year. She was a true force and I will miss her presence in the world.

  8. I am reading Anne’s book now and am so thrilled to find your photos to go along with the story! I live not far from Greenville, NY and wish I’d been able to meet her. Thank you for sharing the pics and info.

  9. Feb. 6,2013 just found out Anne passed away. I met her twice and visited the house in Nova Scotia in about 1976 and 1982. My family built the house in the pictures in about 1780 on Hwy 8 in Milton, Nova Scotia and it was inhabited by my family from then until 1971 by my grandmother who passed away in Feb. 1972. The house was moved from Milton to its location on the point outside Jordan Harbour with the top taken off. Anne bought it in the mid-70s from my father who grew up in it ; he saw it once or twice after she bought it. He passed away March 8, 2002 – the last of our branch of Nova Scotia Freeman family.
    We are glad she was busy restoring it to its 18th century original look and finish when I last saw it.
    It is a classic Cape Codder. We are glad it was rescued.
    Please email me for further info- I live in Toronto Canada and can give a full genealogy of the Freemans for that house and many others who built Queens County. They originally came from Bedfordshire in England as part of the Great Winthrop fleet of 1630 to Massachusetts- all Puritans we believe.
    Regards, Ken Freeman

  10. Just found your page today when I skeined up 554 yards, plied, of Anne’s Blue Faced Leicester roving. I expect I bought it from her at Rhinebeck, year forgotten, but it cost $15 for one pound according to the undated invoice! Sat in my Stash for who knows how many years, all the while retaining it’s incredible softness. A delight to spin indeed, as she sounded like a wonderful person to know. Shelagh in Vermont (82 yrs old, spinner since 1976).

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